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B.F. v. Carter County Board of Education

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland

December 4, 2018

B.F., by and through his mother next friend, Amelia Fite PLAINTIFF


          David L. Bunning United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Kelley Moore and Carter County Board of Education's Joint Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (Doc. # 15). The Court having reviewed the Motion and supporting documentation, determines that the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment shall be granted for the reasons set forth below.


         B.F. was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as a preschooler, and, beginning in kindergarten, was bullied by his classmates as a result of his disability. (Doc. # 1 at ¶¶ 7, 9). The alleged bullying of B.F. included “being urinated on by other students, having his lunch eaten by other students, [and] having his crayons and pencils broken by other students, among other things.” Id. at ¶ 9. Despite B.F.'s mother (Amelia Fite) requesting he be moved to a different classroom, “[d]efendants refused to investigate and refused to move B.F. from the class in which the bullies were tormenting him.” Id. at ¶¶ 12-13. The bullying became particularly severe in fifth grade when John Doe 1 threw a book at B.F. Id. at ¶¶ 14-15. John Doe 1 was required to apologize to B.F., but no further disciplinary action was taken. Id. at ¶ 15.

         B.F. moved to East Carter Middle School in sixth grade, and B.F.'s mother informed the principal that B.F. was bullied due to his disability. Id. at ¶ 17. The middle school administration found his disability to be severe enough to warrant giving B.F. a key to use the school elevator. Id. at ¶ 18. B.F. reported an incident of bullying by John Doe 2 to the assistant principal (Defendant Kelley Moore) on January 28, 2015, but the Plaintiff alleges no investigatory or disciplinary actions were taken in response. Id. at ¶¶ 6, 19-20. John Doe 2 “had been throwing rocks at B.F.'s feet during school knowing that his ankles hurt due to his juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.” Id. at ¶ 23. Even though teachers were aware of the bullying (either from being in proximity to the incident or B.F. reporting the bullying), Plaintiff alleges that nothing was done to investigate or discipline John Doe 2. Id. at ¶¶ 23-24. At some point, B.F. began to believe that the school would not help or protect him from bullying, so he stopped reporting the bullying incidents altogether. Id. at 24. The bullying allegedly, however, continued; B.F. was allegedly threatened, kicked, and teased. Id. at ¶ 26. “His school supplies were routinely taken by the bullies; he was forced to allow them to copy his work for better grades and forced to allow the bullies to ride the elevator with him.” Id.

         In March 2015, Ms. Fite contacted the school about creating a 504 Plan[1] for B.F., but the school never followed up to get a plan in place. Id. at ¶ 21. Sometime after, B.F. “began complaining of increased joint pains, became more emotional and exhibit[ed] physical problems of stomach aches and diarrhea at school;” his symptoms would dissipate, however, when he left school. Id. at ¶ 22. Plaintiff alleges that “B.F. received both physical and psychological treatment for his stomach issues and increased anxiety” as a result of being subjected to bullying at school. Id. at ¶ 27.

         On May 27, 2015, B.F. was suspended from school for the rest of the year. Id. at ¶¶ 28, 30. John Doe 2 allegedly had continued to bully B.F., and B.F., fed up with the bullying and lack of action from administrators, “threatened to shoot the bully [John Doe 2] if [John Doe 2] continued to harass [B.F.].” Id. at ¶ 29. John Doe 2 reported the threat to the school administration, which investigated the incident and suspended B.F. Id. at ¶ 30. Despite B.F. informing Defendant Kelley Moore that “John Doe 2 had threatened to kill him first and had harassed and bullied him throughout the year, ” the school appeared to take no action against John Doe 2 and failed to respond to Ms. Fite's numerous attempts to contact the administration regarding the situation. Id. at ¶¶ 31-33.

         Ms. Fite filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) alleging disability discrimination against B.F. by the school. Id. at ¶ 34. OCR found that Carter County Board of Education (“Carter County BOE”) “failed to properly respond to reports of disability-based harassment, ” “did not conduct an investigation at all on the complaints of disability-based harassment by Plaintiff, ” and “failed to comply with grievance procedure required under Section 504 and Title II.” Id. at ¶¶ 35-37. OCR also mandated that Carter County BOE “correct its policies and procedures to provide the required and necessary grievance procedures for resolving claims of disability based discrimination to provide for prompt and equitable resolution of complaints of harassments.” Id. at ¶ 38. In August 2017, following completion of the OCR investigation, Carter County BOE finally began to investigate B.F.'s bullying complaints. Id. at ¶ 39.

         This case was filed on February 1, 2018 on behalf of B.F., a minor, by and through Amelia Fite. (Doc. # 1 at ¶ 4). Ms. Fite is serving as his next friend for the purposes of this lawsuit. Id. The suit alleges claims against Kelley Moore, Vice Principal at East Carter Middle School, and the Carter County BOE. (Docs. # 1 at ¶¶ 5-6 and 9 at 1). Plaintiff alleges seven claims in the Complaint-(1) a § 1983 claim, (2) a claim under § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, (3) a claim under § 344 of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, (4) an equal-protection claim under the Fourteenth Amendment, (5) a common-law negligence claim against Carter County BOE, (6) a common-law negligence claim against Moore, and a (7) negligent training and supervision claim. (Doc. # 1 at ¶¶ 40-93).

         Defendants filed their Answer on February 23, 2018, (Doc. # 7), and jointly moved for partial summary judgment on the two negligence claims and the negligent training and supervision claim (claims 5-7) as well as any resulting claims for punitive damages (collectively “common-law claims”) on June 5, 2018. (Doc. # 15). B.F. having filed a timely response to the Motion on June 26, 2018, (Doc. # 20), and the Defendants having replied on July 10, 2018, (Doc. # 22), the Motion is now ripe for the Court's review.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

          Summary judgment is granted when there is no genuine issue of material fact, and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A material fact is one “that might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Thus, the role of the judge is to review the evidence and “determine[] whether there is the need for a trial-whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.” Id. at 250. If no such issue of material fact exists, summary judgment may be granted if the moving party is “entitled to [such] judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). When considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view any evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Hamilton Cty. Educ. Ass'n v. Hamilton Cty. Bd. of Educ., 822 F.3d 831, 835 (6th Cir. 2016).

         B. ...

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