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DOCKERY v. BARNETT

September 19, 2001

JANET AND MARC DOCKERY, PERSONALLY AND ON BEHALF OF SEAN DOCKERY, AND DEBORAH AND WILLIAM JOHNSON, PERSONALLY AND ON BEHALF OF JACOB JOHNSON, PLAINTIFFS,
V.
TAMMY BARNETT AND HARVEY GREGORY, IN THEIR OFFICIAL AND PERSONAL CAPACITIES, AND THE VALLEY CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mcmahon, District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Defendants move for summary judgment on the § 1983 claim.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the facts most favorably to the non-moving party — in this case, the plaintiff.

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 school year.

Plaintiffs charge that Barnett engaged in the following specific abusive conduct toward Johnson and Dockery in school:

Toward Johnson

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 right wrist.

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.))

Toward Dockery

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.)


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