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P.R. v. Shoshone School District No. 321

United States District Court, D. Idaho

December 21, 2018

P.R., a minor, and S.R., natural parent and guardian, Plaintiffs,
v.
SHOSHONE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 321; KELLY CHAPMAN, an individual, and ROBERT WAITE, an individual, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          Honorable Candy W. Dale United States Magistrate Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment and related motion to strike. (Dkt. 22, 31.) This case involves allegations by Plaintiffs that Defendants' response to a sexual assault at school between two students, Plaintiff P.R. and L.C., was inadequate.[1] Plaintiffs P.R. and her mother, S.R., claim that Defendants' failure to investigate the incident and appropriately discipline L.C. resulted in the deprivation of P.R.'s federally protected rights to an education at Shoshone Middle School and Shoshone High School. Defendants contend the District officials, Principal Kelly Chapman, and Superintendent and Title IX officer Robert Waite, responded appropriately upon discovering the incident between the two students.

         The Court conducted a hearing on the pending motions on September 18, 2018, at which the parties appeared and presented their arguments. After carefully considering the record, the parties' briefing and oral argument, as well as relevant authorities, the Court will grant summary judgment to Defendants in part and deny it in part, as explained below.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs' complaint sets forth nine causes of action. Counts One and Two allege violations of Title IX as to Defendant Shoshone School District; Counts Three and Four allege Section 1983 claims against all three Defendants under Title 42 of the United States Code; and Counts Five, Six, Seven, Eight and Nine allege claims under state law under various theories.

         In response to the motion for summary judgment, Plaintiffs conceded Counts Three, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine in the Complaint by “withdrawing” them. (Dkt. 30 at 2, 23.)[2] Accordingly, the Court's analysis is confined to Counts One, Two, and Four.

         Plaintiffs disputed the majority of the facts set forth in Defendants' statement of undisputed facts. Because of the significant disparities in the parties' versions of the facts, and based upon review of the entire record, the Court has outlined below the facts and factual disputes material to the legal issues presented with Defendants' motion.

         FACTS [3]

         P.R. attended the eighth grade at Shoshone Middle School during the 2016-2017 school year. That same year, L.C. was a junior attending Shoshone High School. The schools share the same campus, which is located at 61 E. Highway 24, in Shoshone, Idaho.[4] P.R. first met L.C. in December of 2016.[5] At that time, P.R. was 13, and L.C. was 16.

         On the early afternoon of Tuesday, April 25, 2017, Kelly Chapman, the school principal, [6] entered the computer lab at Shoshone High School[7] and found P.R. and L.C. together, watching Netflix.[8] She sent them both back to their respective classrooms. Later that day, Chapman spoke with the school counselor, Ms. Schroeder, about walking in on the two students. Chapman expressed that it was odd the two students were there together, because one was in middle school and one was in high school, and they should not have been together in that same location at that time. Chapman wanted to find out what the two students had been doing, so she accessed the video tape from earlier in the day. Upon review of the video tape, Chapman discovered the two students had engaged in sexual activity in the computer lab before she walked in. Upon learning the two students had engaged in sexual activity, Chapman contacted law enforcement.

         Before viewing the video tape on April 25, 2017, Chapman did not know or suspect that P.R. and L.C. had engaged in sexual activity. And, the record contains no evidence that anyone else at Shoshone Middle and High School or Shoshone School District was aware of their activities.

         After classes on April 25, two local law enforcement officers arrived at the school and met with Chapman to discuss how to proceed. The officers and Chapman decided to interview the students the next day with their parents in attendance. On the morning of Wednesday, April 26, 2017, P.R. was interviewed in Chapman's office with her mother, S.R., present.[9] At various times during the interview, Chapman was present as was Sheriff Rene Rodriguez and Officer Green. P.R.'s father was present at the school for a portion of the morning.

         P.R. remembers “getting asked what had happened in the computer lab and they had only, like, saw the video of, like the 25th and so when I said that we had had sex, Ms. Chapman was like, no, you guys didn't, like, and she just hadn't checked, like, the videos, like, from before.” P.R. Depo. at 66-67.[10] At that point, it appears S.R., Chapman, and the officers reviewed the video footage from the computer lab taken during the day on Monday, April 24, 2017. S.R. Depo. at 25-27.

         After P.R.'s interview concluded, P.R. was sent to the hospital with her mother and another law enforcement officer, where she received a physical examination. S.R. was informed that, because of P.R.'s age (13), she would be referred to CARES.[11]

         Later on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, law enforcement officers interviewed L.C. with his parents in attendance.[12] Chapman testified she was careful to ensure that P.R. and L.C. did not have contact during that day. Chapman Aff. ¶ 8. (Dkt. 22-3.) Law enforcement officers informed Chapman that day that L.C.'s conduct would be charged as lewd and lascivious conduct. Ans. ¶ 31.

         On Thursday, April 27, 2017, L.C. was arrested at school, and was escorted off the school premises because of the incident with P.R. Afterwards, L.C. was suspended from school for nine school days. Because the Shoshone schools are on a Monday through Thursday schedule, the suspension lasted from Monday, May 1, through Monday, May 15, 2017. This was the maximum suspension Chapman believed she was able to impose under state law as the school's Principal. Chapman Depo. at 53, 56.[13] Chapman did not recommend further discipline for L.C. after imposing the nine-day suspension, and Robert Waite, the Superintendent and Title IX officer, agreed with her recommendation. Chapman Depo. at 58-60. L.C. returned to Shoshone High School on May 16, 2017.

         Chapman testified that she reviewed the school handbook prior to determining L.C.'s disciplinary consequences. Chapman Depo. at 59-60. Chapman interpreted L.C.'s behavior as falling within the school handbook's disciplinary policy prohibiting public displays of affection and inappropriate behavior. Chapman characterized what she saw on the video tapes, which she testified depicted oral intercourse and anal intercourse, as signs of an “intimate relationship.”[14] Chapman Depo. at 60-61. Chapman was aware that L.C. was charged with five counts of lewd and lascivious conduct, although it is not entirely clear from the record when Chapman became aware of the nature of the criminal charges filed against L.C. Chapman Depo. at 55.[15]

         The Complaint characterizes what occurred between L.C. and P.R. as rape, which characterization the District denies. P.R. testified in her deposition that, on April 24, 2017, L.C. “pressured” her to have sex with him that day in the computer lab-he was “grabbing my arm, ” and she felt like she could not leave the room. P.R. Depo. at 50-52. P.R. described L.C. as “aggressive that day.” P.R. Depo. at 54.

         P.R. testified that, the next day, April 25, L.C. contacted her via Snapchat, telling her that he wanted her to go to the computer lab. P.R. met L.C. in the computer lab, which was empty. According to P.R., L.C. made sure that the door was locked. L.C. “kept…asking to have sex again and I kept saying no, ‘cause what had happened the day before…he asked for oral and he said that if I gave him oral, then he would let me leave.” P.R. Depo. at 56. She complied, although she described L.C. as using physical force by holding her head and she did not know if she could have left the computer lab. P.R. Depo. at 57.

         P.R. testified that, when she met with CARES personnel on April 26, she told them she was raped, assaulted, and that L.C. physically did something to her that she felt was threatening that she “did not say yes to.” P.R. Depo. at 70-71. It is not clear from the record whether Chapman or Waite knew about P.R.'s allegations to CARES personnel, or whether P.R. had described the incidents at school similarly to law enforcement during their interview of her on April 26.

         Sometime shortly after the interviews with the students, [16] Robert Waite met with Chapman, and the two discussed three topics. First, the two discussed the need to conduct an investigation separate from the police investigation. Waite Depo. at 20.[17] However, no written report was prepared, and the only formal document produced was a letter regarding L.C.'s suspension that was sent to L.C.'s parents. Other than Chapman's handwritten notes taken at various times, [18] school officials did not prepare a written report concerning the events of April 24 and 25, 2017, or their aftermath, and the Court found no evidence of such a report in the record. (see Dkt. 30-7 at 13, and Dkt. 30-7 at 7, referencing Bates No. SHOS 0296.)

         Second, Waite and Chapman discussed how to handle L.C.'s return to school after his suspension concluded. Waite testified that the school needed information from P.R.'s family, because “[w]e didn't know at this point the nature of the relationship” between P.R. and L.C. Waite Depo. at 29. Accordingly, depending upon the nature of the relationship, he and Chapman discussed that L.C. could be placed in the alternative school; enroll in online school; or the school could make sure that he and P.R. did not pass in the hall. However, the school wanted to know whether P.R. felt it was the best thing for her to return to Shoshone Middle School or stay away. Waite testified that he and Chapman decided Chapman would meet with P.R.'s family to determine the best way to proceed. Waite Depo. at 27. However, Waite and Chapman did not discuss notifying P.R.'s family that the school was depending upon the family's decision whether and when to send P.R. back to school before the school determined a plan for L.C. going forward. Id.

         And last, Waite testified that he and Chapman discussed three options for P.R. to finish the remainder of the 2016-17 school year - one would be to work from home and get homework assignments from her teachers; the second would be to take her grades as they were, and be done for the school year; and the third option would be resuming attendance at the middle school, at which point a discussion would occur concerning how to keep L.C. and P.R. separated. Waite Depo. at 34. Waite testified that he and Chapman determined that they would come up with a plan based upon P.R.'s wishes. Waite Depo. at 41. In the meantime, Chapman emailed P.R.'s teachers on April 27th, requesting that they send assignments to P.R. for her to complete at home. Chapman Depo. at 12.[19]

         Thereafter, Chapman met twice with P.R. and her mother, S.R. During the first meeting, held on or about May 1, 2017, Chapman testified that she explained P.R. could return to school, she could continue doing what she was doing by obtaining homework assignments, or she could be done for the year-meaning P.R. could receive the grades she had earned and complete the eighth grade without returning to school or completing any more homework assignments. Chapman Depo. at 49. Chapman's handwritten notes reflect also that Chapman knew P.R. had a counseling meeting on May 16th, and that Chapman informed S.R. that L.C. might return, but his placement would depend upon whether P.R. returned to school. Chapman Depo. at 46-47. (Dkt. 30-7 at 13, referencing SHOS 0296 at Dkt. 30-7 at 7.)[20]

         S.R. recalls the first meeting differently. S.R. testified she informed Chapman that CARES had advised her that P.R. should not return to school until after May 9. S.R. Depo. at 21, 33.[21] Chapman's handwritten notes reflect she was aware of this recommendation.[22] Thereafter, S.R. recalls Chapman informed her of only two options for P.R. - that she could "drop off school or do home school. And I ask if she expels [P.R.] out of school and she say, 'No, but it's better.'" S.R. Depo. at 32.

         The second meeting with Chapman, S.R., and P.R. occurred also during the first part of May, with Sheriff Rodriguez present to translate. S.R. Depo. at 33-36. At the second meeting, an agreement was made that the school would provide homework assignments for P.R. to complete at home. S.R. Depo. at 22. On May 16, 2017, S.R. accompanied P.R. to her next counseling appointment at CARES, at which time a plan was made for PR's recovery. S.R. Depo. at 34.[23]

         P.R. recalls the meeting, or meetings, [24] with Chapman a bit differently. P.R. recalls she met with Chapman, her mother, and Sheriff Rodriguez approximately two weeks after the April 26, 2017 interview at school. P.R. Depo. at 73-75. P.R. remembers asking about when she was going to return to school, at which time Chapman gave her "two options of either dropping off the school year or just going home schooled" for the remainder of the school year. P.R. Depo. at 75-76. Her understanding of home school was that she would still be in the school system, and she could try to improve her grades, so “we had agreed that I would be getting homework, like, every week.” P.R. Depo. at 77-78. However, P.R. testified she received homework only “two times.” Id. at 78-79. S.R. testified she stopped by the school every week, and also had her son, who attended Shoshone High School, stop at the school's office for P.R.'s homework. Neither she nor her son were ever given anything to take home to P.R. S.R. Depo. at 22-23.

         Chapman testified she requested P.R.'s teachers to send homework assignments to the school office “as necessary, ” although she does not know whether the teachers did so; she could not identify how many lessons were sent home to P.R. between April 27 and May 23; and, she did not oversee or monitor the sending of any lessons home. Chapman Depo. at 13-16. When a teacher asked Chapman on May 23, 2017, whether she was to continue sending homework for P.R. to the office, Chapman responded via email: “Yes, or you could tell her she can be done.” (Dkt. 30-7.)

         During her deposition, P.R. was asked whether she remembered Chapman telling her to let her know if she wanted to return to school so she could make arrangements to take care of L.C. if she did return. P.R. denied that Chapman ever “mentioned her coming back to school. [Chapman] only gave me those two options.” P.R. Depo. at 78-79. P.R. did not return to school after the 26th of April, because “going back to school wasn't an option, ” and Chapman told her “that it just wasn't a good idea and that's basically it.” P.R. Depo. at 82-83.

         During the one meeting in May of 2017 with Chapman, P.R. recalls Chapman mentioning a “safety plan, because they were planning on, like, letting [L.C.] come back to school, ” but that no one fully explained to her what that meant. P.R. Depo. at 85. She understood only that L.C. would return to school, and if she were to attend school and run into him, that “I guess I would be safe, but they never explained it, not that I remember.” P.R. Depo. at 85-86. S.R. recalls also that, during the meeting on May 1, 2017, Chapman mentioned a safety plan, but S.R. did not know what it was, and Chapman did not explain to her what it meant. S.R. Depo. at 21, 33.

         Chapman testified that L.C.'s placement could not be determined until the school heard from P.R.'s family what P.R.'s plan was regarding returning to school. Chapman indicated that S.R. did not communicate with her regarding their family's plans to have P.R. return to school, but neither did Chapman independently follow up with S.R. to inquire about their wishes. Chapman testified there was no written plan prepared for P.R. if she chose to attend Shoshone Middle or High School after April 26th.

         Upon L.C.'s return to school after his suspension on May 16, 2017, the school put in place a safety plan for him. The plan allowed L.C. to attend his required classes in the morning, with supervision during all times on school grounds.[25] If P.R. returned to school, "there would be further restrictions." Chapman Depo. at 52. It is not clear from the record who would be supervising L.C. There was nothing in writing regarding this "safety plan" other than Chapman's handwritten notes, and Chapman testified the plan had nothing to do with P.R. Chapman testified that, unless and until P.R. returned to the school, there was no need for a safety plan regarding P.R. Chapman was waiting for P.R's mother to contact her regarding P.R.'s intent to return to school before she developed any further plans to keep P.R. and L.C. separate while attending classes for the remainder of the school year.

         Chapman testified that, in reviewing P.R.'s final report card at the end of the spring semester, P.R. passed all her classes except for writing, in which P.R. received an F. Her fourth quarter grades consisted of five F's, two D's, one A, and one B, while her final grades from her second semester consisted of four D's, one F, one B, an A in PE, and two C's. (Dkt. 23 at 55.) P.R. had less than a 90% attendance rate during her second semester of eighth grade. She was entitled to continue to the next grade level, despite her low attendance and receiving an F for one of her final second semester grades.

         At some point in August of 2017, Chapman recalls learning that P.R. would be homeschooled.[26] Thereafter, school records indicate that, on September 11, 2017, Shoshone High School sent P.R.'s records to Gooding High School. Chapman made no follow up inquiry. Chapman knew that L.C. was planning to return to Shoshone High School for his senior year. She testified that there was no reason P.R. could not have enrolled, and that no one told P.R. or S.R. that P.R. could not attend Shoshone High School. Chapman testified that, had P.R. returned to the high school, she would have set up a meeting[27] and implemented a safety plan, but because she was informed P.R. would be homeschooled, that meeting never needed to occur.

         S.R. did not speak with anyone at Shoshone High School concerning whether P.R. could return to school for ninth grade, as she had decided she did not want P.R. returning to Shoshone “[b]ecause [L.C.] is in school and how they treat my daughter, no.” S.R. Depo. at 31. P.R. testified that she did not enroll in the ninth grade at Shoshone High School because she “didn't want to be in school with [L.C.], ” who she knew would be there. P.R. Depo. at 84-85. P.R. testified that she did not have any contact with school district officials about going back to Shoshone High School for ninth grade “because of what happened. I just didn't feel safe.” P.R. Depo. at 86. In September of 2017, P.R. enrolled at Gooding High School.

         S.R. did reach out by email to Shoshone Middle or High School in August of 2017, asking to speak with Waite. Chapman Depo. at 97. Waite did not recall who S.R. was, and upon receiving the email, responded to Chapman, “is this the [L.C.] situation girl, ” to which Chapman responded, “yes I believe so.” (Dkt. 30-7 at 19-20.) Chapman allegedly learned after the fact that Waite had met with S.R. and had informed S.R. that “she could enroll [P.R.] right now if she wanted to.” Id. Chapman learned of the meeting, and its substance, third hand, from the school secretaries, and there is no written note or record of the conversation. Waite's deposition testimony in the record does not specifically reference a meeting with S.R. in August of 2017. S.R. recalled the meeting lasted for five minutes, and that they discussed only why Chapman would not talk to S.R. S.R. Depo. at 23.

         As for L.C.'s return to high school in the fall of 2017, Chapman testified that she recalled a meeting in August with L.C. when she informed him, verbally, regarding the terms and conditions of his supervision at school while attending classes. But, she did not distribute anything in writing to his teachers, and she does not recall whether she informed L.C.'s teachers that he could not be in an unsupervised class.[28]

         L.C., who played soccer and basketball for Shoshone High School, was informed he could not play high school sports his senior year by Tim Chapman, the school athletic director, and Kelly Chapman. L.C. Depo. at 11-13.[29] L.C. was told also that, depending upon the outcome of the criminal charges against him, he could be subject to further discipline, including expulsion. L.C. graduated from Shoshone High School in the Spring of 2018. L.C. Depo. at 10.[30] The criminal case against L.C. was not concluded until after L.C. was no longer a student at the high school.

         DISCUSSION

         1. Summary Judgment Standard

          Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides, in pertinent part, that the “court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         For summary judgment purposes, an issue must be both “material” and “genuine.” An issue is “material” if it affects the outcome of the litigation; an issue is “genuine” if it must be established by “sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute ... to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial.” Hahn v. Sargent, 523 F.3d 461, 464 (1st Cir. 1975) (quoting First Nat. Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)); see also British Motor. Car Distrib. v. San Francisco Auto. Indus. Welfare Fund, 883 F.2d 371, 374 (9th Cir. 1989). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, a court does not make findings of fact or determine the credibility of witnesses. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Rather, it must draw all inferences and view all evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587-88; Whitman v. Mineta, 541 F.3d 929, 931 (9th Cir. 2008).

         2. Evidentiary Objections

         A. S.R. and P.R. Affidavits

          In response to Defendants' motion for summary judgment, Plaintiffs submitted affidavits of S.R. and P.R., explaining that the “relevant facts are best presented by affidavits rather than repetitively stating in this brief references to pages and lines in depositions.” Pls.' Responsive Brief at 2. (Dkt. 30-2.) Plaintiffs' intent was for the affidavits to be read together with the deposition testimony. Thereafter, Defendants filed a motion to strike certain paragraphs in each of the affidavits, arguing they contain conclusory statements, argument, and inadmissible hearsay, and that the testimony contradicts that given during their depositions. Also, ...


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