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Aidan S. v. Fafalios

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 20, 2019

AIDAN S., BY AND THROUGH PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN CRYSTAL WINTERBOTTOM, AND CRYSTAL WINTERBOTTOM IN HER OWN RIGHT
v.
ARGIE FAFALIOS, SABOLD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, AND SPRINGFIELD SCHOOL DISTRICT

          MEMORANDUM

          Baylson, J.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiffs are suing over a teacher's alleged persistent bullying of Aidan S., a minor student with special needs. That bullying allegedly culminated in, but did not conclude with, a violent attack against him. Plaintiffs also allege that other school officials and employees handled the aftermath of the attack inappropriately. The Amended Complaint names the teacher, the school, and the school district as defendants.

         Before the Court now is the defendant teacher's partial motion to dismiss. The motion asks the Court to dismiss several of the Amended Complaint's counts and narrow others. For the reasons given below, the Court will GRANT the partial motion in its entirety.

         II. Factual and Procedural History

         Aidan S. is an elementary-school student at Sabold Elementary School in Springfield School District. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 3, 32. In early 2017, he was in the third grade. Id. ¶ 32. His co-plaintiff, Crystal Winterbottom, is his mother. Id. ¶ 1. Aidan has special needs, and has an Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”). Id. ¶ 32. His special needs and the contents of his IEP are not specified.

         Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint alleges in relevant part that Aidan's art teacher, Argie Fafalios, engaged in a pattern of “bullying and targeting” Aidan. Id. ¶ 52. That escalated one day in early 2017. Id. ¶ 32. That day, after class was over and as Aidan was leaving the classroom, she called out to him and instructed him to come back. Id. ¶ 35. After he came back, she told him to return his “bookmark project to the art room barking at him that ‘she would be the one to decide if you take that home or not . . . .'” Id. ¶ 36. As he “attempted to determine where to place his bookmark, ” she attacked him from behind without warning. Id. ¶¶ 33, 37. Specifically, she grabbed his upper arms and shoulders and “forced him down onto the ground.”[1] Id. ¶¶ 38, 71. While attacking him, she screamed “You are ruining my life.” Id. ¶¶ 33, 71. A nearby student “implored him to pick himself up and run, ” which he did. Id. ¶¶ 38-39. Even after Aidan returned to the school, there was a minor incident where she called out to him to come over to her while he was in the hallway. Id. ¶ 55. Since the attack, Aidan S. has needed “medical and psychological attention for his fear, anxiety and fright.” Id. ¶ 60. Also, following the attack, the principal removed Aidan S. from art class. Id. ¶ 62. The school principal later reported to Winterbottom that he interviewed Fafalios and she confirmed that she “did in fact wrongfully put her hands on Aidan S.” Id. ¶ 59. Plaintiffs also claim that the principal, school nurse and Plaintiff's homeroom teacher did not do enough to comfort and protect Aidan in the aftermath of the attack. Id. ¶¶ 39- 42. There has been one further possible bullying incident since the attack. Id. ¶ 55.

         Plaintiffs filed suit against Fafalios, the school district, and the school on January 17, 2019. ECF 1. Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on September 4, 2019. ECF 18. Fafalios moved to dismiss or narrow some of their claims on September 24, 2019. ECF 19. Plaintiffs responded on October 28, 2019. ECF 21. Fafalios did not reply. As yet, the remaining Defendants have not answered or moved for dismissal.

         The causes of action directed against Fafalios in the Amended Complaint are as follows:

I. Section 1983: Excessive Use of Force
II. Intentional Infliction of Mental Distress
III. Negligent Infliction of Mental Distress
IV. Punitive Damages
V. Assault and Battery and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
VI. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
VII. Monell Liability
VIII. Section 1983: Violation of Plaintiff's 4th and 14th Amendment Rights
IX. Failure to Supervise

         Fafalios's objections to certain of these claims, and one claim not explicitly laid out as a count in the complaint, are discussed in more detail below.

         III. L ...


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