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Doe 4 v. Freeburg Community Consolidated School District No. 70

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 1, 2017

JOHN DOE 4, Plaintiff,
v.
FREEBURG COMMUNITY CONSOLIDATED SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 70, HERSCHEL PARRISH, CLARENCE HAEGE, LAWRENCE MEGGS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff John Doe 4 attended school in the Freeburg Community Consolidated School District No. 70 (“the School District”) for sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. Plaintiff alleges that during that time a long-time employee of the School District, Robin Hawkins, sexually groomed, harassed, and abused him at school on a number of occasions. Plaintiff further alleges that Hawkins previously abused other boys, and a number of reports regarding the abuse were made to the School District, but the School District failed to take appropriate corrective action. In other words, according to Plaintiff, the School District knew that Hawkins was a sexual predator but chose not to stop him, and as a result, Plaintiff became yet another one of his victims. Plaintiff filed this action to recover damages from the School District and three former school officials for the abuse he allegedly suffered (Doc. 2).

         Currently pending before the Court is a motion filed by Plaintiff seeking summary judgment on Count 1, which is his claim for discrimination under Title IX against the School District (Doc. 90). Defendant filed a timely response in opposition to the motion for summary judgment (Doc. 91), to which Plaintiff filed a reply (Doc. 92). The Court has carefully considered the briefs submitted by the parties, and for the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

         Facts

         Robin Hawkins began his career with the Freeburg Community Consolidated School District No. 70 (“the School District”) in 1977 (Doc. 90). He spent sixteen years, from 1977 to 1993, as a teacher, counselor, basketball and track coach, and student council sponsor (Id.). During that time, Lawrence Meggs served as assistant superintendent, and Clarence Haege was the superintendent (Id.). When Haege retired in 1994, Meggs was promoted to superintendent, and Hawkins was promoted to principal and assistant superintendent (Id.). Once Meggs retired in 1998, Hawkins became superintendent and served in that capacity until May 2009, when he committed suicide (Id.). Following Hawkins's suicide, Meggs once again served as superintendent on an interim basis from May 2009 to January 2010 (Id.). Herschel Parrish was a member of the school board from 1981 to 2009, and he served as president from 1992 to 2009 (Id.).

         In the fall of 2006, Plaintiff John Doe 4 began attending Carl L. Barton Elementary School, which is operated by the School District, as a sixth grader (Doc. 90-1). At that time, Robin Hawkins was the superintendent of the School District (Id.). According to Plaintiff's deposition testimony, Hawkins began to befriend him as soon as he arrived in the School District (Id.). He would be sent to Hawkins's office for disciplinary reasons or would occasionally go to his office just to talk (Id.). While he was in sixth grade, Hawkins began asking Plaintiff questions of a sexual nature (Id.). The conversations occurred in Hawkins's office with the door closed (Id.; see also Doc. 90-14). They would sit with their knees interlocked, with Hawkins's knee touching Plaintiff's crotch (Id.). Hawkins would rub Plaintiff's leg and pat him on the butt when he left (Id.).

         Plaintiff testified that during the spring of 2008, his conversations with Hawkins turned to masturbation (Doc. 90-1). Hawkins showed Plaintiff how to masturbate by doing it to himself, but then Hawkins progressed to masturbating Plaintiff (Id.). During the spring and summer of 2008, the acts of masturbation occurred multiple times during the school day (or just after school) in Hawkins's office with the door closed (Id.).

         The abuse progressed even further during the last week of summer school in 2008. According to Plaintiff, Hawkins took him to the locker room beneath the stage in the old gym, where they masturbated each other (Doc. 90-1). Hawkins then asked Plaintiff if he would try new things, and Plaintiff performed oral sex on Hawkins, and Hawkins anally penetrated Plaintiff (Id.) During the fall of 2008, Hawkins and Plaintiff spoke on a daily basis; Hawkins would ask about Plaintiff's sexual activities, and they continued to engage in mutual masturbation in Hawkins's office (Id.). The sexual abuse ceased in early 2009 (Id.).

         It turns out that Plaintiff is not the first student to claim that Hawkins sexually abused him when he was a junior high student. A number of other male students have come forward, and their claims illustrate that Hawkins purportedly began sexually abusing male students as far back as 1980 and continued to do so throughout the entire course of his career in the School District.

         First, a male student, referred to here as B.S., claims Hawkins sexually abused him beginning in 1980 when he was in Hawkins's social studies class (Doc. 90; Doc. 90-3). Specifically, B.S. alleges Hawkins would call him up to his desk during class, B.S. would sit in a chair, and Hawkins would run his hand up B.S.'s leg and “play with [his] balls” (Id.). B.S. claims he told the assistant superintendent, Lawrence Meggs, on more than one occasion that Hawkins was fondling him, which Meggs denies (Doc. 90; Doc. 91; Doc. 90-3; Doc. 90-4).

         Another male student, referred to here as B.B., also claims that Hawkins fondled him during social studies class during the 1981-1982 and the 1982-1983 school years (Doc. 90; Doc. 90-5). While B.B. was in eighth grade or shortly thereafter, either he or his parents told family friend Wayne King about the abuse (Doc. 90; Doc. 90-5; Doc. 90-6). King was a PE teacher in the School District (Doc. 90; Doc. 90-5; Doc. 90-6). King watched Hawkins for a time, but did not see anything inappropriate (Doc. 90; Doc. 90-6). King did not report B.B.'s complaint to any school administrators or the school board at that time (Doc. 90; Doc. 90-6).

         In 1991, a sixth grade student, referred to here as A.M., came forward with a complaint that he was being sexually abused by Hawkins (Doc. 90; Doc. 90-7). According to A.M., Hawkins took him into the locker room of the old gym, blindfolded him, tied him up, and told him that a girl would come in and give him oral sex (Doc. 90; Doc. 90-7). A.M. could see under the blindfold, however, that he was receiving oral sex from Hawkins, not a girl (Doc. 90; Doc. 90-7). This occurred on more than five occasions (Doc. 90; Doc. 90-7).

         A.M. told his parents about the abuse, who in turn notified the superintendent, Clarence Haege (Doc. 90; Doc. 91). Haege then relayed the accusation to Lawrence Meggs, and together they notified the school board (Doc. 90; Doc. 91). Haege also notified both the Freeburg Police Department and the Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”), who investigated A.M.'s allegations (Doc. 90; Doc. 91). As part of the police department's investigation, Wayne King was questioned; King testified that, following the questioning, he informed Meggs that B.B. had previously disclosed that he was sexually abused by Hawkins (Doc. 90-6). Meggs denies that King told him about B.B. at the time of the investigation into A.M.'s allegations; instead, according to Meggs, King told him about B.B. sometime around 2000 (Doc. 91-2). At that time, King and Meggs were no longer employed by the School District, but Hawkins was (Doc. 91-2).

         The Freeburg Police Department and DCFS determined that A.M.'s allegations of abuse were unfounded (Doc. 91; Doc. 91-2; Doc. 91-7). Haege and Meggs still harbored suspicions, however, so they conducted their own investigation (Doc. 90; Doc. 90-4; Doc. 90-8; Doc. 91). They searched the locker room with a black light, took samples of a brown patch that was analyzed by the police department and determined to be varnish, and ordered the janitor to search the old gym for whatever he could ...


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