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H.W., A Minor, By and Through v. Eastern Sierra Unified School District; Coleville High School

October 11, 2011

H.W., A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH GUARDIAN AD LITEM HEIDI NELSON; AND M.K., A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH GUARDIAN AD LITEM ROBERT KOELLING,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
EASTERN SIERRA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT; COLEVILLE HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL JASON REED (INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY); ASSISTANT FOOTBALL COACH CODY CARLISLE (INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY); SUPERINTENDENT DON CLARK (INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY),
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garland E. Burrell, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

Pending are two dismissal motions brought by Defendants Eastern Sierra Unified School District ("District"), Coleville High School Principal Jason Reed, and Superintendent Don Clark (collectively, "Defendants"); one under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(1) and the other under Rule 12(b)(6). (ECF Nos. 6-7.) Plaintiffs oppose each motion. (ECF Nos. 11-12.) Plaintiffs allege that because of Defendants' failure to train and supervise assistant football coach Cody Carlisle, Carlisle engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with Plaintiffs. Since Plaintiffs' claims against Defendants are dismissed based on each Defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal arguments, the merit of each Defendant's 12(b)(1) dismissal motion is not decided.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

To avoid dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007). When deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the material allegations of the complaint are accepted as true, and all reasonable inferences are drawn therefrom in the plaintiff's favor. See al-Kidd v. Ashcroft, 580 F.3d 949, 956 (9th Cir. 2009). However, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "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.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557) (internal citation omitted). "In sum, for a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, the nonconclusory 'factual content,' and reasonable inferences from that content, must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief." Moss v. United States Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009).

II. BACKGROUND

The following factual allegations are contained in Plaintiffs' Complaint. Plaintiffs are minor females; both were fifteen years old at the time of the alleged incidents about which each Plaintiff complains. (Compl. ¶ 6.) On December 22, 2009, Carlisle "sexually molested both minor girls" while he was the assistant football coach at Coleville High School. Id. ¶¶ 10, 21. Carlisle "consistently and overtly flirted with and sexually harassed students, attended and facilitated underage parties, and ultimately, engaged in acts of sexual intercourse and sodomy with multiple underage students [and] [h]e was able to do so . . . because of his role as assistant football coach at Coleville High School." Id. ¶ 18. Carlisle ultimately plead guilty to "multiple felony charges for sexual contact with minors." Id. ¶ 23.

Defendant Jason Reed, as principal of Coleville High School, "negligently and tortiously failed to conduct a proper investigation into [Carlisle's] background before allowing him access to the students of Coleville High School." Id. ¶ 17. "Various employees in positions of authority . . . including . . . Principal [Reed], knew or suspected [Carlisle] was having inappropriate sexual relationships with underage students." Id. ¶ 19. "Prior to December 22, 2009, Principal [Reed] . . . received information that [Carlisle] was involved in inappropriate sexual conduct with an underage female or females at the school . . . [but] did not report his suspicions regarding [Carlisle's] behavior to the proper authorities . . . [or] take the appropriate steps to keep [Carlisle] away from . . . students[.]" Id. ¶ 20.

Nor did the Defendant District "adequately train students, teachers, and staff regarding sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, and avoiding unlawful sexual conduct between students and staff." Id. ¶ 24. Further, this was "not the first staff-on-student incident of its kind within the district[,]" yet "[n]o significant changes in district policy, training, or supervision resulted from the discovery of this [previous] unlawful behavior by a teacher within the district." Id. ¶ 26.

Plaintiffs state in the caption of the Complaint that Defendants Reed and Clark are being sued "individually and in [their] official capacit[ies .]" (Compl. 1:21-24.) However, in their Complaint Plaintiffs allege the following concerning Reed and Clark: "[they] were at all times relevant herein acting within the purpose and scope of [their] agency and employment. However, with regard to claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, . . . Reed [and] Clark . . . are being sued in their individual capacities[.]" Id. ¶ 13. This allegation reveals Plaintiffs' § 1983 claims against Reed and Clark are against them in their individual capacities and all other claims are solely against Reed and Clark in their official capacities. Plaintiffs allege the following federal claims in their Complaint: (1) "Prohibited Sex Discrimination (20 U.S.C. § 1681)" against Defendants; and (2) "Deprivation of constitutional rights under color of law (42 U.S.C. § 1983)" against Reed and Clark "in their individual capacities." Id. ¶¶ 27-35. Plaintiffs also allege the following five state law claims against Defendants: negligence, negligent hiring/retention, negligent supervision, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and failure to train. Id. ¶¶ 36-61, 69-72. Plaintiffs seek damages in each claim. Id. 13:9-15.

III. DISCUSSION

A. "Prohibited Sex Discrimination (20 U.S.C. § 1681)"

Plaintiffs allege Defendants violated 20 U.S.C. § 1681 ("Title IX") by subjecting "Plaintiffs to discrimination on the basis of sex." (Compl. ¶ 29.) Defendants argue Title IX does not authorize suit against school officials like Reed and Clark and therefore, "[t]o the extent these Defendants are sued as individuals, [this claim] should be dismissed." (Mot. 8:13-17, ECF No. 7.) Plaintiffs agree in their response to the motion that "individual defendants Reed and Clark cannot themselves be liable under Title IX[ and that] Defendants' motions should be granted in that regard." (Opp'n 2:3-5, ECF No. 11.) Accordingly, Defendants Reed and Clark are dismissed from this claim.

Defendants also argue "Plaintiffs have failed to allege facts sufficient to establish liability against the District" since "Plaintiff[s have] failed to plead deliberate indifference on the part of the District." (Mot. 9:4-5, 14-15.) Defendants further argue that "[a]ssuming . . . that either Reed's or Clark's knowledge could be considered proper for purposes of imparting actual notice to the District, the allegation of Reed's knowledge is conclusory" and "without basis in fact." Id. 9:15-17, 19. Plaintiffs respond that "[t]he complaint . . . makes adequate factual allegations under Title IX[,] . . . properly alleges deliberate indifference[,] . . . [and contains] allegations more than suffic[ient] to raise a claim under Title IX[.]" (Opp'n 5:1-3.)

Title IX prescribes in part: "No person . . . shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance[.]" 20 U.S.C. ยง 1681(a). "Title IX encompasses sexual harassment of a student by a teacher and is enforceable through an implied private right of action for damages against a school district." Garcia ex rel. Marin v. Clovis Unified School Dist., No. 1:08-CV-1924 AWI SMS, 2009 WL 2982900, at *8 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 14, 2009). However, a school district may not be held liable for damages for a teacher's sexual harassment of a student "unless an official of the school district who at a minimum has authority to institute ...


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