United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division
K.C, A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH HIS PARENTS, T.C AND K.C, PLAINTIFFS
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF MARSHALL COUNTY SCHOOLS, BENTON, KENTUCKY, DEFENDANT
B. Russell Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendant Marshall County Board
of Education's motion for summary judgment, [DN 21.]
Plaintiff K.C., by and through his parents T.C. and K.C.,
responded to Defendant's motion, [DN 22], and Defendant
replied, [DN 25.] Fully briefed, this matter is now ripe for
consideration. For the reasons discussed below,
Defendant's motion for summary judgment is
GRANTED. The Court will enter a separate
Order and Judgment consistent with this Memorandum Opinion.
K.C., is a minor child with cerebral palsy. [DN 1 at 3
(Complaint).] K.C.'s condition renders him unable to
communicate verbally and requires that he receive his
nutrition through a gastronomy tube in his stomach.
[Id] At the times relevant to this complaint, K.C.
attended Central Elementary, a Marshall County public school.
[Id] During the 2015-2016 school year, K.C. was
placed in a "functional mental disability"
classroom in which he was taught by a special education
teacher, Crystal Teckenbrock. [Id; DN 21-1 at 1.]
Near the end of April 2016, KC.'s mother, T.C,
"received a report from a mother of a classmate . . .
that KC was being abused by" Teckenbrock. [DN 21-4 at 6
(T.C. Deposition).] The classmate's mother, Heather Lane,
informed T.C. that her child "had c[o]me home upset and
kept telling her that . . . the teacher, Ms. Crystal, is . .
. being mean to KC and that she feels really bad for
him." [Id. at 6-7.] In detail, T.C. testified
that Lane told her that Lane's child "said that
[Teckenbrock is] mean. She yells at him. She gets in his
face. He sits in timeout for long periods of time ... She
yanks him and is very rough with him." [Id. at
long after her phone call from Lane, on approximately April
29, 2016, T.C. and K.C's father, whose initials are also
K.C., spoke with Joanna Cash, a classroom aide in K.C.'s
classroom with Teckenbrock in the parking lot of a Cracker
Barrel. [Id. at 14-15.] During that conversation,
T.C. claims that Cash told her that she "[wa]s tired of
crying herself to sleep because she's witnessed Ms.
Crystal abusing K.C." [Id. at 15.] "She
witnessed . . . her pull his hair, verbally screaming at him,
in his face, " and "him being in timeouts for
lengthy amount[s] of time, " sometimes for hours at a
time. [Id. at 15-16.] T.C. testified that, during
their meeting, Cash provided her with a "typed letter of
concerns" with items for T.C. "to check into that
[Cash] had concerns about." [DN 22-4 at 7 (T.C.
Deposition).] K.C.'s parents recorded their conversation
with Cash. [DN 22-4 (Transcript of Conversation); DN 22-5
(K.C. Deposition).] Following these events, K.C.'s
parents removed him from school for the remainder of the
school year. [DN 22-8 (T.C. Declaration).]
1, 2016, K.C.'s parents went to the Marshall County
Sherriff s Office to report the alleged abuse of K.C.
occurring in Teckenbrock's classroom. [DN 22-4 at 5.] The
parties agree that May 1, 2016 "was the first time
[K.C.'s parents] reported any alleged mistreatment of KC
within the Marshall County School District to anyone."
[Id] K.C.'s father testified that he played the
recording of his and T.C.'s conversation with Cash at the
Sherriff s office. [DN 22-5 at 40.]
Flatt, the Director of Special Education at Marshall County
Schools, testified that he found out about the allegations
against Teckenbrock when he received a call from Pat Gold,
the Interim Principal at Central Elementary at the time. [DN
22-7 at 11 (Flatt Deposition).] Flatt testified that Gold
indicated that she had received a call from the Sherriff s
Department regarding allegations of abuse of K.C., and that
the Department would be conducting an investigation.
[Id] Ray Chumbler, the "school resource
officer" ("SRO") was in charge of that
investigation. [Id. at 11-12.] An SRO is "a
joint partnership between [Marshall County Schools] and the
Marshall County Sherriff s Department." [DN 22-6 at 15
(Lovett Deposition).] At Interim Principal Gold's
request, Flatt sat in on each interview Officer Chumbler
conducted. [DN 22-7 at 13-15.] Officer Chumbler interviewed
Jennifer Parker, Joanna Cash, and Crystal Teckenbrock.
[Id. at 15.] Officer Chumbler's questions were
"[f]rying to find out if they had witnessed or seen
anything in regards to abuse or neglect or the treatment of
KC." [Id. at 17.] According to Flatt, Jennifer
Parker stated that she "had not seen anything that she
would consider to be abuse or neglect or mistreatment."
testified that, during Cash's interview, she explained
that she once heard a "swatting" noise coming from
the room in which Teckenbrock was changing K.C.'s
clothes, but that she did not know who was doing the
swatting. [Id. at 19-22.] Flat also explained that
Cash referenced a hair-pulling incident, but explained that
Teckenbrock was merely trying to pull K.C.'s hands out of
his hair to prevent him from pulling his own hair.
[Id. at 22.] Flatt could not recall Cash stating
that she had witnessed Teckenbrock scream in K.C.'s face
or leave K.C. in time out for extended periods. [Id.
at 22-24.] However, Cash testified that, during her interview
with Officer Chumbler, she did tell him that she had seen
Teckenbrock pull K.C's hair, scream in his face, and that
she heard her spank him. [DN 22-1 at 32.] However, Cash
testified that she did not prepare the document that she gave
to K.C.'s parents at Cracker Barrel which had a list of
questions for K.C.'s parents to check into. [Id.
at 17.] Cash was unable to say who did prepare it, however.
declaration, K.C.'s father averred that he called Officer
Chumbler on May 2, 2016 to offer him the recording of the
conversation with Cash and the list of questions and answers
that Cash provided to them at Cracker Barrel. [DN 22-9 (K.C.
Declaration). According to K.C.'s father, "[h]e said
it was not needed because he already made his conclusions of
no abuse. He said it sounded like an 'unruly'
situation to him and he was finished with his
testified that, at the conclusion of the interviews, Officer
Chumbler informed him that he did not see "any way to .
. . prove that this really took place based on . . . what I
found and what they've said . . . they can't make a
case on this." [DN 22-7 at 29.] "He basically said,
you know, he can't prove it happened." [Id]
Flatt, in turn, informed Superintendent Trent Lovett that
Officer Chumbler "found no incidents of
wrongdoing." [DN 22-6 at 14 (Lovett Deposition).]
Officer Chumbler's investigation, Flatt and Lovett had a
meeting with T.C., Heather Lane, and another parent named
Amber Harris on May 5, 2016. [Id. at 16, 26.] At
that meeting, the parents provided Lovett with a bulleted
list of concerns, including "abuse and neglect" the
"[d]aily log not even being looked at by teacher, "
and "[t]imeout for up to four hours." [Id.
at 18-20.] Lovett testified that the parents told him
Teckenbrock frequently discussed T.C.'s personal life and
called her "monster" in front of the students.
[Id. at 21.] At the conclusion of the meeting,
Lovett informed the parents that the school would further
investigate the situation. [Id. at 22.]
assigned Flatt and Abby Griffy, Marshall County's
Elementary Supervisor, to conduct a second investigation. [DN
22-6 at 22.] Lovett advised them to investigate each of the
items on the bulleted list that was provided to him during
his meeting with T.C., Lane, and asked Harris to write a
report summarizing their findings. [Id. at 22-24.]
Flatt and Griffy interviewed Teckenbrock and the
instructional aides, Cash, Lindsay Hall, and Jennifer Parker.
[DN 22-7 at 31.] According to Flatt, Teckenbrock denied that
she had engaged in any abuse or neglect. [Id. at
34.] Flatt also testified that Cash was again "kind of
wishy-washy" regarding what she had seen. [Id]
"She was kind of noncommittal, " and referred back
to what she'd said in her interview with Officer
Chumbler. [Id. at 34-35.] Flatt "got the
feeling that she just. . . wasn't sure if what she was
saying was mistreatment of students or not."
[Id. at 36.] Flatt also testified that Cash told
them she had not contacted any parents. [Id] Cash
did, however, mention that "sometimes she didn't
think there was enough going on in the room, and there was
maybe sitting - the [kids] were just sitting there."
[Id. at 39." The report reflects that Cash
stated "[n]othing is being done to help these
kids." [Id. at 40.] The parties agree that
neither Officer Chumbler nor Flatt and Griffy interviewed
K.C.'s parents or any special needs students during their
testified that he received the report from Flatt and Griffy
on the 12th or 13th of May, but did not report back to T.C.,
Lane, and Harris because he received a call shortly after
notifying him that the Department of Child Based Services
("DCBS") would be conducting its own investigation
into a complaint filed with them. [DN 22-6 at 29.] The day he
learned that DCBS would be conducting an investigation,
Lovett removed Teckenbrock from the classroom setting.
[Id. at 36.]
as Lovett recalled, DCBS interviewed him, Interim Principal
Gold, the instructional assistants (Cash, Parker, and Hall),
Teckenbrock, and Flatt. [Id. at 32.] According to
Lovett, DCBS did not inform him of its findings until late
July, 2016. [Id. at 33.] DCBS reportedly did not
substantiate abuse in Teckenbrock's classroom, but it did
substantiate neglect. [Id] Lovett asked to see the
evidence DCBS uncovered in its investigation, but DCBS
informed him that it could not share that information.
[Id. at 34.]
Teckenbrock's May 13, 2016 removal from the classroom
setting was initially intended to be temporary "until
all of this was settled, " Teckenbrock remains removed
from the classroom today. [Id. at 36.] Now, she
works in the technology department in the office of the
Marshall County Board of Education [Id. at 42.]
Teckenbrock does not currently work with children.
[Id] No one from the school informed T.C., Lane, or
Harris "of the remedial measure of putting her in the
tech department, " however. [Id]
August 2016, K.C., by and through his parents, T.C. and K.C.,
(collectively, "Plaintiffs") brought the instant
lawsuit. [DN 1.] Herein, Plaintiffs make claims for
violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act
("ADA") and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
("§ 504"). [Id. at 7.] The parties
engaged in discovery, and the Marshall County Board of
Education (the "Board" or "Defendant")
filed the instant motion for summary judgment on all of