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Menefee v. Tacoma Public School District No. 10

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

March 29, 2018

BRITTNEY MENEFEE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
TACOMA PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 10, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          BENJAMIN H. SETTLE United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Steven Holmes's motion to dismiss. Dkt. 8. The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion and the remainder of the file and hereby grants the motion for the reasons stated herein.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On December 12, 2017, Plaintiffs T.D.F. and Brittney Menefee filed their complaint in this action. Dkt. 1. Plaintiffs have asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Tacoma Public School District No. 10, Sandra Holmes, and Steven Holmes arising from an alleged sexual assault on T.D.F. by one of her kindergarten classmates. Id. Plaintiffs have also asserted claims against the school district under Title IX. Id.

         On January 17, 2018, Steven Holmes moved to dismiss the complaint to the extent it asserted claims against him under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Dkt. 8. On February 5, 2018, Plaintiffs responded. Dkt. 12. On February 9, 2018, Steven Holmes replied. Dkt. 13.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In 2013, Defendant Sandra Holmes was a kindergarten teacher in Tacoma, Washington, and Steven Holmes (unrelated to Sandra Holmes) was the school's principal. Dkt. 1 at 4. From September of 2013 until December 4, 2013, Defendant Sandra Holmes took a medical leave, during which her kindergarten class was taught by a substitute teacher, Megan Clark (“Clark”). Id. On December 4, 2013, a meeting was held wherein Steven Holmes and Sandra Holmes met with T.D.F.'s parents, who expressed concern that Sandra Holmes was known as being “the worst [teacher] in the school, ” and that “a survey of other parents” proved it. Id. At the meeting, T.D.F.'s mother requested a different teacher. Id.

         During the transition from Clark to Sandra Holmes, Clark alerted Sandra Holmes to a danger posed by one of the male students in the classroom. Id. The male student had reportedly engaged in dangerous behaviors, including sexually inappropriate touching of a female student. Id. As a result, Clark had implemented procedures to prevent potentially dangerous and sexually inappropriate behaviors, such as structured bathroom rules that allowed only one student to use the restroom at a time in order. Id. After the transition, Sandra Holmes did not enforce the rules established by Megan Clark regarding bathroom use. Id. at 5.

         In December of 2013, after the transition, Sandra Holmes informed the school counselor that the aforementioned male student had “a touching problem” and that he had “been touching kids in [her] class.” Id. at 4. She stated that the counselor needed to “get him help.” Id. However, Sandra Holmes did not report the behavior of the male student to law enforcement or the Child Protective Services (“CPS”) agency within Washington's Department of Social and Health Services (“DSHS”). Id. at 5.

         Within two months of the transition back to Sandra Holmes's teaching, Steven Holmes received approximately sixty complaints regarding Sandra Holmes. Id. at 4. Despite these complaints, Steven Holmes did not reprimand Sandra Holmes, replace her, or provide additional oversight of her teaching until January 16, 2014. Id.

         On January 16, 2014, Steven Holmes issued a “letter of direction” to Sandra Holmes for unprofessional conduct, including:

1. Releasing students to other adults not on the contact list (3 instances);”
2. Having an (unknown) parent watch the class while Defendant Sandra Holmes exited her classroom to go to the staffroom;
3. Grabbing a student by the shirt and others by the arm to line up;
4. Not knowing the first and last names of her students by the sixth week;
5. Leaving a child in a timeout for 1.5 hours; and 6. Allowing kindergarten students to answer the ...

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