The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mcmahon, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR
Plaintiffs Janet and Marc Dockery, personally and on behalf of
their son, Sean
Dockery, and Deborah and William Johnson, personally and on
behalf of their son, Jacob Johnson, sue Tammy Barnett, teacher,
and Harvey Gregory, principal, in their personal and official
capacities, and the Valley Central School District, under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of their rights to substantive due
process under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and
for state law claims of battery, gross negligence, intentional
and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and loss of
companionship, resulting from defendant Barnett's alleged
physical abuse of the children at school.
Defendants move for summary judgment on the § 1983 claim.
On a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the facts
most favorably to the non-moving party — in this case, the
The infant plaintiffs at bar, Jacob Johnson and Sean Dockery,
are two autistic boys with severely limited verbal abilities.
During the 1998-99 school year, Johnson and Dockery were students
in a self-contained class for autistic students in the East
Coldenham Elementary School ("East Coldenham") within the Valley
Central School District ("the District"). Johnson was seven years
old, and Dockery was five years old during that year. In 1998-99,
Tammy Barnett taught Johnson and Dockery in special education
classes, and Harvey Gregory was the Building Principal of East
Coldenham. Barnett also had taught Dockery during the 1997-98
Plaintiffs charge that Barnett engaged in the following
specific abusive conduct toward Johnson and Dockery in school:
1. In the fall of 1998, Barnett allegedly force-fed Johnson in
the school cafeteria. Johnson was crying and trying to get away
while Barnett was trying to open his mouth and push food in.
(Def. Ex. E-5 (Lopez Dep. at 45).)
2. On October 15, 1998, Johnson came home with marks and an
open wound on his hand. Plaintiffs allege that Barnett grabbed
Johnson, leaving a fingernail mark and bruise on his arm. Barnett
noted the marks on his hand and arm in Johnson's daily journal,
but says that Johnson had caused the marks from biting himself.
(D'Andrea Aff. (Barnett Dep. at 35-36) at Ex. A.)
3. On February 26, 1999, Johnson came home with bruises on his
4. Teacher's aide Serena Ruggiero claims that on May 20, 1999,
Barnett grabbed Johnson with enough force to leave a cut on his
arm because he had taken two icons off a chart instead of one.
(Gaughran Decl. (Ruggiero Statement at 2.) at Ex. F.) Barnett
denies that she grabbed his arm.
5. Ruggiero says that on or about June 16, 1999, Barnett yelled
at Johnson to complete his work. When he became upset and began
biting his wrist, Barnett allegedly grabbed the child's hand,
digging her finger into his finger and leaving a cut; the cut
required a Band-Aid. (Id. (Ruggiero Aff. at ¶ 15.))
1. In the fall of 1998, Barnett grabbed Dockery with enough
force to leave a red hand print on his shoulder that was visible
for several days. Mrs. Dockery claims that Barnett admitted that
she had "grabbed him a little hard," and that "there is a mark on
his shoulder." (Gaughran Decl. (Dockery Dep. at 39) at Ex. G.)
Barnett denies making such a statement to Mrs. Dockery. (Id.
(Barnett Dep. at 60) at Ex. J.)