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Sauerhaft v. Board of Education of the Hastings-on-Hudson Union Free School District

June 2, 2009

RICHARD SAUERHAFT AS FATHER AND GUARDIAN AD LITEM OF S.S., DOREEN SAUERHAFT AS MOTHER OF S.S., AND S.S., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT, JOHN J. RUSSELL, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SUPERINTENDENT, THOMAS J. FAZIO, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PRINCIPAL, MIKE ROSSI, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL, AND SUSAN GUINEY, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS TECHNOLOGY DIRECTOR, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul G. Gardephe, U.S.D.J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This action arises from three offensive e-mails that Plaintiff S.S. received through her school e-mail account during her freshman year at the Hastings-on-Hudson high school. Plaintiffs assert that these e-mails constitute sexual harassment for which Defendant Board of Education of the Hastings-on-Hudson Union Free School District is liable under 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. ("Title IX"), and for which the individual defendants are liable under the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Cmplt. ¶¶ 60-94) Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all of Plaintiffs' claims, and Plaintiffs have moved to strike certain affidavits and exhibits Defendants filed in support of their motion and certain paragraphs in Defendants' Rule 56.1 Statement. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs' motion (Docket No. 30) is DENIED, and Defendants' motion (Docket No. 19) is GRANTED.

DISCUSSION

Summary judgment is warranted when the moving party shows that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact" and that it "is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). "A dispute about a 'genuine issue' exists for summary judgment purposes where the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could decide in the non-movant's favor," Beyer v. County of Nassau, 524 F.3d 160, 163 (2d Cir. 2008), and the Court "resolve[s] all ambiguities, and credit[s] all factual inferences that could rationally be drawn, in favor of the party opposing summary judgment." Cifra v. Gen. Elec. Co., 252 F.3d 205, 216 (2d Cir. 2001).

I.FACTS

A.The Parties

Plaintiff S.S. was a ninth grade student at Hastings-on-Hudson High School (the "High School") during the 2004-05 school year. (Def. Rule 56.1 Stat. ¶ 5)*fn1

Plaintiffs Richard and Doreen Sauerhaft are S.S.'s parents and legal guardians. (Id. ¶ 6) During the 2004-2005 school year, Defendant Russell was Superintendent of the Hastings-on-Hudson Union Free School District (the "District"), and Defendants Fazio, Rossi, and Guiney were, respectively, the principal, assistant principal, and technology director of the High School. (Id. ¶¶ 1-4)

B.The Offensive E-mails

The District provides each High School student with an e-mail account through a network maintained by employees of a New York state agency, the Board of Cooperative Educational Services ("BOCES"). (Guiney Aff. ¶¶ 6-8)

On the morning of March 18, 2005, S.S. checked her District e-mail account from a school computer and found the following message: "FATTY FATTYFATTYFATTYFATTY fatty mcfatfat wow you are one fat fuck and everyone hates you." (Def. Rule 56.1 Stat. ¶¶ 7-9; Pltf. Statement of Additional Facts ¶ 6; Russell Ex. B) The e-mail was dated March 17, 2005, and originated from the District e-mail account of High School student M.X. (Def. Rule 56.1 Stat. ¶¶ 8-9)

Soon after receiving this e-mail, S.S. responded as follows: "you really need to get a life and stop spending your time trying to bring down others so you wont feel like the loser you are. im not the one who tries to act cool around everyone he can find hoping to gain a friend or two. im fine with my life. And its really sad that youthink calling me fat will diss me." (Def. Rule 56.1 Stat. ¶ 10; Russell Ex. B)

On March 18, another e-mail was sent from M.X.'s account to S.S. This e-mail read: "show me your tits." (Russell Ex. B; Def. Rule 56.1 Stat. ¶ 8) S.S. received this e-mail when she checked her District e-mail account at some time between March 18 and March 24, 2005. (Pltf. Statement of Additional Facts ¶ 6) S.S. did not respond to this e-mail.

On March 28, 2005, S.S. checked her District e-mail account and found a third e-mail from M.X.'s account, dated March 25, which read: "you you fat fuck i want to have sex with you in the middle of hte night. i will grab your tits and suck thm. all while feeling you up in the vagina." (Def. Rule 56.1 Stat. ¶ 8; Pltf. Statement of Additional Facts ¶ 6; Russell Ex. B)

The third e-mail was the last offensive e-mail S.S. received from M.X.'s account.*fn2 (Def. Rule 56.1 Stat. ¶ 21; Pltf. Statement of Additional Facts ¶ 6)

C.The District's Initial Response to the E-mails

On March 18, after receiving the first e-mail, S.S. printed it out and gave it to her guidance counselor, Sharon Quigley. (Def. Rule 56.1 Stat. ¶ 11) Quigley gave the e-mail to her supervisor. (Quigley Dep. 21:3-13) "On or about" March 18, the e-mail was independently brought to the attention of Technology Director Guiney by Diane Watson, the BOCES administrator assigned to assist with the High School's network, along with another offensive e-mail sent on March 17 from M.X.'s account to a different student.*fn3 (Guiney Aff. ΒΆΒΆ 12-13; Rossi Ex. L) Guiney met with Assistant ...


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