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BOOKER v. BD. OF EDU.

December 18, 2002

ROGER BOOKER AND MILDRED BOOKER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENTS AND GUARDIANS OF MINOR DAUGHTER, ELISABETH, PLAINTIFFS,
V.
BOARD OF EDUCATION, BALDWINSVILLE CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT; THEODORE GILKEY, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT OF BALDWINSVILLE CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT; JEANNE RACE, IN HER WEST PAGE 470 OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT OF BALDWINSVILLE CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT; IRVING GRAY, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS PRINCIPAL OF DURGEE JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL; JOSEPH LAZARSKI, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS PRINCIPAL OF DONALD RAY MIDDLE SCHOOL; KAREN DONAHUE, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL AT DONALD RAY MIDDLE SCHOOL; ANDREA FRASCATORE, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS TEACHER AT DURGEE JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Howard G. Munson, Senior District Judge

BACKGROUND

During the period the events in the instant case took place, Elisabeth Booker ("Elisabeth") resided with her parents and guardians, plaintiffs Roger and Mildred Booker, ("the Bookers") in the Baldwinsville, N.Y. Central School District (the "District"). In the 1998-99 school year, Elisabeth attended the District's Ray Middle School, and in 1999-00, she finished the eighth grade at Durgee Junior High School.

The Bookers instituted this lawsuit naming as defendants, the District, and in their official capacities, Dr. Gilkey, the District's chief executive officer; Jeanne Race, the District's assistant superintendent until November 2001; Irving Grey ("Grey"), principal of Durgee Middle School; Joseph Lazarski ("Lazarski"), principal of Ray Middle School: and Karen Donahue ("Donahue"), Ray Middle school assistant principal in 1998-99. The complaint alleges, inter alia, that these defendants, failed to implement proper disciplinary proceedings against certain classmates who Elisabeth contends harassed her. The complaint also alleges that Elisabeth's math teacher, Andrea Frascatore, ("Frascatore") violated Elisabeth's civil rights by assigning her to sit in a study carrel during class periods because she repeatedly talked in class.

The relief sought is compensatory and punitive damages, costs and attorney fees.

The complaint asserts that the action arises under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 2000d.

Currently before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiffs have entered opposition to this motion.

DISCUSSION

Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits summary judgment where the evidence demonstrates that "there is no genuine issue of any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 2452, 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2509, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Summary judgment is properly regarded as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed to "secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action." Celotex Corp. v. Catreet, 477 U.S. 317, 327, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2554, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (quoting Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1). In determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw inferences against the moving party. United States v. Diebold, 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82 S.Ct. 993, 994, 8 L.Ed.2d 176 (1962) (per curiam). An issue of credibility is insufficient to preclude the granting of summary judgment. Neither side can rely on conclusory allegations or statements in affidavits. The disputed issue of fact must be supported by evidence that would allow a "rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Mashusita Electric Industries Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). Unsupported allegations will not suffice to create a triable issue of fact. Goenga v. March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, 51 F.3d 14, 18 (2d Cir. 1995). Nor will factual disputes that are irrelevant to the disposition of the suit under governing law preclude any entry of summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, 106 S.Ct. at 2509.

Plaintiffs' claims of wrongdoing:

On May 6, 1999, teacher Donahue was supervising the school lunch period when Elisabeth and her classmate, Felicia Briggs ("Felicia") approached her at a fast pace. Elisabeth told the supervisor that Felicia had hit her in the back with her hand. Felicia claims she had tripped and fell into Elisabeth while returning her lunch tray. The supervisor took the two students to her office for further discussion and counseled them on dispute resolution. After talking with the students, the supervisor decided that the incident was a misunderstanding, counseled them bot about dispute resolution and directed them to return to class. While proceeding to class, they became engaged in an altercation. Supervisor Donahue investigated the fracas, and took statements from both Elisabeth, Felicia and witnesses.

Elisabeth acknowledged in her statement that she had started the altercation. Felicia concurred with this, and stated that the initial assault was unprovoked. Witnesses' statements also indicate that Elisabeth was the instigator. Donahue then referred the students to the principal for disciplinary action. Upon returning home, Elisabeth told her mother about the incident. She claimed she had some back discomfort from Felicia falling into her, but said it did not really hurt until she got home. Her mother decided that she needed medical care and drove Elisabeth to the University Hospital emergency room where she was examined and released, but first drove to the school seeking a review of the incident. Mrs. Booker then reported the incident to the police claiming that her daughter had been assaulted. The police investigated the matter but decided not to take any action.

Mrs. Booker wrote several letters to the District about the altercation and complaining about how it was handled. She claimed that an unprovoked Felicia had intentionally assaulted Elisabeth, that supervisor Donahue did not provide her with medical care, that the whole occurrence was based on race, and that the District had some kind of racial animus towards Elisabeth because Felicia was not punished.

After the May 6, 1999, clash with Felicia, Elisabeth reported other instances of alleged racial harassment.

In the autumn of the 1999-00 school year, her science class was discussing history. During the discussion, she contends that another student, Trevor Albro ("Albro"), remarked to her about what chores he would give her if she was his slave. When she reported Albro's remarks to the teacher, Mr. Seabury, he assigned her to a seat on the opposite side of the classroom. She also states that she reported the remarks to her principal Gray. Gray does not recall the matter. Mr. Seabury does not remember the specific remarks being reported to him, but when ...


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