United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
KRISTEN R. BUSSELL and KALI C. CENTENO PLAINTIFFS
ELIZABETHTOWN INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT; and STEPHEN KYLE GOODLETT DEFENDANTS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
N. Stivers, Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss (DN 7). The motion has been fully briefed and is
ripe for adjudication. For the reasons outlined below, the
motion is DENIED.
STATEMENT OF FACTS AND CLAIMS
a civil rights action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
20 U.S.C. § 1681(a) et seq. (“Title
IX”), with pendent state law claims. (Compl., DN 1; Am.
Compl., DN 13). Plaintiffs Kristen R. Bussell and Kali C.
Centeno (together, “Plaintiffs”), on behalf of
themselves and a putative class of others similarly situated,
allege that Elizabethtown Independent School District
(“District” or “Defendant”) and
Stephen Kyle Goodlett (“Goodlett”) violated their
privacy rights when they were students at Elizabethtown High
School (“EHS”) between 2010-2012. (Compl. 1-2).
Plaintiffs claim that pursuant to EHS's policy of
allowing teachers and school administrators to confiscate and
retain student cell phones if used during school hours,
District school officials, including Goodlett, seized and
searched the content of student cell phones, including
Plaintiffs'. (Compl. ¶¶ 10, 21-24). Plaintiffs
further assert that Goodlett found private nude and semi-nude
photographs on their phones, and that Goodlett later uploaded
those images to the Internet. (Compl. ¶¶ 22-33).
bring claims against the District under Section 1983 for
violations of their Fourth Amendment rights; under Title IX
for discrimination and harassment; and under Article I,
Section 10 of the Kentucky Constitution for unreasonable
search and seizure. (Compl. ¶¶ 34-51, 63-72).
Plaintiffs contend that the District is liable, as
Goodlett's actions were taken pursuant to his position as
a teacher at EHS, under a policy adopted by the District, and
that the District “fail[ed] to develop and enforce
adequate policies and procedures” to prevent “the
deprivation of a student's federally protected rights . .
. .” (Compl. ¶¶ 63-69). Plaintiffs' suit
is brought on behalf of themselves, and a putative class,
All students at Elizabethtown High School from 2010 through
2012, whose cellular telephones were confiscated by teachers
and/or school officials at Elizabethtown High School; whose
cellular telephones, once confiscated, were searched by
teachers and/or school officials; and whose photographic
images stored on said cellular telephones were transferred by
Elizabethtown High School teachers and/or officials to thumb
drives or other storage devices and then uploaded to one or
more internet websites without the students' knowledge or
(Compl. ¶ 74).
Court has subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs'
Section 1983 and Title IX claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331
because a federal question is presented. Additionally, the
Court has subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs'
state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,
” and is subject to dismissal if it “fail[s] to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Fed. R. Civ. P 12(b)(6). When
considering a motion to dismiss, courts must presume all
factual allegations in the complaint to be true and make all
reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.
Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc. v. Anthem Blue Cross
& Blue Shield, 552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th Cir. 2008)
(citation omitted). “But the district court need not
accept a bare assertion of legal conclusions.”
Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d
478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). “A
pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.
Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s]
devoid of further factual enhancement.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation
marks omitted) (citation omitted).
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Traverse Bay
Area Intermediate Sch. Dist. v. Mich. Dep't of
Educ., 615 F.3d 622, 627 (6th Cir. 2010) (internal
quotation marks omitted) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim becomes
plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556). “A complaint will be dismissed pursuant
to Rule 12(b)(6) if no law supports the claims made, if the
facts alleged are insufficient to state a claim, or if the
face of the complaint presents an insurmountable bar to
relief.” Southfield Educ. Ass'n v. Southfield
Bd. of Educ., 570 Fed.Appx. 485, 487 (6th Cir. 2014)
(citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 561-64).
reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court “may consider
the Complaint and any exhibits attached thereto, public
records, items appearing in the record of the case and
exhibits attached to defendant's motion to dismiss so
long as they are referred to in the Complaint and are central
to the claims contained therein.” Bassett v.
Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d 426,
430 (6th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). As the Complaint
clearly centers on EHS's “written or unwritten
policy related to cellular telephones[, ]” the Court
will consider the EHS Cell Phone Policy as included in
Defendant's motion, as well as the District's Search
and Seizure Policy as attached to Plaintiffs' Response.
(Def's. Mot. Dismiss 5; Pls.' Resp. Def.'s Mot.
Dismiss. Ex. A, DN 10-1).
moves the Court to dismiss the Amended Complaint, asserting,
inter alia, that it is entitled to immunity, cannot
be vicariously liable for Goodlett's actions, and did not
have a legal duty to implement policies to prevent
Goodlett's unforeseeable criminal conduct. (Def.'s
Mot. Dismiss 2). The District's arguments as to each
claim are addressed in turn.
Section 1983 & Kentucky Constitutional
state a claim under Section 1983, “[a] plaintiff must
establish both that 1) she was deprived of a right secured by
the Constitution or laws of the United States and 2) the
deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of
state law.” Redding v. St. Eward, 241 F.3d
530, 532 (6th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). Because
“Section 1983 is not itself a source of any substantive
rights, but instead provides the means by which rights
conferred elsewhere may be enforced[, ]” the
Court's “first task . . . is to identify the
specific constitutional . . . rights allegedly
infringed.” Meals v. City of Memphis, 493 F.3d
720, 727-28 (6th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted).
case, Plaintiffs contend, inter alia:
[D]espite a complete lack of reasonable suspicion, upon
information and belief, . . . Goodlett, and/or other school
officials at EHS, acting under the color of state law in
their capacity as public school officials, unreasonably and
unlawfully searched the images stored on the ...