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Wallace v. Batavia School District 101

October 19, 1995

HEATHER WALLACE, A MINOR, BY HER MOTHER AND NEXT FRIEND, PHYLLIS WALLACE,

PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

THE BATAVIA SCHOOL DISTRICT 101, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, AND JAMES CLIFFE,

DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 93 C 4329 -- William T. Hart, Judge.

Before KANNE and ROVNER, Circuit Judges, and SHABAZ, District Judge. *fn*

KANNE, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED APRIL 20, 1995

DECIDED OCTOBER 19, 1995

This case affords a view of an unfortunately common situation faced by teachers in many public schools today. The incident occurred in a suburban community west of Chicago in Kane County, Illinois. The undisputed facts are as follows.

When business teacher James Cliffe returned to his Batavia High School classroom after a few minutes' absence, two sixteen-year-old female students, Heather Wallace and Kim Fairbanks, were facing each other screaming and calling each other "fucking bitches." Cliffe ordered both girls to take their seats and be quiet. That tactic didn't work. Wallace sat down but stood up again when Fairbanks approached her yelling, "I'm going to kick your ass right here and now." Cliffe again told both students to sit down. Wallace did so, but Fairbanks attempted to take a swing at Wallace. Cliffe stepped between the two girls. While facing Fairbanks, Cliffe told Wallace to get her books and leave the classroom.

Wallace gathered up her books and began to walk out of the classroom -- slowly. Cliffe reached over another student's desk and took Wallace by her left wrist to speed her exit. As Cliffe pulled Wallace, she bent over the desk. Cliffe told Wallace to hurry up and grasped her right elbow to move her out of the classroom. Wallace stopped her movement toward the door and told Cliffe to let go. When Cliffe released his hold on Wallace, she walked out of the classroom and slammed the door. A fight indeed did occur later in the day. Both girls were suspended from the school for three days.

PROCEEDINGS BELOW

Wallace claims the contact with Cliffe caused injury to her elbow. Through her mother, she sued Cliffe and the Batavia School Corporation under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983, alleging violations of her Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizures and her Fourteenth Amendment right to substantive due process. The district court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment, and Wallace appeals that ruling.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

We review grants of summary judgment de novo. Cornfield by Lewis v. School Dist. No. 230, 991 F.2d 1316, 1320 (7th Cir. 1993). "The non-moving party cannot rest on the pleadings alone, but must identify specific facts to establish that there is a genuine triable issue." Id. Wallace must make a showing sufficient to establish any essential element of her cause of action for which she will bear the burden of persuasion at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2552-53 (1986). She must show that there is more than merely metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 1356 (1986). If we do not find evidence sufficient to sustain a jury verdict in favor of Wallace, we will affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment. Cornfield, 991 F.2d at 1320; see Edwards ex rel. Edwards v. Rees, 883 F.2d 882, 884 (10th Cir. 1989) (finding summary judgment appropriate where court concluded that facts taken in light most favorable to non-movant did not amount to unreasonable seizure in school).

ANALYSIS

Fourth Amendment in the School Context

Wallace theorizes that Cliffe violated her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures when he grabbed her elbow and wrist. The Fourth Amendment, which protects individuals' liberty and privacy interests, principally applies in the context of law enforcement, preventing police from searching private areas without a warrant absent exigent circumstances and from seizing suspected criminals unreasonably. See Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 673 n.42, 97 S. Ct. 1401, 1414 n.42 (1977) (noting "[t]he principal concern of the Fourth ...


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