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R. P. v. Seattle School District

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

January 30, 2015

R. P., Plaintiff,
v.
SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

MARSHA J. PECHMAN, Chief District Judge.

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant Seattle School District's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Plaintiff R.P.'s Title IX claim. (Dkt. No. 16.) Having reviewed the motion and all related papers, the Court DENIES the motion.

Background

This motion is part of a suit brought by Plaintiff R.P., a former Seattle School District student, alleging violation of Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a), negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. (Dkt. No. 2-1.) The case was originally filed in King County Superior Court, and was removed to this Court on federal question grounds. (Dkt. No. 1.)

Plaintiff's suit is based on alleged sexual harassment and assault by teacher David Wysen while Plaintiff was a student in his computer class during her sixth grade year at Eckstein Middle School. (Dkt. No. 16 at 1-3.) Plaintiff alleges that Wysen made inappropriate comments, stared inappropriately at her in class, and engaged in inappropriate physical touching that made her feel both uncomfortable and threatened. (Dkt. No. 18 at 1-7.) Plaintiff reported Wysen's conduct and her discomfort to school administrators, who engaged in what Plaintiff alleges was a cursory and inadequate investigation. (Id.) Finding no evidence of misconduct, Eckstein's principal did not remove Plaintiff from the class and took no other remedial action, which Plaintiff alleges allowed the harassment and assaults to continue. (Id.)

Plaintiff alleges that the resulting hostile environment prevented her from fully participating in her educational programming, and constitutes unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex. Arguing that there is insufficient evidence to prove actual knowledge of sexual harassment or assault or to prove deliberate indifference in the face of known harassment or assault, Defendant Seattle School District now moves for summary judgment on Plaintiff's federal claim, violation of Title IX. (Dkt. No. 16.)

Discussion

I. Legal Standards

A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is proper where "the movant shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In assessing whether a party has met its burden, the underlying evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

B. Title IX

Title IX provides that "[n]o person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a).

There are four elements that must be satisfied in order to impose liability upon a school district for Title IX harassment. First, the district must be found to exercise "substantial control over both the harasser and the context in which the harassment occurs." Reese v. Jefferson Sch. Dist. No. 14J, 208 F.3d 736, 739 (9th Cir. 2000) (citing Davis v. Monroe Cnty. Bd. of Educ., 526 U.S. 629 (1999)). Second, the plaintiff must suffer "sexual harassment...that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it can be said to deprive [them] of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school." Id . Third, it must be shown that the district had "actual knowledge" of the harassment, meaning that an official who "at a minimum has authority to address the alleged discrimination and to institute ...


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