United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
Austin McHugh United States District Judge
action arises from a regrettable incident that occurred after
a basketball game between rival high schools during which
Plaintiff Karagan Kelly found herself trapped in a brawl and
severely injured. Ms. Kelly and her mother now bring
Fourteenth Amendment state-created danger claims under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 against the Bristol Township School
District and Harry S. Truman High School, together with state
law tort claims. They also assert a state law tort claim
against a John Doe Defendant, the student who allegedly
attacked Kelly during the altercation. Although the injuries
alleged are serious, the conduct of the School District
cannot be said to rise above the level of negligence. I am
therefore compelled to grant Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss Plaintiffs' claims under Section 1983, and I
decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the
remaining state-law claims.
Kelly attends Bensalem High School. Compl. ¶ 12.
Bensalem's student-athletes compete against students from
Harry S. Truman High School, with whom they have a rivalry.
Id. On at least one occasion prior to the incident
in which Kelly was injured, the rivalry between Bensalem and
Truman has led to violence. Specifically, after a boys'
varsity basketball game in December 2016, students from both
schools became involved in a fight that required the presence
of police and generated coverage both in local media and
online. Compl. ¶ 14.
January 31, 2018, more than a year after the earlier
incident, Kelly attended a boys' varsity basketball game
between the two schools held at Truman. Compl. ¶ 20.
During the game, Kelly witnessed students in the stands from
both schools engaging in a series of verbal confrontations
with one another. Compl. ¶¶ 21-22. After the game
ended, and with tensions still high, Kelly and the other
student attendees were required to leave the gymnasium at the
same time through a single exit and wait in a designated
pickup area. Compl. ¶¶ 23-25.
Kelly waited in the pickup area “along with several
hundred other students of both schools, ” a fight broke
out, and she was punched and kicked while trying to escape
the altercation. Compl. ¶ 28. At some point, Kelly
crawled out of the group of fighting students and, as she
stood up, she was struck in the head and face by Defendant
John Doe, causing her head to strike a nearby wall.
Id. The melee left Kelly with a traumatic brain
injury as well as a badly lacerated fingernail on her left
hand. Compl. ¶¶ 30-31.
five counts in the Complaint address the liability of the
School District. The remaining count involves only the John
Doe assailant, who has not been identified.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
circuit, motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) are governed by the well-established
standard set forth in Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578
F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009).
Defendants argue Plaintiffs have improperly named Harry S.
Truman High School as a party because a school is not a
separate entity from the district of which it is a part,
Hamilton v. Hite, 2017 WL 3675398, at *5 (E.D. Pa.
Aug. 21, 2017) (Pratter, J.); Estate of Massey v. City of
Phila., 118 F.Supp.3d 679, 699 (E.D. Pa. 2015)
(Quiñones Alejandro, J.), which plaintiffs concede.
Pls.' Opp. Br., ECF 6, at 9. I will, therefore, treat the
claims asserted against Truman as merged with those against
the District and analyze them accordingly.
Fourteenth Amendment Claims
core, Plaintiffs' Complaint rests upon two broad
assertions. The first is that the exit policy in place after
the basketball game on the night Kelly was injured placed
students of rival schools in close proximity, thereby
increasing the risk of violence generally and harm to Kelly
in particular. The second contention is that the District
knew about the previous fight and failed to mitigate the risk
that Kelly and other students might be harmed at a future
event between rival schools.
allege that the District violated Kelly's Fourteenth
Amendment substantive due process rights to bodily autonomy.
Although the Supreme Court has recognized that the
Amendment's due process clause protects such a right, it
has also held that municipalities have no affirmative duty to
protect people from violence at the hands of private
individuals. DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dep 't of
Soc. Servs.,489 U.S. 189, 195-96 (1989). The Third
Circuit has observed that DeShaney therefore
“stands for the harsh proposition that even though
state officials know that a person is in imminent danger of
harm from a ...