United States District Court, E.D. Washington
BARBARA DAVIS, as Personal Representative of the Estate of G.B., deceased, Plaintiff,
WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL AND HEALTH SERVICES; JENNIFER STRUS, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; HEIDI KAAS, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; MELISSA KEHMEIER, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; JAMES DESMOND, individually and in his official capacity acting under the color of state law; CASSIE ANDERSON, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; BRINA CARRIGAN, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; MAGGIE STEWART, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; LORI BLAKE, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; SHANNON SULLIVAN, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; SUSAN STEINER, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; CAMERON NORTON, individually and in his official capacity acting under the color of state law; SARAH OASE, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; RANA PULLOM, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; DONALD WILLIAMS, individually and in his official capacity under the color of state law; CHRIS MEJIA, individually and in his official capacity acting under the color of state law; RIVERSIDE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 416, a Municipal corporation duly organized and existing under the laws of Washington State; JUANITA MURRAY, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; ROBERTA KRAMER, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; SARAH RAMSDEN, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; CAROLINE RAYMOND, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; CHERI MCQUESTEN, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; SARAH RAMSEY, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; TAMI BOONE, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; MELISSA REED, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; ANN STOPAR, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; KRISTINA GRIFFITH, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; WENDY SUPANCHICK, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; SHERRY DORNQUAST, individually and in her official capacity acting under the color of state law; GARY VANDERHOLM, individually and in his official capacity acting under the color of state law; ROGER PRATT, individually and in his official capacity acting under the color of state law; CHRIS NIEUWENHUIS, individually and in his official capacity acting under the color of state law and JOHN DOES 1-50, individually and in their official capacities acting under the color of state law, Defendants.
ORDER RE RIVERSIDE DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR
SALVADOR MENDOZA, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
August 2014, after five-year-old G.B.'s father was
murdered and his mother died of an apparent drug overdose,
the Washington Department of Social and Health Services
(DSHS) placed G.B. in the care of his aunt, Cynthia Khaleel.
G.B. attended Chatteroy Elementary School for the 2014-15
school year. Over the course of that year, G.B exhibited
numerous signs of abuse and neglect, including bruising and
scratches on his face and head, burns, aggressive and
aberrant behavior, and excessive absence. On April 16, 2015,
G.B. told two teachers “my mom punched me in the
head.” School staff did not immediately report this
incident to DSHS or law enforcement. That night, G.B. was
beaten to death.
Barbara Davis (Plaintiff), G.B.'s grandmother and
representative of his estate, filed this action against DSHS
and the Riverside School District, as well as numerous
employees of those organizations, alleging a number of state
and federal claims. This order addresses the Riverside
Defendants' motions for summary judgment on
Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against (1)
Riverside School District Directors Chris Nieuwenhuis, Roger
Pratt, and Gary Vanderholm (the Directors),  ECF No. 105; (2)
Superintendent Roberta Kramer and Chatteroy Elementary School
Principal Juanita Murray, ECF No. 151; and (3) the Riverside
School District (the District), ECF No. 157.
U.S.C. § 1983 creates a cause of action against those
who, acting pursuant to state government authority, violate
federal law. To establish § 1983 liability, a plaintiff
must show (1) deprivation of a right secured by the
Constitution and laws of the United States and (2) that the
deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of
state law. Chudacoff v. Univ. Med. Cntr. of S. Nev.,
649 F.3d 1143, 1149 (9th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff's
underlying theory of § 1983 liability against each of
the defendants at issue in these motions relies on
application of the state-created-danger exception to the
general rule that government actors have no duty to protect
individuals from harm caused by a third party. See
DeShaney v. Winnebago Cty. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 489
U.S. 189, 196-97 (1989). The state-created-danger exception
applies only where there is (1) “‘affirmative
conduct on the part of the state in placing the plaintiff in
danger, '” and (2) “the state acts with
‘deliberate indifference' to a ‘known or
obvious danger.'” Patel v. Kent Sch.
Dist., 648 F.3d 965, 974 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting
Munger v. City of Glasgow Police Dep't, 227 F.3d
1082, 1086 (9th Cir. 2000); L.W. v. Grubbs, 92 F.3d
894, 900 (9th Cir. 1996)).
Court previously concluded Plaintiff's allegations that
child-abuse and neglect policies and practices in place at
Chatteroy Elementary School permitted and encouraged staff to
report suspected abuse only to specified school officials and
to delay reporting to DSHS or law enforcement, accepted as
true, demonstrate affirmative conduct placing G.B. in danger
and deliberate indifference to a known or obvious danger. ECF
No. 99 at 10-13. Accordingly, the principal question
underlying each of the motions now before the Court is
whether, viewing the facts in the record in the light most
favorable to Plaintiff, a reasonable trier of fact could
conclude that child-abuse reporting policy or practice in
place at Chatteroy Elementary School affirmatively placed
G.B. in danger and constituted deliberate indifference to a
known or obvious danger. The answer to that question is yes.
On the record before the Court, material factual questions
remain concerning (1) the nature of the child-abuse reporting
practices employed at Chatteroy Elementary School, including
whether staff were required to report suspected abuse only to
designated staff or administrators and whether staff were
encouraged to delay or avoid reporting suspected abuse; (2)
whether such practices affirmatively placed G.B. in danger;
and (3) whether adopting and implementing such practices
amounted to deliberate indifference.
the Directors' only role was adopting the district-wide
child abuse, neglect, and exploitation policies and
practices, which required immediate reporting of suspected
abuse, and they had no direct supervisory obligations
relating to the implementation of those policies and
practices by district staff at individual schools,
Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against the Directors must
be dismissed. Murray and Kramer, by contrast were directly
involved with implementing the abuse-reporting practices at
Chatteroy Elementary School and they are not immune from
of fact therefore preclude summary judgment on the §
1983 claims against Murray and Kramer. Additionally, because
the alleged harm here was caused by District policy,
practice, or custom, or by final policy makers, the District
is a proper § 1983 defendant.
G.B.'s family history and time at Chattaroy Elementary
was born in Port Angeles, Washington in October 2009. ECF No.
1 at 12. G.B.'s father was murdered in his home in June
2012, and his mother died of an apparently drug-related heart
attack two years later, in July 2014. Id. at 12-13.
Following the death of his mother, G.B. and his siblings
became dependents of the State of Washington. Id. at
13. In August, 2014, G.B. and his younger brother were placed
in the care of their paternal aunt, Cynthia Khaleel near
Spokane, Washington. Id. at 13.
2014 G.B. began attending Chatteroy Elementary School in the
Riverside School District, where he was enrolled in the Early
Childhood and Education Assistance (ECEAP) pre-school
program. Id. at 13; ECF No. 171-3 at 3- 4. Because
of developmental disabilities, G.B. also participated in an
Individualized Educational Program (IEP). ECF No. 1 at 13;
ECF No. 171-3 at 7. G.B. had serious difficulties with
aggression, self-control, and communication, ECF No. 171-3 at
14- 15; ECF No. 171-12, although staff at Chatteroy
Elementary indicated that he made progress on these issues
during his time there. ECF No. 171-3 at 14-15, ECF No. 171-4
at 6-7; ECF No. 171-12. He also made continual academic
progress. ECF No. 171-12 at 5-6, 15-16. G.B. reportedly
enjoyed coming to school. ECF No. 171-4 at 16.
school staff had contact with G.B. through ECEAP, IEP, and
other school services. Sheri Dornquast was the lead teacher
in the G.B's ECEAP classroom during that school year, and
Chatteroy Principal Juanita Murray was the ECEAP director.
ECF No. 171-3 at 3-4. Ann Stopar and Carolyn Raymond were
assistant lead teachers in G.B.'s ECEAP classroom. ECF
No. 171-3 at 7; ECF No. 171-6. Christina Griffith was an IEP
teacher and Melissa Reed was an IEP aid at Chatteroy who
worked with G.B. ECF No. 171-3 at 7. Sara Ramsden was a
speech pathologist who worked with children in ECEAP,
including G.B. ECF No. 171-4 at 4. Carolyn Raymond was a
psychologist who worked with ECEAP students, including G.B.
ECF No. 171-3 at 8. Wendy Supanchick was the school nurse,
and examined G.B. on at least one occasion. Id. at
8. Tami Boon and Cheri McQuesten were family service
coordinators. ECF No. 171-5 at 5; 171-7 at 5. A number of
other specialists also worked G.B. during the course of the
school year. ECF No. 171-3 at 8.
the 2014-15 school year, staff and teachers at Chatteroy
Elementary School observed numerous signs that G.B. may have
been suffering abuse and neglect:
. In early October 2014, Sheri Dornquast
noticed bruising on G.B.'s forehead. ECF No. 171-3 at
20-21, 27. She took a photograph and called Murray into the
ECEAP classroom to look at the bruising. ECF No. 171-1 at
18-20; ECF No. 171-3 at 20. Dornquast discussed G.B.'s
injuries with several other staff members, some of whom also
saw G.B. and observed the bruises. ECF No. 171-3 at 27.
Murray decided not to contact DSHS and denies suspecting that
the bruises were signs of abuse. ECF No. 171-1 at 19.
. Later in October, at a pumpkin-patch field
trip, Dornquast noticed G.B. had a bandage covering his
entire forehead. ECF No. 171-3 at 20, 27. She asked Khaleel
about the bandage, and Khaleel stated that G.B. had gotten a
very bad sunburn. Id. at 20. Later, when Dornquast
saw G.B. without the bandage, she observed a pink mark and
peeling skin consistent with a burn. Id. at 28.
Ramsden, Boon, Stopar, and McQuesten also remembered seeing a
burn or red inflamed area on G.B.'s forehead around that
time. ECF No. 171-4 at 13; ECF No. 171-5 at 12; ECF No. 171-6
at 6; ECF No. 171-7 at 12, 18. Dornquast told them that
Khaleel had told her it was a sunburn. ECF No. 171-4 at 13;
ECF No. 171-6 at 6. A photograph taken shortly after that
incident showed G.B. with scabs on his forehead. ECF No.
171-3 at 29; ECF No. 171-13.
. On November 20, 2014, Dornquast noticed
bruising on G.B.'s ears and arm. ECF No. 171-3 at 21, 32.
Dornquast again contacted Murray about G.B.'s injuries.
ECF No. 171-1 at 21; ECF No. 171-3 at 22. Dornquast asked
Murray if she should report the incident, and Murray told her
she would take care of it. ECF No. 171-3 at 22, 32. Murray
asked the school nurse, Wendy Supanchick, examine G.B. ECF
No. 171-1 at 21. No. report was made to DSHS concerning this
incident. Id. at 22.
. Dornquast indicated that she had observed
G.B. hitting his head against things on several occassions.
ECF No. 171-3 at 27.
. At a Christmas concert on December 10,
2014, several staff observed bruising and scratches on
G.B.'s face. ECF No. 171-4 at 12, 17. Ramsend stated that
she believed these injuries were signs of abuse. G.B.
attended school for only four days in December 2014. ECF No.
171-3 at 17-18. at 12. At this same concert, Ramsend observed
that G.B. and a sibling were left alone in a stroller outside
the school gymnasium. ECF No. 171-4 at 25. This concerned her
because both children were “high-needs.”
Id. at 25.
. G.B. had significant absences in December
2014 and January 2015, ECF No. 171-4 at 20, and was absent
for all but three school days in March 2015. ECF No. 171-1 at
one of these incidents was reported to DSHS. After Ramsend
shared her concerns about the injuries G.B. had at the
Christmas concert with Caroline Raymond and then Tiffany
Zuck, on December 12, 2014, Zuck submitted a report to DSHS
indicating that she believed G.B. and his siblings were being
abused at home. ECF No. 135-9 at 4. She reported that G.B.
had multiple injuries consistent with abuse and that Khaleel
did not adequately supervise him. Id. at 4.
Following this incident, Khaleel came into the school and
confronted Zuck, verbally attacking her, yelling profanities,
and threatening her. ECF No. 135-15 at 5; ECF No. 171-4 at
Superintendent Kramer had a conversation with Khaleel in
which she told Khaleel that she could not discuss CPS reports
and asked Khaleel to leave. ECF No. 171-2 at 9. Kramer
subsequently instructed Murray to tell Zuck that her
interactions were upsetting and disruptive to the family.
Id. at 10. Consistent with Khaleel's request not
to have further involvement with Zuck, Zuck was instructed
not to deal with Khaleel in the future, although Kramer does
not recall specifically telling Zuck that she was prohibited
from having any contact with the Khaleel family. Id.
at 10. Zuck asserts that the District and administration told
her not to have contact with G.B. or his siblings. ECF No.
135-15 at 5. Zuck also asserts that Murray declined to report
complaints about abuse and neglect in the Khaleel home from
G.B.'s grandmother, Barbara Davis, because Murray
suspected Davis was lying. Id. at 5. Murray denies
these assertions. ECF No. 171-1 at 28-29.
morning of April 16, 2015, G.B. told Melissa Reed that
“Mom punched me in the head, ” and he
gesticulated to indicate a punch to the head. ECF No. 171-3
at 23. Dornquast overheard this statement and asked Reed to
confirm what he said, which she did. Id. Dornquast
asked G.B. what he had said, and he repeated “punched
me in the head.” Id. Dornquast denies seeing
any evidence of injury or that G.B. reported he was in any
pain. Id. Dornquast did not believe G.B. that
Khaleel “punched” him, but thought she might have
“popped, you know, flicked him [or] something.”
Id. This incident was not immediately reported to
DSHS or law enforcement. Id. Murray was not working
on that day. ECF No. 171-1 at 24.
states that she would have reported the incident to Murray if
she had not been out of town. ECF No. 171-3 at 23.
morning of April 17, 2015, emergency medical providers
arrived at the Khaleel residence and discovered G.B. in an
unresponsive state. ECF No. 1 at 13. He was taken to Sacred
Heart Medical Center, where medical staff discovered multiple
skull fractures and traumatic injuries to his brain.
Id. He died from these injuries the following day.
Id. at 14. The Spokane County Medical examiner
determined that G.B.'s cause of death was blunt force
head injury, and ruled the death a homicide. Id.
G.B. also sustained multiple other traumas, including an
abdominal injury that was the result of a forceful blow.
Id. Khaleel was arrested in July 2015, and charged
with second-degree murder. Id.
The Riverside School District's Board of Directors'
policymaking authority and process
School Board of Directors is the final policymaking authority
for the District. ECF No. 149 at 6-7. Adopted policies are
“directive[s] to the superintendent to work with her
administrators to come up with the procedure.”
Id. The Directors have authority to hire and
terminate the superintendent and have sole oversight
authority over the superintendent. Id. at 7. But the
Directors do not engage in administrative supervision of
district operations or policy implementation. ECF No. 143 at
Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA)
provides policy services to member districts. ECF No. 149 at
4-5. These services include reviewing legislative enactments
and Washington Administrative Code (WAC) updates and
providing notifications and guidance to school districts on
policy and procedure implications of changes in the law.
Id. The WSSDA also provides model policies and
procedures to all member districts. Id. at 4. Nearly
all Washington School Districts subscribe to WSSDA's
services, including the Riverside School District.
Id. at 5-6. The Riverside School District's
practice is to promptly adopt WSSDA model policies without
change. Id. at 6.
District-wide child abuse, neglect, and exploitation
District adopted the WSSDA's model child abuse, neglect
and exploitation policy and procedures without change as
Policy No. 3421 and Procedure No. 3421P in December 2013. ECF
No. 109 at 2; ECF No. 149 at 6. These policies were in effect
during the 2014-15 school year. ECF No. 149 at 6.
No. 3421 provides:
Child abuse, neglect and exploitation are violations of
children's human rights and an obstacle to their
educational development. The board directs that staff will be
alert for any evidence of such abuse, neglect or
exploitation. For purposes of this policy, “child
abuse, neglect or exploitation” will mean:
A. Inflicting physical injury on a child by other than
accidental means, causing death, disfigurement, skin
bruising, impairment of physical or emotional health, or loss
or impairment of any bodily function;
B. Creating a substantial risk of physical harm to a
child's bodily functioning;
C. Committing or allowing to be committed any sexual offense
against a child as defined in the criminal code, or
intentionally touching, either directly or through the
clothing, the genitals, anus or breasts of a child for other
than hygiene, child care or health care purposes;
D. Committing acts which are cruel or inhumane regardless of
observable injury. Such acts may include, but are not limited
to, instances of extreme discipline demonstrating a disregard
of a child's pain or mental suffering;
E. Assaulting or criminally mistreating a child as defined by
the criminal code:
F. Failing to provide food, shelter, clothing, supervision or
health care necessary to a child's health or safety;
G. Engaging in actions or omissions resulting in injury to,
or creating a substantial risk to the physical or mental
health or development of a child; or
H. Failing to take reasonable steps to prevent the occurrence
of the preceding actions.
Child abuse can include abuse by another minor and so may be
included in incidents of student misconduct.
When feasible, the district will provide community education
programs for prospective parents, foster parents and adoptive
parents on parenting skills and on the problems of child
abuse and methods to avoid child abuse situations. The
district will also encourage staff to participate in
in-service programs that deal with the issues surrounding
The superintendent will develop reporting procedures,
including sample indicators of abuse and neglect, and will
disseminate the procedures to all staff. The purpose is to
identify and report as soon as possible to the proper
authorities all evidence of child abuse or neglect. Staff
will receive training regarding reporting obligations during
their initial orientation and every three years after initial
Classified and certified staff are legally responsible for
reporting all suspected cases of child abuse and neglect. A
certified or classified school employee who has knowledge or
reasonable cause to believe that a student has been a victim
of physical abuse or sexual misconduct by another school
employee will report such abuse or misconduct to the
appropriate school administrator. The administrator will
report to the proper law enforcement agency if he or she has
reasonable cause to believe that the misconduct or abuse has
occurred as required under RCW 26.44.030. Under state law
staff are free from liability for reporting instances of
abuse or neglect and professional staff are criminally liable
for failure to do so.
Staff need not verify that a child has in fact been abused or
neglected. Any conditions or information that may reasonably
be related to abuse or neglect should be reported. Legal
authorities have the responsibility for investigating each
chase and taking such action as is appropriate under the
ECF No. 109-1.
Each school principal will develop and implement an
instructional program that will teach students:
A. How to recognize the factors that may cause people to
B. How one may protect oneself from incurring abuse; and
C. What resources are available to assist an individual who
does or may encounter ...