Jane Doe No. 55, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Madison Metropolitan School District, Defendant-Appellee.
November 30, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Wisconsin. No. 3:15-cv-00570-bbc - Barbara B.
Easterbrook and Manion, Circuit Judges, and Lee, District
allegations in this case are troubling, to say the least. The
appellant, Jane Doe, claims that she was sexually assaulted
by a security guard at her middle school while she was in
eighth grade. Seeking redress, she filed suit against the
Madison Metropolitan School District under Title IX of the
Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a). To
obtain damages against the school district, Doe was required
to prove, among other things, that a school official had
actual knowledge of the alleged conduct. The question in this
case is whether a reasonable jury could have found, based
upon the summary judgment record, that the principal at
Doe's middle school had actual knowledge of the security
guard's misconduct. The district court thought not and
granted summary judgment in the school district's favor.
Doe attended Whitehorse Middle School in the Madison
Metropolitan School District from 2011 to 2014. During that
time, Willie Collins was a security assistant at White horse.
In that capacity, Collins supervised lunch and recess,
oversaw students in detention, and monitored the school for
safety and security.
Ptak was the principal of Whitehorse, and she supervised the
entire staff, including Collins. Collins was a
larger-than-life presence at the school. Ptak was aware that
Collins had been a mentor and confidant to many students. She
regularly saw Collins hugging male and female students and
observed that most of the hugs were student-initiated.
few occasions while Doe was in seventh grade, Ptak saw
Collins walk up behind Doe as she was seated at a table in
the cafeteria and rub the top of her shoulders with his
hands. Collins had not singled Doe out in this regard,
however, as he engaged in similar physical contact with many
students, boys and girls alike.
Warnecke, the school's positive behavioral support coach,
told Ptak in the spring of 2013 that she was concerned after
seeing Doe frequently seek out Collins, initiate hugs with
Collins, and sometimes jump and hang onto him. Warnecke
informed Ptak that, on one occasion, she saw Doe jump on
Collins and kiss him on the cheek. Warnecke did note that
when Doe attempted to kiss Collins again, he rebuffed her and
spoke to Doe privately. After that, Warnecke did not see Doe
attempt to kiss Collins again. At the end of the
conversation, Ptak told Warnecke that she would follow up
with Collins about Warnecke's concerns.
that time, Mary McAuliffe, the school's counselor,
notified Ptak that she and Brooke Gritt, one of Doe's
teachers, echoed Warnecke's concerns based on their own
observations. McAuliffe told Ptak that she and Gritt had seen
Collins give Doe a shoulder rub and had seen Doe look for
Collins, hug him, jump and hang on him, and on one occasion,
attempt to kiss Collins on the cheek. Ptak told McAuliffe
that she should speak with Doe and that Ptak would discuss
the matter with Collins.
addition, at a school committee meeting, Karen Wydenven, the
school's psychologist, and McAuliffe spoke to Ptak and
Warnecke about a group of seventh grade girls who were
hanging around Collins. Ptak responded, "That's just
Willie's personality, you know, because he's a coach;
and you know, the kids know him."
April 11, 2013, Ptak met with Collins to discuss the is- sues
raised by Warnecke, McAuliffe and Gritt. Ptak expressed
concern for Doe's well-being and stated that Doe could
have a crush on Collins. Collins told Ptak that Doe merely
had been confiding in him about her problematic relationships
with her family and peers and that he was providing her with
support. Ptak cautioned Collins against hugging and
physically touching Doe and told Collins to limit any such
conduct. Ptak reiterated that "clear" and
"strong boundaries … needed to be set" and
that "hugging and her jumping on him [wa]s not
appropriate." Ptak also instructed Collins to speak to
Doe only in common areas when others were around.
that month, Gritt reported to McAuliffe that Doe had been
intentionally cutting herself. That same day, McAuliffe
brought up the matter with Doe, but Doe did not want to talk
to McAuliffe. McAuliffe then called Doe's mother to