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Rodenhouse v. Palmyra-Macedon Central School Dist.

June 2, 2008

MICHAEL RODENHOUSE AND KELLY RODENHOUSE, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
PALMYRA-MACEDON CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, HAROLD E. FERGUSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS FORMER INTERIM SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, BARBARA PERSIA, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER CAPACITY AS PRINCIPAL OF THE PALMYRA-MACEDON SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL, FRED CIABURRI, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS AND PHYSICAL EDUCATION, THOMAS ENRIGHT, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A FORMER HEAD COACH OF INDOOR TRACK AND HEAD COACH OF GIRL'S OUTDOOR TRACK AT THE PALMYRA-MACEDON SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL, AND DAN ENRIGHT, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A FORMER ASSISTANT COACH OF INDOOR/OUTDOOR TRACK AND FIELD AND VOLUNTARY ASSISTANT CROSS-COUNTY COACH AT THE PALMYRA-MACEDON SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles J. Siragusa United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

This is an action alleging federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. § 1985, and Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, as well as claims under New York State law for negligence, negligent hiring/retention/supervision, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, custodial interference, and misuse of process. Now before the Court are Defendants' motions [#3][#8][#21] to dismiss the Complaint, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("FRCP") 12(b)(6), and Plaintiffs' cross-motion [#17] for sanctions. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs' motion for sanctions is denied, Defendants' motions to dismiss are granted with regard to Plaintiffs' federal causes of action, and Plaintiffs' remaining state-law claims are dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the Complaint, and are accepted as true for purposes of this motion. At all relevant times Plaintiffs' daughter E.R. was a student at Palmyra-Macedon High School, and as such, she participated in the school's cross-country and track and field athletic programs. At all relevant times, Defendant Thomas Enright was the coach of the school's track and field team, and his son Daniel Enright was an assistant track coach. Also at all relevant times, Defendant Harold Ferguson ("Ferguson") was the Interim Superintendent of the Palmyra-Macedon School District, Defendant Barbara Persia ("Persia") was the Principal of the Palmyra-Macedon High School, and Defendant Fred Ciaburri ("Ciaburri") was the school's Athletic Director. Plaintiffs' claims arise from the fact that, beginning when E.R. was a sixteen-year old student, Daniel Enright made sexual advances toward her, and pursued a romantic relationship with her, which ultimately resulted in E.R. moving out of her family home and residing instead with Daniel Enright and Thomas Enright.

More specifically, Plaintiffs allege that in or about February 2006, Plaintiff Kelly Rodenhouse ("Mrs. Rodenhouse") learned that, in January 2006, Daniel Enright and another male had met with two female high-school track athletes at 4:00 a.m., ostensibly for the purpose of having breakfast. Mrs. Rodenhouse reported this information to Ciaburri, who apparently took no action with regard to the report. In or about July 2006, Daniel Enright, in addition to being an assistant track coach, became an assistant coach for the school's cross-country team, of which E.R. was a member.

In November 2006, Plaintiffs learned that Daniel Enright had been making sexual advances toward E.R. For example, Plaintiffs learned that during the preceding months, Daniel Enright had kissed and fondled E.R. Plaintiffs contend that Daniel Enright was also having improper relationships with several other female high-school students at the time. Plaintiffs reported this information to Persia and Ciaburri, and the school district terminated Daniel Enright's employment the same day. On or about December 7, 2006, Ferguson assured Plaintiffs that Daniel Enright would not be allowed on school property, and that Daniel's father, Thomas Enright, would have no contact with E.R., or any involvement in coaching her. Nevertheless, Thomas Enright continued to coach E.R., and he also allowed Daniel Enright to serve as an assistant coach at several track meets in December 2006 and January 2007.

On or about January 19, 2007, E.R., who was then age 17, moved out of her family home and into the residence of Daniel Enright and Thomas Enright. According to Plaintiffs, the Enrights subsequently manipulated E.R. into falsely informing the Department of Social Services that her parents had banished her from the family home. On January 22, 2007, Plaintiffs informed Ferguson and Persia of these events, and on January 24, 2007, the school district terminated Thomas Enright's employment.

Plaintiffs commenced the instant action on September 7, 2007, at which time E.R. was eighteen years of age. As discussed earlier, the complaint alleged, inter alia, federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1985, based on alleged due process and equal protection violations, as well as a claim for sexual discrimination under Title IX. However, Plaintiffs subsequently withdrew the Title IX claim. In lieu of answering the complaint, Defendants filed the subject motions to dismiss, for failure to state a claim, under FRCP 12(b)(6). In addition to moving to dismiss, Defendants Palmyra-Macedon Central School District, Ferguson, Persia, and Ciaburri ("the District Defendants") also moved for sanctions, on the grounds that Plaintiffs' claims were frivolous, though, as discussed further below, they later withdrew that portion of their motion. Nevertheless, in support of their motion for sanctions, District Defendants' counsel submitted copies of letters that she had sent to Plaintiffs' counsel, explaining why she believed Plaintiffs' claims were frivolous as a matter of law. However, she did not include Plaintiffs' counsel's responding correspondence. Plaintiffs opposed Defendants' motions, and cross-moved for sanctions against the District Defendants. With regard to Plaintiffs' cross-motion for sanctions, they alleged that District Defendants were attempting to mislead the Court in their motion for sanctions, by failing to include a copy of Plaintiffs' counsel's letter to District Defendants' counsel, explaining why Plaintiffs' claims were meritorious. Plaintiffs further argued that District Defendants should be sanctioned for not "following the dictates and procedure outlined in Rule 11." (Notice of Motion [#17] at 2). District Defendants have now withdrawn their motion for sanctions.

On May 29, 2008, Plaintiffs and counsel for all parties appeared before the undersigned for oral argument of the motions.

ANALYSIS

The 12(b)(6) Standard

In ruling upon a motion to dismiss made pursuant to FRCP 12(b) (6), the Court must construe the complaint liberally, accepting all factual allegations in the complaint as true, and drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Although the pleading standard is a liberal one, bald assertions and conclusions of law will not suffice. To survive dismissal, the plaintiff must provide the grounds upon which her claim rests through factual allegations sufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.

Reddington v. Staten Island Univ. Hosp., 511 F.3d 126, 131 (2d Cir. 2007) (citations and internal ...


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