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J.G. v. Prince George's County Board of Education

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

March 8, 2017

J.G., a Minor, by and through her next friend, Nancy Gusman, Plaintiff,


          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge

         This Memorandum Opinion addresses the Partial Motions to Dismiss and Partial Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Prince George's County Board of Education (“the Board') and Jacqueline Marshall-Hall. ECF Nos. 55 and 56. The Motions are fully briefed, Board's Mem., ECF No. 55-1; Marshall-Hall's Mem., ECF No. 56-1; Pl.'s Opp'n Board's Mot., ECF No. 57-1; Pl.'s Opp'n Marshall-Hall's Mot., ECF No. 58-1; Defs.' Reply, ECF No. 59, and no hearing is necessary, see Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md.). Because the Board has sovereign immunity for claims above $100, 000, I will dismiss the portion of Plaintiff's state-tort claims that exceed that amount. I will grant Defendants' motions to dismiss the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against the Board and Marshall-Hall in her official capacity, as they are not considered ‘persons' under the statute. Further, because Plaintiff has failed to show deliberate indifference under 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681-88 (“Title IX”), I will grant the Board's partial motion for summary judgment and I will also enter summary judgment in Marshall-Hall's favor on the Title IX claim against her in her official capacity. I will dismiss Plaintiff's Title IX claim against Marshall-Hall in her individual capacity, as a Title IX claim may not be brought against her in this capacity. Finally, the motion to dismiss Plaintiff's demand for attorney's fees pursuant to her state law claims is granted. Plaintiff's state-tort claims up to $100, 000, and the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Marshall-Hall in her individual capacity remain.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         On November 4, 2011, James Jamar Howard “was hired by Prince George's County Public Schools (“PGCPS”) as a substitute group activity assistant for the 2011-2012 academic school year” at Glenn Dale Elementary. Second Am. Compl. ¶ 27. In that position, Howard was responsible for administering lessons to Plaintiff's first grade class. Id. ¶ 28. During the 2011- 12 school year, “Howard sexually assaulted Plaintiff in the school library.” Id. ¶ 29. This incident was never observed, however, by any third party or reported to school officials. Therefore, on August 13, 2012, PGCPS rehired Howard for the 2012-13 school year as a special education paraprofessional for Plaintiff's second grade class.

         On April 17, 2013, during lunch in the school cafeteria, a teacher observed Howard sexually assault Plaintiff. The teacher immediately reported the incident to Jacqueline Marshall-Hall, Glenn Dale Elementary's principal at that time. Plaintiff alleges that Marshall-Hall “failed to take immediate action to protect the minor child and did not report the incident of sexual assault to Plaintiff's parents.” Id. ¶ 35. Consequently, Plaintiff returned to school the next day before the school took any action towards Howard, see Id. ¶ 36, but no further contact between Plaintiff and Howard is alleged.

         After an investigation, Howard admitted that he had “sexually molested Plaintiff on ten to fifteen different occasions, all of which occurred on school grounds, over the course of the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years.” Id. ¶ 37. In addition, the investigation revealed that “Howard was [formerly] charged with two counts of second-degree assault and two counts of fourth degree sex offense” in August 2002. Id. ¶ 38.

         On that basis, Plaintiff brought this action against the Prince George's County Board of Education and Marshall-Hall in her official and unofficial capacities for negligent hiring (Counts 1 and 4); negligent retention (Counts 2 and 5); negligent supervision (Counts 3 and 6); a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (Count 7); and violation of Title IX, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681-88 (Count 8).


         A. Motion to Dismiss

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for “the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Velencia v. Drezhlo, No. RDB-12-237, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (D. Md. Dec. 13, 2012). The rule's purpose “‘is to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.'” Id. (quoting Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006)). To that end, the Court bears in mind the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), when considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Specifically, a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and must state “a plausible claim for relief, ” as “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice, ” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79. See Velencia, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (discussing standard from Iqbal and Twombly). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         B. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is proper when the moving party demonstrates, through “particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . ., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, ” 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), (c)(1)(A); see Baldwin v. City of Greensboro, No. 12-1722, 714 F.3d 828, 833 (4th Cir. 2013). If the party seeking summary judgment demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to identify evidence that shows that a genuine dispute exists as to material facts. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87 & n.10 (1986).


         A. State-Tort Claims

         Defendants seek partial dismissal of Plaintiff's claims for negligent hiring, negligent retention, and negligent supervision to the extent that they seek damages exceeding ...

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