K.G.R., BY AND THROUGH HIS PARENTS, RACHEL RIFFE AND JEFFREY RIFFE
UNION CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, ET AL.
Session November 17, 2016
from the Circuit Court for Obion County No. CC-13-CV-20 Jeff
a negligence case involving the alleged sexual assault of a
13-year-old special education student by another 13-year-old
special education student in a school bathroom. The trial
court determined that the Appellant school district was not
entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law because there
was a question of fact as to whether the incident was
foreseeable. We conclude that there is no dispute of material
fact and that summary judgment in favor of the school
district should be granted. Reversed and remanded.
R. App. P. 9 Interlocutory Appeal; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Reversed and Remanded.
Jennifer C. Craig, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Union City School District.
Lewis Jenkins, Jr. and Dean P. Dedmon, Dyersburg, Tennessee,
for the appellees, Rachel Ballog-Riffe, and Jeffrey Riffe.
Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which
Arnold B. Goldin, J., and David R. Farmer, Sp. J., joined.
the 2011-2012 school year, K.G.R., age 13,  was enrolled in
the sixth grade as a special education student at Union City
Middle School, which is operated by Union City School
District ("UCSD" or "Appellant"). J.R is
K.G.R's father, and R.R (together with J.R.,
"Parents" or "Appellees") is K.G.R's
mother. The case arises from allegations that K.G.R was
sexually assaulted multiple times during the school year by
another sixth grader, Q.B., also a special education student.
On May 15, 2012, a student told Robyn D., K.G.R. and
Q.B.'s teacher, that the boys were in the bathroom stall
together. After asking another teacher to watch her class,
Ms. D. went to the bathroom. On her arrival, Q.B. was exiting
the bathroom. She called out to K.G.R., and he came out of
the bathroom. Ms. D. then took both boys to the
parents first learned of the incident when Michael M., the
school principal, called R.R. to come to the school. When the
parents arrived, Mr. M. informed them that K.G.R. may have
been sexually assaulted by Q.B. In the presence of
K.G.R.'s parents, Raphe W., the school's resource
officer, assisted K.G.R. in providing a written statement.
According to K.G.R., Q.B. came into the stall while K.G.R.
was using the restroom. K.G.R. further stated that
"[Q.B.] took his private part and stuck it in my
undisputed that, on April 25, 2012, three weeks prior to the
alleged sexual assault on K.G.R., R.R. wrote a letter to the
school principal informing him that K.G.R was being bullied
at school. Specifically R.R. alleged that two named students
were bullying K.G.R "almost everyday" and that
K.G.R. was being punched by these students. R.R. did not name
Q.B. as one of the bullies. The majority of the letter
addressed the detention that K.G.R. had received for calling
a girl names. Although not discussed expressly in the letter,
R.R. testified that she wrote the letter because other
students were stealing K.G.R.'s pencils, picking on him,
and calling him names.
April 23, 2013, Appellees filed a complaint for personal
injuries against UCSD. According to the complaint,
"beginning . . . on or about [April 27], 2012 K.G.R. was
repeatedly sexually victimized by another student in the
bathroom at Union City Middle School." The parents
alleged that Appellant breached a duty to protect K.G.R. from
harm. On May 17, 2013, Appellant filed an answer, denying the
material allegations in the complaint. As an affirmative
defense, Appellant raised "all immunities and
defenses" under the Tennessee Governmental Tort
Liability Act ("TGTLA").
August 24, 2015, Appellant filed a motion for summary
judgment, arguing, inter alia, that it owed no duty
to K.G.R. because the acts against him were not foreseeable.
Appellees filed a response in opposition to the motion for
summary judgment. During the discovery process, UCSD
presented testimony from Raphe W., the school resource
officer; Michael M., the principal; Brittany K., the special
education supervisor; and Robyn D., the teacher. Both Mr. W.
and Mr. M. testified that the alleged sexual assault against
K.G.R. was an isolated incident, and that nothing like it had
ever occurred at Union City Middle School, either between
these two students, or any other students. Mr. W. further
testified that, when he interviewed K.G.R., he specifically
asked K.G.R. if this had ever happened before, and K.G.R.
said no. K.G.R.'s mother, who was present for the
interview with Mr. W., indicated that perhaps it had happened
before. Mr. W. asked K.G.R. a second time whether anything
like this had ever happened before, to which K.G.R. again
responded that it had not happened before. Brittany K., who
had previously taught both K.G.R. and Q.B, testified ...