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Sandra T.E. v. Grindle

March 17, 2010

SANDRA T.E., JANET ROE, MARCIELO G., SARA K., G. G., RUFUS E., DEBORAH K., LYNN A., MIKE A., ALICIAB., EMANUELEB., JUDITHB., GEORGEK., ELEVIS., RAYMONDS., C.E., T.A., R.A., JONROE, JANEROE, AND FRANCISCO G., PLAINTIFF-APPELLEES,
v.
KAREN GRINDLE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 05-cv-473-William J. Hibbler, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Flaum, Circuit Judge

ARGUED JANUARY 14, 2010

Before FLAUM, ROVNER, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

The appellant, Karen Grindle, was principal of Pershing Elementary School at a time when the school district's band teacher, Robert Sperlik, molested several young girls there. Sperlik was arrested once his abuse came to light. Plaintiffs subsequently brought suit against Sperlik and Grindle, among others, alleging violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on both equal protection and substantive due process theories. Grindle moved for summary judgment, claiming she was entitled to qualified immunity because plaintiffs had failed to establish a violation of a clearly established right. The district court denied her motion, and this appeal followed. Because the plaintiffs have put forth evidence which, if credited by the jury, is sufficient to create liability under the clearly established law of this circuit, we affirm.

I. Background

In May 2001, three classmates, referred to as C.E., Jane Doe #2, and E.S., attended a seminar at their elementary school about inappropriate touching. After the presentation, they wrote a letter to the presenter. The text of the letter raised concerns about their band teacher, Sperlik. The text of the letter reads:

Dear Mrs. Fick,

[Jane Doe #2 and C.E.] have a band teacher named Mr. Sperlik. When we are in band we feel very uncomfortable because he does the following:

Rubs our legs sometimes; Rubs our back to feel for a bra if we mess up and says it's ok; comments [to] me [C.E.] about my hair and how nice it looks when it's down; comments [to] [Jane Doe #2] about how she dresses [and] that she could be a model; there is another girl in our class and he doesn't do anything to her.

P.S. Please don't tell him we told you and if you do please don't mention any names!!! We're afraid to tell our parents!

The counselor forwarded this note to Grindle, who met with Sperlik and showed him a copy. Grindle then met with Jane Doe #2 individually. Jane Doe #2 and Grindle disagree about what took place during that meeting. Jane Doe #2 maintains that she told Grindle that Sperlik rubbed the girls' legs, touched them on their private areas through their clothes, and pulled against them, pressing his penis into their backs. Grindle claims Jane Doe #2 told her only that Sperlik would place his hand on her knee and make a tapping motion to keep the beat.

Shortly after meeting with Jane Doe #2, Grindle met with Jane Doe #2's parents. Grindle told the parents about the girls' letter, but refused to let them see it, instead telling them that their daughter had attended a "good touch, bad touch" seminar that had led her to overreact and write the letter. Grindle also told the parents that Sperlik had innocently touched their daughter on her shoulder and legs to help her keep time with the music.

Grindle spoke with C.E. the week after she met with Jane Doe #2. Grindle claims that C.E. only confirmed what was written in the letter and, like Jane Doe #2, only indicated that she had been tapped on the knee. C.E., however, maintains that she told Grindle that Sperlik would touch her private areas when he rubbed her back and would also touch her breasts when he would stand behind her. When Grindle subsequently met with C.E.'s mother, Sandra T.E., she told her that C.E. had complained about Sperlik and demonstrated the touching as a tapping on the knee in order to keep the beat.

After meeting with the girls and their parents, Grindle spoke with the school's social worker, Nancy Ohalla. Grindle told Ohalla that the girls had complained about Sperlik touching ...


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