United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
JESSICA and GUY MOONE, on behalf of their minor daughter, S.M. Plaintiffs,
CITY OF WARWICK; WARWICK PUBLIC SCHOOLS; DAVID TESTA, EUGENE A. NADEAU, M. TERRI MEDEIROS, KAREN BACHUS, and BETHANY A. FURTADO, in their official capacities as members of the Warwick School Committee; PHILIP THORNTON, Superintendent, in his official and individual capacities; LYNN DAMBRUCH, Director of Elementary Education, in her official and individual capacities; JOHN GANNNON, Principal, in his official and individual capacities; and BRIAN SILVA, in his official capacity as Treasurer of the City of Warwick, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. MCCONNELL, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Jessica and Guy Moone, filed this suit on behalf of their
minor daughter, S.M. ECF No. 1-1 at 2. S.M. formerly resided
in Warwick, Rhode Island and attended Warwick Public Schools
from the 2013-14 school year until late in the 2015-16 school
year. ECF No. 14 at 1-2.
second grader during the 2013-2014 school year, a classmate
subjected S.M. to inappropriate sexual language by a
classmate. ECF No. 1-1 at 5. Specifically, A.R., a second
grader with developmental disabilities, sang a song about his
penis to S.M. in the school lunch line. ECF No. 14 at 2. The
principal called S.M.'s parents to inform them of the
incident and resolved the matter to their satisfaction.
Id. There were no further incidents between S.M. and
A.R. through the rest of the 2013-14 school year and the
entirety of the 2014-2015 school year. Id.
March 2016, when S.M. and A.R. were both fourth graders, A.R.
touched S.M. inappropriately during recess by grabbing her
between the legs and on the buttocks. ECF No. 14 at 3. S.M.
reported the incident to her teacher, who then reported it to
the principal. Id. The next day, the principal held
a meeting to discuss the incident with the Moones, the
Director of Elementary Education, and an officer with the
Warwick Police Department. Id. During the meeting,
the school presented a safety plan to the Moones designed to
keep S.M. and A.R. separated while at school. Id.
Additionally, the school investigated the incident.
Id. Even so, the Moones were unsatisfied by the
scope of the investigation, specifically with the fact that
the school did not interview A.R. ECF No. 18-1 at 4.
missed several days of school following the incident, but
returned with the safety plan implemented to prevent any more
interaction with A.R. ECF No.1-1 at 5. However, less than a
week after S.M. returned to school, S.M. and A.R. were seated
near each other at a school assembly. ECF No. 14 at 3. This
event was upsetting to the point that S.M. no longer felt
comfortable attending the school. ECF No. 1-1 at 5. She
transferred to another Warwick public school a few weeks
later. Id. The Moones eventually moved to another
town, where S.M. now attends school. Id. at 6.
Moones sued the City of Warwick, Warwick Public Schools, and
various city officials. Id. at 2. The suit alleges
that Warwick Public Schools knowingly allowed a sexually
hostile school environment to exist for S.M. that constituted
sex discrimination in violation of Title IX of the Education
Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., as well as
R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-38-1.1, which prohibits sex
discrimination in the state's public schools.
Id. at 6-8. The Moones also bring claims against
Warwick Public Schools, the Warwick School Committee, and its
employees under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging a deprivation
of S.M.'s right to personal security and bodily integrity
as well as a violation of her Fourteenth Amendment right to
equal protection under the law. Id. at 8-9. The
Moones also bring claims against Warwick Public Schools and
the Warwick School Committee for negligent hiring and
supervision of employees. Id. at 11.
Defendants (collectively "Warwick") move for
summary judgment on all counts. The Moones do not object to
the Motion for Summary Judgment for the claims under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 as well as the claims for negligent hiring
and supervision of employees. ECF No. 18-1 at 14. Thus, the
only claims for the Court to analyze are for sex
discrimination under Title IX and R.I. Gen. Laws §
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is granted if the moving party shows that there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
"A dispute is 'genuine' if 'the evidence
about the fact is such that a reasonable jury could resolve
the point in the favor of the non-moving party.'"
Sanchez v. Alvarado, 101 F.3d 223, 227 (1st Cir.
1996) (quoting Rivera-Muriente v. Agosto-Alicea, 959
F.2d 349, 352 (1st Cir. 1992)). A fact is considered material
if it "carries with it the potential to affect the
outcome of the suit under the applicable law."
Nereida-Gonzalez v. Tirado-Delgado, 990 F.2d 701,
703 (1st Cir. 1993). The Court reads the record "in the
light most favorable to the nonmovant, drawing reasonable
inferences in his favor." Noonan v. Staples,
Inc., 556 F.3d 20, 25 (1st Cir. 2009).
IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 ("Title IX")
states 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).
Title IX, an educational institution receiving federal
funding may be liable for damages because of
student-on-student sexual harassment when the
institution's "deliberate indifference
'subjects' its students to harassment,"
Davis v. Monroe Cty. Bd. of Educ., 526 U.S. 629, 644
(1999). See also Porto v. Town of Tewksbury, 488
F.3d 67, 72-73 (1st Cir. 2007). To establish that an
institution was deliberately indifferent to
student-on-student sexual harassment in a Title IX case, a
plaintiff must show that
(1) he or she was subject to "severe, pervasive, and
objectively offensive" sexual harassment by a ...