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B.H. v. Obion County Board of Education

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

December 10, 2019

B.H., A Minor Student, by and through His parent L.H., and L.H., Individually, Plaintiffs,
v.
OBION COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION d/b/a OBION COUNTY SCHOOLS, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          S. THOMAS ANDERSON CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff B.H., a minor, has brought this action through his parent, L.H., and L.H. has brought the action in her individual capacity against Obion County Board of Education d/b/a Obion County Schools. Plaintiffs have asserted five claims: discrimination and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §12101 et seq., discrimination and retaliation under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §794 et seq., and retaliation under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 44), and Plaintiffs have filed a response to the motion. (ECF No. 49.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is DENIED.

         Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is proper “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). When deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must review all the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and it “may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.” Laster v. City of Kalamazoo, 746 F.3d 714, 726 (6th Cir. 2014).

         When the motion is supported by documentary proof such as depositions and affidavits, the nonmoving party may not rest on his pleadings but, rather, must present some “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Eastham v. Chesapeake Appalachia, L.L.C., 754 F.3d 356, 360 (6th Cir. 2014). These facts must be more than a scintilla of evidence and must meet the standard of whether a reasonable juror could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the nonmoving party is entitled to a verdict. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). The Court should ask “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Id. at 251-52. The Court must enter summary judgment “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

         Statement of Material Undisputed Facts[1]

         Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1(a), Defendant has prepared a statement of facts “to assist the Court in ascertaining whether there are any material facts in dispute.” (ECF No 44-2.) Plaintiffs have responded to Defendant's statement and have attached their own statement of undisputed facts. (ECF No. 49-1.) Defendant has not responded to Plaintiffs' statement of undisputed facts in a timely fashion.[2] Therefore, the Court will accept Plaintiffs' facts as being undisputed.

         A fact is material if the fact “might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under the governing substantive law.” Baynes v. Cleland, 799 F.3d 600, 607 (6th Cir. 2015) (citing Wiley v. United States, 20 F.3d 222, 224 (6th Cir. 1994) and Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48). A dispute about a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. For purposes of summary judgment, a party asserting that a material fact is not genuinely in dispute must cite to particular parts of the materials in the record and show that the materials fail to establish a genuine dispute or that the adverse party has failed to produce admissible evidence to support a fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). As the non-moving party, Plaintiffs must respond to Defendant's statement of fact “by either (1) agreeing that the fact is undisputed; (2) agreeing that the fact is undisputed for the purpose of ruling on the motion for summary judgment only; or (3) demonstrating that the fact is disputed.” Local R. 56.1(b). Additionally, Plaintiffs may “object that the material cited to support or dispute a fact cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2).

         When Plaintiffs assert that a genuine dispute of material fact exists, Plaintiffs must support their contention with a “specific citation to the record.” Local R. 56.1(b). If Plaintiffs fail to demonstrate that a fact is disputed or simply fail to address Defendant's statement of facts properly, the Court will “consider the fact undisputed for purposes” of ruling on the motion. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2); see also Local R. 56.1(d) (“Failure to respond to a moving party's statement of material facts, or a non-moving party's statement of additional facts, within the time periods provided by these rules shall indicate that the asserted facts are not disputed for purposes of summary judgment.”). Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court “need consider only the cited materials” but has discretion to “consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).

         In the present case, Plaintiffs have made various objections regarding Defendant's statement of facts that purport to show the subjective state of mind of the parties at various times during the relevant events, and they object to any “fact” that is actually a legal conclusion or is an attempt to invade the province of the jury. These objections are noted below.

         Undisputed Facts

         During the 2016-2017 school year, B.H. was a Pre-K student at Black Oak Elementary School in Obion County, Tennessee. B.H. attended Pre-K pursuant to the terms of an Individual Education Program (“IEP”) under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act.

         B.H. has Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Type III (ADD/ADHD Type III), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, and he is the victim of sexual abuse by an adult male family member.

         During the 2016-2017 school year, Melissa Jones was the Pre-K teacher at Black Oak Elementary School.

         Throughout the 2016-2017 school year, B.H. had some disciplinary issues in the Pre-K classroom; the parties dispute the severity of those issues.[3]

         At the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, B.H.'s mother, L.H., advised Ms. Jones that B.H. had threatened to kill and stab her; L.H. informed the school that B.H. had made these threats in the context of why he received psychological treatment earlier in the year at Vanderbilt University, which according to L.H., greatly helped, and these behaviors subsided. Because of these behaviors, L.H. kept sharp objects out of B.H.'s reach at home.

         L.H. further advised Ms. Jones that B.H. would leave bruises on her, pull her hair, kick her, and curse at her when angry; L.H. informed the school that B.H. had these behaviors in the context of why he received psychological treatment earlier in the year at Vanderbilt University, which according to L.H., greatly helped, and these behaviors subsided.

         On May 15, 2017, Ms. Jones allowed her students to go to the playground for recess. During recess, Ms. Jones saw B.H. playing by the sandbox. A short time later, she noticed that B.H. was no longer at the sandbox.[4]

         Ms. Jones saw B.H. and another student, “John Doe, ” in the open top playhouse located on the playground. When Ms. Jones walked over to the playhouse, she noticed that B.H. and John Doe were sitting crisscross on the ground. Based on what she saw, she believed that the students were engaged in inappropriate behavior.

         Ms. Jones pulled John Doe to the side and asked him what was going on. John Doe told her that B.H. was “touching him in his pants.” John Doe's father later acknowledged that John Doe also put his hands down B.H.'s pants.

         Ms. Jones then took B.H. to the school counselor, Melissa Logan. B.H. was later taken to the principal's office and remained there until L.H. picked him up after school. B.H. admitted to Ms. ...


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