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Jaythan E. v. Board of Education of Sykuta Elementary School

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

November 8, 2016

JAYTHAN E., a minor; and KYNDRA BYRD, as parent and next friend of JAYTHAN E., Plaintiffs,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF SYKUTA ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, COUNTRY CLUB HILLS SCHOOL DISTRICT 160; MARTHA KAREN JONES, individually and in her official capacity as principal of Sykuta Elementary School; and MARLENE HROBOWSKI, individually and in her official capacity as librarian at Sykuta Elementary School, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          SARA L. ELLIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Having been bullied by students at school, Plaintiff Jaythan E. (“Jaythan”) objected to sitting at a table in the library with students who had previously harassed him. In response, Defendant Marlene Hrobowski, a librarian at Sykuta Elementary School (“Sykuta”), physically assaulted him in front of his classmates and injured Jaythan's wrist and arm. As a result of that incident, Jaythan and his mother, Plaintiff Kyndra Byrd, bring this civil rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Board of Education of Sykuta Elementary School, Country Club Hills School District 160 (the “District”)[1], Martha Karen Jones, the principal of Sykuta, and Hrobowski, alleging that Jones and Hrobowski violated Jaythan's right to be free from unreasonable seizures under the Fourth Amendment, and that the District perpetuated a policy of corporal punishment. Defendants move to dismiss Jaythan and Byrd's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Because determining the reasonableness of Jones and Hrobowski's actions under the Fourth Amendment requires a factual analysis not appropriate for a motion to dismiss, Jaythan and Byrd may proceed to discovery on their claim against Jones and Hrobowski in their individual capacities. But because their claim against Jones and Hrobowski in their official capacities is redundant of that against the District, the Court dismisses that claim. Jaythan and Byrd have not sufficiently alleged a claim against the District-failing to provide facts to allow the Court to infer the existence of a policy or a constitutional injury caused by an individual with final policymaking authority-and so the Court dismisses the District from the case as well.

         BACKGROUND[2]

         Jaythan, an eight-year old forty-five pound child, attended Sykuta for the 2015-2016 schoolyear. Several of Jaythan's classmates bullied and teased him, prompting Assistant Superintendent Tawanda Lawrence and Assistant Principal Stacy Oates to speak with Byrd, Jaythan's mother, in January 2016 about the bullying. Together, they decided that Jaythan should stay away from those bullying him but the District did not take any other action to stop the bullying. The bullying continued, with Jaythan reporting to a school nurse in February that someone hit him in the face.

         On April 5, 2016, Hrobowski, the school librarian, told Jaythan to sit at a table in the library with several students who had bullied him in the past. Jaythan indicated to Hrobowski he did not want to sit at that particular table based on his past experiences with these classmates. Hrobowski insisted that Jaythan sit there, however. Jaythan then told her he wanted to go to the office and call his mother, at which point Hrobowski replied, “I don't care if you want to call your mom. I'm grown.” Doc. 1 ¶ 17. Jaythan turned to leave, but Hrobowski “jumped in front of Jaythan and started to physically bump Jaythan with her stomach while saying ‘Squad up, ' in a highly threatening, intimidating and offensive manner.”[3] Id. ¶ 18. This knocked Jaythan backwards. Hrobowski then grabbed Jaythan by his left wrist, spun him around, dragged him to a table, and “slammed” him into a chair while stating “[d]on't nobody disrespect me.” Id. ¶¶ 19, 21. Finally, Hrobowski asked the students “[w]ho doesn't want to be Jaythan's friend, ” with several students raising their hands in response. Id. ¶ 22. Jaythan, crying, ran out of the library toward the principal's office. A teacher stopped him and took him to his homeroom. Jones, the principal, came to Jaythan's homeroom and took him to her office but did not let him see the nurse or call his mother. Although she initially ordered him to go back to the library, Jones eventually allowed him to return to his homeroom. There, the teacher allowed him to see the nurse, who gave him an ice pack for his bruised and swollen wrist and allowed him to call his mother. Jaythan told Byrd what happened, and Byrd indicated she was on her way to Sykuta. Byrd then asked her fiancé to call the police and have them meet her at the school.

         Before Byrd arrived at Sykuta, Jones asked Jaythan if he called his mother. Scared, Jaythan denied doing so, but Jones reprimanded him anyway. When Byrd arrived, she spoke with Jones, who admitted that Hrobowski put her hands on Jaythan but claimed doing so “wasn't illegal.” Id. ¶ 33. Byrd requested that Jones get Jaythan immediately, but Jones took offense to the way Byrd addressed her, stating “You're not going to talk to me like that. I'm going to make it so you can never come back to this school.” Id. ¶ 35. Jones then instructed a secretary to call the police. Ultimately, police questioned Hrobowski, Jones, and Byrd. An officer told Byrd that Hrobowski admitted grabbing Jaythan. No charges were brought, however.

         Byrd took Jaythan to the emergency room, where hospital staff x-rayed his arm, provided him with an ice pack for his wrist and pain medication, and fitted him with a sling. Doctors determined that Jaythan had a bruised, swollen, and sprained wrist and an acute arm strain. The next day, Byrd took Jaythan to his pediatrician, who also found internal and external bruising.

         When Jaythan returned to school, Byrd instructed Jones and the District's Director of Human Resources, Pamela Kibbons, that no school personnel should question Jaythan without Byrd or her attorney being present. Although given assurances to this effect, on April 19, 2016, Byrd received a call from Jennifer Volpe, the District's Director of Student Services, informing her that students had bullied Jaythan again and that school personnel had asked him to explain what happened. Volpe indicated that they had taken six pages of notes concerning the incident. Byrd protested the questioning occurring outside her or her attorney's presence and demanded a copy of the notes. Kibbons refused to provide a copy. Byrd then withdrew Jaythan and his twin brother from Sykuta that day, leaving them with no other public elementary school in the District to attend. Jaythan enrolled in St. Damian, a private school in Oak Forest, Illinois.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint, not its merits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts in the plaintiff's complaint and draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor. AnchorBank, FSB v. Hofer, 649 F.3d 610, 614 (7th Cir. 2011). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must not only provide the defendant with fair notice of a claim's basis but must also be facially plausible. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Claims against Jones and Hrobowski

         A. Official Capacity Claim

         Jones and Hrobowski seek dismissal of the official capacity claim brought against them, arguing that this claim is duplicative of that brought against the District. See Pourghoraishi v. Flying J, Inc., 449 F.3d 751, 765 (7th Cir. 2006) (“When a plaintiff sues an individual officer in his official capacity, the suit is treated as if the plaintiff has sued the municipality itself.”). Jaythan and Byrd do not address this argument in their opposition, effectively conceding the issue. See Bonte v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 624 F.3d 461, 466 (7th Cir. 2010) (“Failure to respond to an argument . . . results in waiver.”). Therefore, the Court dismisses the official capacity claim against Jones and Hrobowski with prejudice. See Mixon v. Manno, No. 12 CV 0562, 2013 WL 1278481, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 28, 2013) (dismissing claim against school official in his official capacity where claim was also brought against board of education); Day v. River Forest Sch. Dist., No. 10 CV 4426, ...


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