United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Serenity Wadley, by and through her guardian, Kenyette Wadley, Plaintiff,
Hazel Park Community Schools, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT [#28]
GERSHWIN A. DRAIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
before the Court is the Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment. On October 24, 2017, Plaintiff Serenity Wadley had
a behavioral incident, walked out of her classroom, and was
brought into a separate room at Webb Elementary School by two
employees. As Plaintiff attempted to escape this room through
a nearby door, one of the employees moved to shut that door.
Plaintiff's hand was still around the door as it closed,
resulting in significant injury to one of her fingers.
August 21, 2018, Serenity Wadley, by and through her mother,
Kenyette Wadley, filed an Amended Complaint pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges violations of her
Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights as well as state law
claims of assault, battery, and gross negligence against
Defendants Lynette Daley, Corri Nastasi, and the Hazel Park
filed their Motion for Summary Judgment on July 31, 2019. In
their present motion, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's
claims are barred because she must first exhaust
administrative remedies under the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). They further assert that
there are no genuine issues of material fact as to whether
Defendants violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights or
committed assault, battery, or gross negligence.
Additionally, Defendants argue that, even if a constitutional
violation occurred, all Defendants are entitled to immunity.
filed her response to Defendants' motion on September 20,
2019, and Defendants filed their reply on September 30, 2019.
A hearing on this matter was held on December 2, 2019. For
the reasons discussed below, the Court will GRANT
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [#28].
case stems from a behavioral incident that occurred during
the school day on October 24, 2017. Plaintiff Serenity
Wadley, then a third-grade, eight-year-old student at Webb
Elementary School, returned to her classroom after lunchtime.
ECF No. 11, PageID.68. The classroom teacher asked Plaintiff
to remove an object from her mouth, but Plaintiff did not do
so and instead left the classroom by herself. Id.;
ECF No. 28, PageID.170. Unable to leave the classroom to
retrieve her, the teacher requested help from school
employees Joan Rybinski, a paraprofessional, and Defendant
Lynette Daley, a behavioral specialist. Id.
ran through the school hallways in an attempt to avoid
Rybinski and Defendant Daley. ECF No. 11, PageID.69.
Defendants state that, as Plaintiff ran around trying to
avoid contact with the paraprofessionals, other classroom
transitions were occurring in the school hallways. ECF No.
28, PageID.171. This included the movement of students in the
“SXI classroom, ” which has “students with
severe multiple impairments that [make them] medically
fragile.” Id. at PageID.172. Defendants
explained that they were fearful Plaintiff would injure
either herself or others if she continued running through the
was then brought by Rybinski and Daley into a separate room
off of the hallway. Id. This room is known as the
“wolf den” as a reference to the school's
mascot and, according to Defendants, used by school officials
as a de-escalation space when students have behavioral
problems. ECF No. 36-7, PageID.576; ECF No. 28-13,
PageID.372. In contrast, Plaintiff alleges that the wolf den
is an isolation room where behaviorally challenged students
are placed in “solitary confinement . . . for prolonged
periods of time . . . without any adult supervision.”
ECF No. 11, PageID.68. The wolf den contains various chairs
and bookshelves along with two doors that lead back to the
hallway. ECF No. 28-13, PageID.371.
was in the wolf den with Rybinski and Defendant Daley, who
each stood in front of the two doors. Id. at
PageID.374. Plaintiff states that she knocked books down from
a bookshelf, while Defendant asserts that Plaintiff attempted
to pull over the entire bookcase. ECF No. 11, PageID.68; ECF
No. 28, PageID.173. Defendant Daley moved from her position
in front of the door to either pick up the books or prevent
the bookshelf from falling over. Id. As she moved
away from her position, Plaintiff ran towards that door in an
attempt to leave the wolf den. Id. Defendant Daley
moved to close the door in response, but Plaintiff's hand
was positioned in between the doorframe. Id.
Plaintiff's finger was caught in the door as it closed,
resulting in a severe fracture and laceration of her left
index finger. ECF No. 11, PageID.69. Plaintiff was taken to
the hospital, where they set the bone and stitched the
laceration. ECF No. 36-2, PageID.530.
Nastasi, the principal of Webb Elementary School, was
informed of the incident later that day. ECF No. 28-14,
PageID.396. She stated that the actions described to her by
Rybinski and Defendant Daley appeared to be in line with all
school policies and trainings. Id. at PageID.397.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) “directs that summary
judgment shall be granted if 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.” Cehrs v. Ne. Ohio
Alzheimer's Research Ctr., 155 F.3d 775, 779 (6th
Cir. 1998) (quotations omitted). The court must view the
facts, and draw reasonable inferences from those facts, in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255
(1986). No. genuine dispute of material fact exists where the
record “taken as a whole could not lead a rational
trier of fact to find for the non-moving party.”
Matsushita Elec. Indus., Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Ultimately, the court evaluates
“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.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.