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Doe v. Berkeley County School District

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

May 31, 2016

Father Doe 246, on behalf of his minor child, Jane Doe 246, Plaintiff,
v.
Berkeley County School District and James Spencer, Defendants.

          ORDER

          PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant James Spencer’s Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (ECF No. 6). For the reasons set forth herein, the Court grants Spencer’s motion and dismisses Plaintiff Father Doe 246’s claim against Spencer.

         BACKGROUND/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Father’s daughter, Jane Doe 246 (“Doe 246”), attended Marrington Middle School in Goose Creek, South Carolina from 2012 to 2014. During that time, Spencer was Marrington’s principal.

         Beginning in February 2013, Spencer received complaints that WW, one of Doe 246’s male classmates, was sexually assaulting female classmates and engaging in other inappropriate sexual behavior. Doe 246, however, was not one of the students who WW had abused.

         Spencer did little, if anything, in response. He did not properly investigate the complaints, he did not remove WW from the school or separate WW from female students, and he did not impose additional supervisory controls on WW that would have prevented further abuse. Instead, Spencer allowed WW to have “continued access to [Doe 246]” and other female classmates for the remainder of the 2012-2013 school year. (Compl., ECF No. 1, at ¶ 59). Nevertheless, WW did not harm Doe 246 during the remainder of that school year.

         In the summer of 2013, Spencer created the classroom assignments for the 2013-2014 school year. Spencer assigned Doe 246 and WW to the same classroom and, like the previous spring, declined to increase WW’s supervision. That fall, WW sexually assaulted Doe 246.

         Father has sued Spencer and the Berkeley County School District, contending that Spencer’s “actions and inactions in the fall of 2013[] created for [Doe 246] the danger of being assaulted by WW.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, at ¶ 21.) Father has asserted claims against the District for violation of Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., and for gross negligence under state law. He has also asserted a claim against Spencer for violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Spencer moved to dismiss on April 11, 2016. Father filed a response in opposition on April 27. Spencer filed a reply on May 9. This matter is now ripe for consideration.

         JURISDICTION

         The Court has subject matter jurisdiction over Father’s federal-law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The Court exercises jurisdiction over Father’s related state-law claim because it is so related to the federal-law claims that they form part of the same case and controversy. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion to dismiss pursuant Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim “challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint.” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). To be legally sufficient, a pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

         Our courts use a “two-pronged approach” to assess a complaint’s legal sufficiency. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). First, the court identifies all of the complaint’s factual allegations, assumes they are true, and construes all of their reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. E.g., E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (“[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.”). Then, it determines whether those presumed-true allegations “contain sufficient factual matter . . . to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint must demonstrate that the plaintiff’s right to relief is more than a mere possibility, ...


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