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Wilson v. Salmon School District #291

United States District Court, D. Idaho

August 29, 2017

JOHN WILSON and MELISSA WILSON, husband and wife, individually, and as the Guardians of the Minor Child Plaintiff, J.C.W., Plaintiff,
SALMON SCHOOL DISTRICT #291; JENNIFER COOK, in her individual and official capacity; BOB ENDERTON, in his individual and official capacity; HUMAN DYNAMICS AND DIAGNOSTICS LLC, an Idaho limited liability company; and RACHEL McDONALD, as the natural parent and guardian of E.R., a minor child, Defendants.


          B. Lynn Winmill, Chief Judge United States District Court.


         The Court has before it Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 28), Defendants' Motion to Strike (Dkt. 40), Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend (Dkt. 36), and Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend for Punitive Damages (Dkt. 29). The Court heard oral argument on July 25, 2017. For the reasons explained below, the Court will: (1) grant Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend (Dkt. 36), (2) deem moot Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend for Punitive Damages, (3) grant in part and deny in part Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 28), and (4) deem moot Defendants' Motion to Strike (Dkt. 40).


         1. Factual Background

         Most of the facts in this section are undisputed and material to the resolution of the pending motions. Where material facts are in dispute, the Court has included the Plaintiffs' version of the facts so long as that version is not contradicted by clear evidence in the record in line with the Rule 56 requirement that the Court consider the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiffs.

         A. J.C.W.'s Injury

         On April 14, 2015. E.R., a first-grade student at Pioneer Elementary School, stabbed J.C.W., a second-grade student, in the eye with a stick during recess. On the date of the injury, the playground staff was short-handed. Cook Dep. 162:24-163:9, Dkt. 28-4. Ordinarily, four adults supervise the playground area with areas of overlapping visibility. Id. at 155:6-18. On the day of the injury, Defendant Bob Enderton, a paraprofessional and substitute teacher, had been assigned by Defendant Jennifer Cook, the Principal of Pioneer Elementary School, to oversee the front area of the schoolyard. Enderton claimed that there were only two adults supervising the playground area. Stephenson Aff., Ex. A. at 3.

         As lunch ended, Enderton saw three boys carrying J.C.W. to the school. Id. at 38:10-16, Dkt. 28-4. Enderton noticed J.C.W. bleeding and instructed the boys to continue carrying him into the office. Id. Enderton did not observe how J.C.W. was injured. Prior to April 14, 2015, Enderton had no previous experience with E.R. and was unaware of any disciplinary action concerning E.R. Id. at 42:1-7.

         Once J.C.W. was in the office, Cook observed J.C.W.'s injury and was told that J.C.W's mother, Melissa Wilson, had already been called. Cook Dep. 140:8-10, 139:10- 140:7, Dkt. 28-4. There was a debate about whether to call 911. Cook testified that she was ready to call 911, but someone told her the mother was on the way and that Cook had permission to transport him. See Cook Dep. at 140:14-141:15, Dkt. 28-4. She testified that she received no training on what to do when there was a serious injury at the school. Id. at 143:25-144:4.

         Later at the hospital, J.C.W. described the incident to his mother, recounting that he was first hit in the leg and then E.R. poked him in the eye. Wilson Dep. at 53:6-55:24, Dkt. 28-4. J.C.W.'s injury required at least two surgeries and resulted in permanent blindness in his right eye. J.C.W. also suffered from emotional distress.

         B. E.R.'s Prior Behavior

         Prior to the altercation with J.C.W., E.R. had a disruptive behavioral pattern at Pioneer Elementary School. Although the date is unclear, there is evidence that E.R. struck a young girl in the face some time prior to the incident with J.C.W. See Summers Dep. at 25:1-25, Dkt. 35-5. In addition, in the Fall of 2014, E.R. was “acting out in class.” Cook Dep. at 112:10-18, Dkt. 35-7. E.R.'s teacher, Melissa Stephenson, stated that around the end of November 2014, E.R. was struggling to get back into a structured routine. Stephenson Dep. at 10:14-12:13, Dkt. 35-13. She also noted that E.R. would sometimes be “in students' faces arguing” and was usually not physical, although, he might give a “quick push.” Id. at 14:11-23. Stephenson also noted increased irritability in E.R. around Spring Break in 2015. 17:17-18:12.

         On April 2, 2015, Stephenson observed E.R. in an argument with two adult members of the After School Promise program. See Stephenson Dep. at 22:19-23:5, Dkt. 35-13. He began screaming and yelling at Stephenson and others and threw his backpack down the hall. Id. at 23:7-24. In addition, he flailed his arms around and threw himself on the ground. Id. at 24:4-22.

         Around April 6, 2015, Cook became aware that E.R. had thrown a rock at an after-school program supervisor, Woehlke. Cook Dep. at 116:20-117:9; 118:1-119:3, Dkt. 28-4. Woehlke was not aware of E.R. throwing rocks at him and was only made aware of it by another student. Woehlke Dep. at 26:5-11, Dkt. 35-14. He also states that he is unaware of whether it was a rock or gravel that was thrown. Id. at 29:7-18. The next day, E.R. got angry and pushed or punched paraprofessional, Natelson. Cook Dep. at 123:14- 125:8, Dkt. 35-7.

         On or around April 7, 2015, Stephenson approached Cook to state her concerns with E.R.'s aggressive and violent behavior. Stephenson Dep. at 29:1-31:22, Dkt. 35-13. She expressed concerns that both of the incidents had been physical and that it was unclear how he might act around his peers. Id.

         On April 8, Officer Madsen, the substitute SRO, met with E.R., his mother, and Cook regarding the rock-throwing incident. Madsen Dep. at 17:3-16, Dkt. 35-17. Madsen discussed that throwing rocks could be a criminal action and instructed him about appropriate behavior. Id. at 18:7-24. Madsen indicated that she does not know of any other disciplinary action taken by Cook. Id. at 19:24-20:1. Stephenson stated that besides the meeting with Madsen, Cook took no other disciplinary action. See Stephenson Dep. at 36:2-21, Dkt. 35-13. In addition, there is no record of any discipline imposed by Cook and no records of the incidents placed in E.R.'s files or within PowerSchool, the District's program for reporting such incidents.

         C. The School Policy and Cook's Training

         At the time of the incident, the Salmon School District #291 (“the District”) had several policies addressing student conduct and behavior. One provision stated that “hazing, harassment, intimidation, menacing or bullying by students . . . is strictly prohibited and will not be tolerated in the district.” See Phillips Aff., Ex. C. at 159, Dkt. 35-8. The District's policy included a section titled “Student Discipline.” Id. at 169. This section states several relevant polices including “[1] the behavior of students while on school property or under school supervision is the direct responsibility of the classroom teacher and the building principal . . . . Repeated or serious violations of student behavior rules must be reported to the Superintendent, who ...

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