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Doe v. Grandville School District

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

July 12, 2019

JOHN DOE and JANE DOE, on behalf of JIMMY DOE, their minor child, Plaintiffs,
v.
GRANDVILLE PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          GORDON J. QUIST UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs, John and Jane Doe, filed a complaint for themselves and on behalf of Jimmy Doe, their minor child, alleging claims against the Grandville Public School District and individual Defendants Ron Caniff, Roger Bearup, Scott Merkel, Tonia Shoup, and Hillary Huberts, pursuant to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a) (Count I); 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of Jimmy's rights to personal security and bodily integrity and equal protection (Counts II and III); and for gross negligence (Count IV). All claims arose out Jimmy's kindergarten classmates' taking inappropriate photographs of Jimmy on their school-issued iPads.

         On September 9, 2018, the Court dismissed the official capacity claims under § 1983 against all individual Defendants, the gross negligence claim against the District, and the individual claims of John Doe and Jane Doe. (ECF No. 33.) The remaining claims were Jimmy's Title IX and § 1983 claims against the District and his gross negligence claims against individual Defendants Tania Shoup, the Principal, and Hillary Huberts, Jimmy's kindergarten teacher. Defendants Shoup and Huberts filed a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 78.) In response to that motion, Plaintiffs stipulated to dismiss Jimmy's claims against Shoup and Huberts. (ECF Nos. 75, 78.)

         The District moves for summary judgment on the remaining Title IX and § 1983 claims. Plaintiffs have responded to the motion, and the District has filed a reply. The Court heard oral argument on July 9, 2019.

         For the following reasons, the Court will grant the District's motion and dismiss the remaining claims with prejudice.

         I. Facts

         Jimmy was a student in Huberts's kindergarten class at Century Park Learning Center during the 2014-15 school year. Early in the school year, Jane Doe decided that, because of his young age, Jimmy would return for another year of kindergarten at Century Park for the 2015-16 school year. (ECF No. 58-10 at PageID.503-04.)

         For the first time the District provided iPads to its kindergarten students during the 2014-15 school year. (ECF No. 58-8 at PageID.434.) All student iPads were run through an internet filtering system that prevented students from accessing inappropriate internet content and websites, as well as web-based email and cloud-based storage services. (ECF No. 58-6 at pageID.418.) Student use of the iPads was subject to the District's Acceptable Use Policy of Technology Resources. (ECF No. 58-14.) Teacher training was provided pursuant to the Technology Readiness Infrastructure Grant using modules developed by the Michigan Department of Education. The District provided grade-specific technology goals that were formulated by the International Society for Technology and Education Standards, which included digital citizenship. (ECF No. 58-15 at PageID.670.)

         In December 2014, and again in December 2015, the Children's Assessment Center made a presentation to students at Century Park about inappropriate touching and reporting of such conduct. In addition to hearing the lessons, students were given worksheets to take home to review with their parents. (ECF Nos. 58-2 at PageID.318; 58-3 at PageID.371; 58-10 at PageID.510-11, 114-15.)

         On April 21, 2015, Huberts discovered that a group of boys had inappropriate pictures of students, including Jimmy, on their iPads. That day, the students were working on their iPads in various places around the kindergarten classroom. As Huberts was walking around the room, she noticed some boys who had suspicious looks on their faces. (ECF No. 58-9 at PageID.460.) Huberts took an iPad from one of the students to see what he was working on and noticed an inappropriate picture of another student on the iPad. Huberts immediately collected all her other students' iPads in a manner intended to avoid drawing the students' attention to what she had discovered. (Id.; ECF No. 58-3 at PageID.372.) She looked at each iPad to confirm that there were no other inappropriate photographs. (ECF No. 58-9 at PageID.461.) Hubert found at least two pictures, one of Jimmy, with his pants pulled down, bent over spreading his butt cheeks with his hands, with his head turned facing the camera and smiling. (ECF No. 58-3 at PageID.372.) Another picture was a close-up shot of a penis. (ECF No. 58-9 at PageID.461.) No. other picture identified a student. The pictures did not show Jimmy being touched by any classmate, nor did they indicate sexual harassment. (ECF No. 58-3 at PageID.372.)

         Huberts notified Principal Shoup of the photographs and gave Shoup the iPads. Shoup determined that four students had inappropriate pictures on their iPads and that the photographs were dated March 31, 2015. (ECF No. 58-2 at PageID.319.) On April 22, 2015, Shoup investigated the picture-taking activity by speaking with the students involved. (ECF No. 58-2 at PageID.319.) Huberts facilitated Shoup's interviews to avoid drawing attention to the students being interviewed. 9ECF No. 58-3 at PageID.372.) Jimmy told Shoup that it was his idea to pull his pants down. (ECF No. 58-2 at PageId.319.) Jimmy said that he had pulled his pants down twice and then stopped after he talked with his mom about “the privates.” (ECF No. 58-8 at PageID.433.) Jimmy said that the hands on his bottom in the picture were his own, and he did not indicate that he had been coerced, threatened, or touched by a classmate. (ECF No. 58-2 at PageID.319.) Jimmy confirmed to both Jane Doe and John Doe that he had told Shoup that it was his idea to pull his pants down. (ECF No. 58-10 at PageID.538; ECF No. 58-13 at PageID.651.) Each of the other students whom Shoup interviewed confirmed that it was Jimmy's idea to pull his pants down. (ECF No. 58-2 at PageID.319.)

         In addition to interviewing the students, Shoup contacted the parents of each student involved, filed a report with the Michigan Department of Human Services, and contacted the Wyoming Police Department, which instructed Shoup to ensure that the pictures were deleted from the iPads. (Id. at PageID.320.) Shoup complied by having the District's Information Systems Coordinator/Network Administrator delete the pictures. (Id.; ECF No. 58-6 at PageID.418.) In addition, Shoup and Huberts met with Jane Doe, who expressed concern that students may be talking about the photographs. (ECF No. 58-2 at PageID.320.) During the meeting Jane Doe did not indicate that Jimmy had been inappropriately touched or sexually harassed. (Id.)

         Jane and John Doe chose to keep Jimmy home for the remainder of the 2014-15 school year. Jimmy returned for the 2015-16 school year as a student in Huberts's kindergarten class, as Jane and John Doe had originally planned. During this school year, there was no incident or report of harassment or bullying.[1]

         On or about August 26, 2016-shortly before Jimmy was to begin the first grade at Century Park-Jimmy told his mother that he had been touched in 2015, and she was “[s]urprised.” (ECF No. 58-11 at PageID.596.) Jane Doe had not asked Jimmy about what had happened in April 2015 until that time. (ECF No. 58-10 at PageID.538.) Jimmy testified that around spring break in 2015, several of his classmates took photographs and inappropriately touched each other. (ECF No. 58-11 at PageID.608-09.) Jimmy said that ...


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