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R.D. v. Lake Washington School District

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

June 13, 2019

R.D., a minor, by and through her personal representatives, CATHERINE DAVIS and SEAN DAVIS; and CATHERINE DAVIS, individually; and SEAN DAVIS, individually, Plaintiffs,
v.
LAKE WASHINGTON SCHOOL DISTRICT, a municipal corporation, Defendant.

          ORDER

          The Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. # 18. For the reasons below, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendant's motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff R.D. suffers from a genetic mutation that causes Chilblains-a condition that causes her skin to crack, ulcerate, and become necrotic when she is overly exposed to cold or damp conditions. Dkt. # 39, ¶ 71. When R.D. started kindergarten at the Carl Sandberg Elementary School (CSES) in 2012, her mother, Plaintiff Catherine Davis, requested a § 504 Plan to accommodate R.D.'s Chilblains. Id., ¶ 72. Specifically, Davis requested that CSES provide R.D. with indoor recess when weather conditions were wet or under 55 degrees. Id.

         Instead of providing R.D. with a § 504 Plan, CSES provided R.D. with an “Individualized Health Plan, ” (IHP) that would nonetheless have the requested accommodations. Id.; Dkt. # 39-1. However, R.D. does not recall having indoor recess during kindergarten despite many days under 55 degrees. Dkt. # 43, ¶ 2. In April 2013, R.D.'s fingers were riddled with open sores and her toes became swollen and too painful to walk. Dkt. # 39, ¶ 72. Davis states that the kindergarten teacher did not seem aware that R.D.'s IHP called for her to be insider for recess when there was inclement weather. Id.

         In September 2013, before R.D. started first grade, Davis attended a meeting at CSES about R.D's § 504 Plan. Id., ¶ 73. This time, CSES provided Davis with a one-page document, entitled “§ 504 Plan, ” that permitted R.D. to receive indoor recess in keeping with the previous year's IHP and doctor's notes concerning her Chilblains. Id. R.D. states that she started having indoor recess during the first grade. Dkt. # 43, ¶ 2.

         When she was in third grade, R.D. claims that she was harassed and bullied by another student, D.H. Id., ¶ 6. In December 2015, R.D. came home from school with bruises on her face and thigh. Dkt. # 39, ¶ 78. R.D. claims that she suffered the bruises when she was carried down the hallway by D.H., who later hit her in the face with a book. Dkt. # 43, ¶ 6. When school resumed after the holidays, around January 5, 2016, Davis emailed R.D.'s third grade teacher about the incident and asked her to separate the students. Dkt. # 39-9.

         However, R.D. continued to have issues with D.H. after the new year. Dkt. # 43, ¶3. She claims that D.H. yanked her out of class numerous times to work out their issues. Id., ¶ 6. R.D. says that she became scared to go to school because of negative interactions with D.H. and told this to one of the CSES teachers. Dkt. # 43, ¶ 4. After hearing about R.D.'s comments, CSES's school counselor met with R.D. and D.H. about their ongoing issues. Id.

         Plaintiffs claim that the harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) continued into June 2016, when Catherine Davis witnessed D.H shove R.D. Dkt. # 39, ¶78.1; Dkt. # 39-13. Davis again emailed R.D.'s third grade teacher, noting there were “repeated offenses” of D.H. being forceful with R.D. Id. The teacher responded that R.D. stayed inside at recess for most of the winter and spring months so there were no interactions between D.H. and R.D. during that time. Dkt. # 39-14.

         During the summer, in July 2016, Davis contacted CSES's principal, Heather Frazier, to set up a meeting regarding the alleged HIB and R.D.'s § 504 accommodations for the upcoming fourth grade school year. Dkt. # 39, ¶ 88. Two meetings eventually took place, one on August 5, 2016 and one on September 1, 2016. Dkt. # 21, ¶ 5; Dkt. # 39, ¶¶ 91, 94. R.D. attended the August 5th meeting and detailed alleged instances of physical bullying by D.H. Dkt. # 43, ¶ 8. Following the meeting, Frazier initiated an investigation into R.D.'s HIB claims against D.H. Dkt. # 21, ¶ 5. During the September meeting, the parties discussed a “Support Plan, ” under which R.D. and D.H. would no longer be in the same class and would not be allowed to interact at school together. Dkt. # 39, ¶ 94, 95. CSES also assigned R.D. a paraeducator to assure that R.D. and D.H. were kept separate during recess and lunch. Dkt. # 21-1; Dkt. # 39, ¶ 94, 95. As for the § 504 accommodations, R.D.'s plan was revised to include supervised inside recess with a variety of activities, including “gross motor” activities. Dkt. # 39-5.

         Plaintiffs claim that the “Support Plan” to address separating D.H. and R.D. was never finalized and, in October 2016, they subsequently removed R.D. from CSES pending the outcome of the HIB investigation. Dkt. # 39, ¶¶ 101, 102. The investigation was completed around January 2017 and found that there was insufficient evidence of HIB. Dkt. # 40-14. Davis states that CSES failed to explain whether the allegations made by R.D. were found to be factual or what the processes were for appeal. Dkt. # 39, ¶ 103. After R.D. returned to school in January 2017, she states that she stayed inside a lot for recess because of the weather. Dkt. # 43, ¶ 10. She claims that during recess she sat under a flight of stairs every day. Dkt. # 19-1 at 10. After R.D. told her parents about where she was spending recess, they removed her from CSES on March 29, 2017. Dkt. # 39, ¶ 108.

         On June 25, 2018, R.D. and her parents Catherine Davis and Sean Davis (the Davis's) filed suit against Defendant Lake Washington School District (the District) alleging, among other claims, [1] discrimination against R.D. on the basis for her Chilblains disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act of 1974 (section 504). Dkt. # 1-1. Plaintiffs also allege negligence and loss of consortium claims based on harassment, intimidation, and bullying experienced by R.D. at CSES. Id. On July 10, 2018, the action was removed to federal court. Dkt. # 1. On April 8, 2019, LWSD moved for summary judgment and Plaintiffs opposed. Dkt. ## 18, 37. The motion is now before the Court.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party 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 material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the moving party will have the burden of proof at trial, it must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party. Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007). On an issue where the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party can prevail merely by pointing out to the district court that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325. If the moving party meets the initial burden, the opposing party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of fact for trial in order to defeat the motion. Anders ...


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