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Boyd v. Jefferson County Public Schools

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville

October 17, 2017

GWENEVER BOYD, Mother and Next Friend of B.B., a Minor PLAINTIFF
v.
JEFFERSON COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS a/k/a JEFFERSON COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, ET AL. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Charles R. Simpson III, Senior Judge United States District Court

         I. Introduction

         This matter is before the court on motions by defendants, Jefferson County Board of Education (“JCBE”) and Assistant Principal Jeff Jennings (collectively “School Defendants”) and Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government (“Louisville Metro”) and Officer Sean Jones (collectively “SRO Defendants”) for summary judgment. ECF No. 30, 33. For the reasons below, the court will grant both motions.

         II. Case Background

         This case arises from an incident at Pleasure Ridge Park High School (“PRP”) involving two female students, B.B and S.R. On January 27, 2015, S.R. reported to Assistant Principal Jeff Jennings that she was being harassed and threatened by B.B. Jennings Aff., ECF No. 30-2, ¶ 2. S.R. alleged that B.B. planned to physically fight her before third period that day. Id. This was reportedly due to the fact that S.R. had instituted a legal action against C.O.-one of B.B.'s male friends-for unwanted sexual touching. Id.

         Jennings subsequently investigated S.R.'s claims. Id. at ¶ 3. He spoke with several students and collected their written statements. Ex. 1-A, ECF No. 30-3. Three statements clearly support S.R.'s allegation that B.B. wanted to physically fight her. One student, D.H., stated that when he went to the second floor of the school, there were “people standing around everywhere and B.B. was there telling them all that she was waiting for S.R. and that she was going to fight her.” Id. at 8. A second student, B.Y., stated that “B.B. was planning to fight [S.R.] because [B.B.'s] ex that goes here named [C.O.] touched [S.R.] under her shirt.” Id. at 5. A third student, S.J.R., stated that “there was going to be a fight” between B.B. and S.R. Id. at p. 6.

         Two other students claimed that B.B. intended to confront S.R. One statement made by R.H. claimed that she “got a Snapchat from B.B. saying that she was going to expose S.R. . . . because S.R. was lying about B.B.'s ex touching her and she needed to learn her lesson.” Id. at 2. She further claimed that she would confront S.R. at “either 3rd or 5th period.” Id. Another statement made by B.D. claimed that B.B. “was going to confront S.R. about getting [C.O.] suspended and about going to Mr. [Stinson] saying B.B. was bullying her.” Id. at 3.

         After reviewing these written statements, Jennings called B.B. to the conference room to discuss the situation. Jennings Aff., ECF No. 30-2, ¶ 6. He informed B.B. of the allegations against her and the written statements he had collected. Jennings Aff., ECF No. 30-2, ¶ 6; B.B. Dep., ECF No. 35-1, p. 6. B.B. admitted that she planned to confront S.R., but denied that she intended to physically fight her. Id. Jennings then asked B.B. to name some students who would support her account. Jennings Aff., ECF No. 30-2, ¶ 7; B.B. Dep., ECF No. 35-1, p. 6. B.B. provided him with the names of a couple of students that might help. Id.

         Jennings then left the conference room to speak with the students B.B. had mentioned. B.B. Dep. ECF No. 35-1, p. 6. Only one of these students, M.M ., supported B.B.'s account, stating that B.B. “just wanted to talk to [S.R.] and never bullied her . . .” Jennings Aff., ECF No. 30-2, ¶ 7; Ex. 1-A, ECF No. 30-3. The other student B.B. named gave a statement that was irrelevant to the issue. Ex. 1-A, ECF No. 30-3.

         At some point, Jennings also reviewed the security footage from the cameras outside S.R.'s third period class. Jennings Aff., ECF No. 30-2, ¶ 4. This footage corroborated several of the written statements, as it showed B.B. arrive outside of S.R.'s third period classroom, throw her backpack on the floor, and take a wide-legged stance directly in the middle of the hallway. Ex. 1-B, ECF No. 30-4. A group of students then crowded around B.B. Id.

         Having considered S.R. and B.B.'s statements, the written statements from other students, and the video footage, Jennings issued B.B. a six-day suspension for harassing another student. Jennings Aff., ECF No. 30-2, ¶ 15; Ex. 1-E, ECF No. 30-7. He also called in PRP's School Resource Officer (“SRO”), Officer Sean Jones, to assess whether B.B.'s conduct violated any laws. Jennings Aff., ECF No. 30-2, ¶ 8. Officer Jones reviewed the evidence that Jennings had collected and determined that B.B. had in fact broken several laws, including intimidating a participant in the legal process, terroristic threatening in the third degree, harassment, and menacing. Jones Dep., ECF No. 33-7, p. 2. Accordingly, Officer Jones placed B.B. under arrest. Id. After reading B.B. her Miranda rights and placing her in handcuffs, he escorted her to his squad car and transported her to Jefferson County Youth Center (JCYC). Id. In accordance with PRP's policy, Assistant Principal Jason Stinson accompanied B.B. in the patrol car.[1] Stinson Dep., ECF No. 35-4, p. 2.

         On October 16, 2015, the juvenile court issued an order dismissing the charges against B.B. without prejudice. ECF No. 1-2, p. 17. Two months later, B.B.'s mother, Gwenever Boyd (hereinafter “Boyd”), brought suit in Jefferson Circuit Court. Pl. Complaint, ECF No. 1-2. Boyd's complaint alleges that Jennings and Officer Jones violated B.B.'s constitutional rights to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, due process, and equal protection, while acting under color of state law. Id. at ¶¶ 7-11. It further alleges that Jennings and Officer Jones assaulted, falsely imprisoned, and maliciously prosecuted B.B. Id. at ¶¶ 15, 20, 25. Additionally, the complaint alleges that JCBE and Louisville Metro are liable for these § 1983 and state law claims, as Jennings and Officer Jones were acting in their official capacities. Id. at ¶¶ 12-13, 17, 23, 29. The case was removed to this court on January 11, 2016. Id. at p. 1.

         III. Legal Standard

         The trial court shall grant summary judgment in a case “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of “demonstrating that [there is] no genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). If the moving party satisfies this burden, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to “point to evidence demonstrating that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial.” Id. at 323 (emphasis added).

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must consider the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007). However, the nonmoving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). There must actually be “evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [nonmoving] party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

         IV. Discussion

         A. Section 1983 Claims

         Count I of Boyd's complaint alleges that Jennings and Officer Jones, acting under color of state law, violated B.B.'s Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, Fourteenth Amendment right to due process, and Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of the law when they “unlawfully restrained, detained, arrested, and charged B.B., or caused her to be charged, with committing crimes of Intimidating a Participant in the Legal Process, Menacing, Terroristic Threatening 3rd Degree, and Harassment-No Physical Contact.” Pl. Complaint, ECF No. 1-2, ¶ 7. It further alleges that JCBE and Louisville Metro are liable because Jennings and Officer Jones were “acting in their official capacities and within the scope of their employment.” Id. at ¶¶ 12, 13.

         i. Claims Against Jennings and Officer Jones in Their Individual Capacities

         Government officials performing discretionary functions are generally shielded from “liability for civil damages, insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982). To overcome the defense of qualified immunity, a plaintiff must demonstrate that (1) a statutory or constitutional right has been violated; and (2) that the right was ‘clearly established' at the time of the violation. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201, 121 S.Ct. 2151, 150 L.Ed.2d 272 (2001).

         1. Illegal Search and Seizure

         First, Boyd alleges that Jennings and Officer Jones violated B.B.'s Fourth Amendment right to freedom ...


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