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Kamal v. Hopmayer

November 2, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Brieant, J.

Memorandum and Order

Before the Court for decision are motions for summary judgment to dismiss all claims asserted by Plaintiff, pursuant to Rule 56. Defendant Hopmayer timely filed his motion for summary judgment on September 5, 2006 (Doc. 12). Defendant Johnson timely filed his motion for summary judgment on September 6, 2006. (Doc. 13). Opposition papers were submitted on October 2, 2006, and reply papers were submitted October 11, 2006.*fn1

Plaintiff brought claims under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against Defendant Johnson for false arrest in violation of his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, and for illegal seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Plaintiff brought a claim under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against Defendant Hopmayer for malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Plaintiff also brought a claim against Defendant Hopmayer for subjecting Plaintiff to a "hostile educational environment" on the basis of his race, national origin and religion and in retaliation for Plaintiff's exercise of his First Amendment right to free speech. Plaintiff asserted this last claim under "Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the First Amendment, as made actionable by 42 U.S.C. §1983."

Facts/ Background

The following facts are assumed to be true for the purposes of this motion only. Plaintiff attended Pine Bush High School from 2000 to 2003. Plaintiff is of Iranian descent, and is "openly" Muslim. During the 2002-03 school year, Plaintiff repeated tenth grade English class with teacher Bethany Ganley.

On September 11th, 2002, Plaintiff was one of several students who threw batteries at a stop sign from a school bus window. He was called into Defendant Hopmayer's office upon arrival at the high school. Plaintiff alleges that Hopmayer told him during this meeting that Hopmayer had "killed Persians" during his service in the first Gulf War, and stated his opinion that Plaintiff was disrespectful to this country.

Plaintiff also alleges that Hopmayer frequently visited Plaintiff's English class, which Ms. Ganley taught, and engaged with the class in discussions that had to do with Middle East politics rather than the class subject matter. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Hopmayer shared his views on the situation in Iraq, and made strong statements about men who did not serve in the military, saying that they "were not man enough." These discussions made Plaintiff uncomfortable. He expressed these concerns to Ganley, his father, and his fellow students. Plaintiff's father attempted to contact Hopmayer, and left him messages that were not returned by Hopmayer. (His calls were later returned by Assistant Superintendent Cooper.)

On February 7, 2003, Plaintiff got into a physical altercation with another student. The two had gotten into a verbal argument the preceding day on the school bus. One of the teachers who witnessed the fight brought Plaintiff to Hopmayer's office. Hopmayer suspended Plaintiff and said that he was lucky he was not being arrested. Hopmayer sent a notice of a five day suspension to Plaintiff's parents, and referred him to peer mediation. The Caucasian student with whom Plaintiff fought received a series of in-school detentions. Plaintiff refused to attend the peer mediation sessions, and because of this, Hopmayer would not allow him to return to school until March 14, 2003.

On March 4, the day peer mediation was to begin, Plaintiff's father called Superintendent Stark to discuss the school's treatment of his son. Assistant Superintendent Cooper also returned Plaintiff's father's call that day. Plaintiff's parents also met with Hopmayer and co-principal Mike Amsten on March 10, 2003, where they claim that Hopmayer "had been arrogant and talked down to them." The Kamals had several other conversations with Cooper in which they communicated their concern that Hopmayer was racially biased and treated their son unfairly.

Plaintiff's Arrest

On March 14, 2003, Plaintiff got off of the school bus with his friend, J.R. Plaintiff claims that within a few minutes, he was picked up at the stop and taken away by his father, though J.R. has testified that Plaintiff remained with J.R. Soon after, J.R. threw at a passing school bus. It is undisputed that a rock broke through a window of that bus, injuring at least one student.

On the following Monday, Defendant Johnson, who is a Town of Crawford police officer and Pine Bush High School Resource Officer (SRO), began investigating the rock-throwing incident. Johnson took statements about the rock-throwing incident from students, including J.R. J.R. handwrote a statement that he had thrown a rock, but that he did not see if Plaintiff had thrown a rock, because Plaintiff was behind him. None of the students who witnessed the incident reported that Plaintiff threw the rock. Johnson continued interviewing others, who were not witnesses to the incident, but who did implicate the Plaintiff in similar rock-throwing incidents in the past. Defendant was out sick on that Monday, and neither Johnson nor anyone else questioned Plaintiff about the incident. J.R. was charged with misdemeanor criminal assault charges. The charges were later dropped in exchange for his agreement to pay restitution.

On March 19, 2003, Johnson came to Plaintiff's house and placed him under arrest for misdemeanor reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and assault. He was handcuffed, taken to the police station and placed in a holding cell. He hired a criminal defense attorney and made four appearances in Town Court. Charges were later dropped by the Orange County District attorney "in the interests of justice", and because J.R. has "exculpated" Plaintiff. Plaintiff claims that he later became suicidal, was treated for mental health problems, and dropped out of high school because of his distress over the incident.

The standard for summary judgment in this jurisdiction is so well known that no citation is ...

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