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S.C. and H.R., Individually and As Parents and Legal Guardians of M.R., A Minor v. Monroe Woodbury Central School District

July 18, 2012

S.C. AND H.R., INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENTS AND LEGAL GUARDIANS OF M.R., A MINOR, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MONROE WOODBURY CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT,
MONROE WOODBURY CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION,
JOSEPH DILORENZO, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS PRIOR SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, EDWARD J. MEHRHOF, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS,
MATTHEW KRAVATZ, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS PRINCIPAL OF NORTH MAIN STREET ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, AND
UNKNOWN AGENTS AND ASSIGNS OF MONROE WOODBURY CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT 1-100, DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint. (Doc. 11.) For the reasons stated below, the motion is GRANTED.

I.Background

A.Factual Background

I assume the facts, but not the conclusions, in the Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl."), (Doc. 8), to be true for purposes of Defendants' motion. M.R., born on May 27, 2002, attended North Main Street Elementary School ("North Main"), part of Defendant Monroe Woodbury Central School District ("MWCSD"), from September 2007 until February 3, 2010.*fn1 (Id. ¶ 7.) Plaintiffs S.C. and H.R. are M.R.'s mother and father, respectively. (Id.) Defendant Joseph DiLorenzo was the superintendent of MWCSD during the events giving rise to this lawsuit. (Id. ¶ 10.) Defendant Edward J. Mehrhof is the current superintendent of MWCSD. (Id. ¶ 11.) Defendant Matthew Kravatz is the principal of North Main. (Id. ¶ 12.)

At a parent-teacher conference in early November 2009, S.C. told M.R.'s classroom teacher Ms. Glick that another student, B.S., had been physically aggressive toward M.R. and had been bullying M.R. on the playground on a regular basis since mid-October. (Id. ¶ 15.)

M.R. had told S.C. about the bullying and aggressive behavior for the first time that day. (Id.) Within a week or two, M.R. told his parents that another student, V.A., had been hitting him a lot. (Id. ¶ 16.) S.C. had a phone conversation about V.A.'s bullying with Ms. Glick and V.A.'s mother, (id.), an MWCSD employee, (id. ¶ 34). Shortly thereafter, S.C. repeatedly called Ms. Glick about B.S.'s aggression towards and bullying of M.R. (Id. ¶ 17.)

On December 10, 2009, because M.R. told S.C. that B.S.'s bullying had persisted, S.C. sent an e-mail to Kravatz and Glick about B.S.'s treatment of M.R. (Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff also called B.S.'s mother, an MWCSD employee, to discuss the situation, and found that no one from North Main had informed her about B.S.'s behavior. (Id. ¶ 18 & n.2.) The next day, S.C. and H.R. met with Kravatz about the bullying and aggression that M.R. was facing at school, which Kravatz did not dispute. (Id. ¶ 19.) S.C. told Kravatz that M.R. had been complaining about school for weeks, did not want to go to school, and hated school and recess. (Id. ¶ 20.) S.C. also told Kravatz that the bullying made M.R. very unhappy at home and that M.R. had previously loved school. (Id.) At this meeting, Kravatz said that he would stop B.S.'s bullying of M.R. with a recess monitor. (Id. ¶ 21.)

On December 13, 2009, S.C. memorialized the December 11, 2009 meeting in two e-mails to Kravatz that explained some possible remedial steps, but noted that the meeting had "failed to result in conclusive action" to stop the bullying of and aggressive behavior towards M.R. (Id. ¶ 24.) Plaintiffs have submitted those e-mails in opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss. (See Frasca Decl. Ex. 3.)*fn2 In the first, sent at 12:44 p.m., S.C. stated that she wished to confirm the use of a 1:1 recess monitor for another student I assume to be B.S., voiced her concerns about the availability of a monitor during staff shortages and indoor recesses, and asked whether the recess monitor would be used for the rest of the school year. (See id.) S.C. also noted that she had had a conversation with North Main social worker Sarah Petroccitto, (see Am. Compl. ¶ 32), and that Petroccitto "seemed [to] have a good grasp of the situation." (Frasca Decl. Ex. 3.) S.C. stated that "we've decided that [Petroccito will] work with [M.R.] temporarily on assertiveness and communication skills specific to the situation, and she'll get back to me about how it went and whether she has any additional recommendations." (Id.)*fn3 S.C. ended the e-mail with the following paragraph:

I also wanted to let you know that [M.R.] told me he enjoyed talking with you Friday -- he said it was private though, so he couldn't tell me what was said. Both my husband and I found him to be noticeably more relaxed and cheerful Friday afternoon. So, again, thank you for your professional caring attention. (Id.)

In the second e-mail, sent at 9:02 p.m. in reply to an e-mail Kravatz sent earlier that day, S.C. said that it was her understanding from the previous conversation with Kravatz that one outdoor recess monitor would be assigned only to B.S.; it was unclear what "a monitor assigned to some students" meant; and that she was not necessarily advocating for the use of a 1:1 monitor, but just wanted to be clear on what Kravatz's plans were, noting that his plans were different from the inadequate plans that had been in place up to that point. (Id.) S.C. noted that it was Kravatz's decision when the use of the outdoor monitor would be discontinued and that Kravatz had been receptive and helpful thus far. (Id.) According to Plaintiffs, Kravatz responded to S.C.'s e-mail, (Am. Compl. ¶ 25), but the Amended Complaint is silent as to the substance of his response.*fn4

Notwithstanding the recess monitor, the bullying continued. (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiffs allege that Kravatz "routinely stated that the school could not prevent every bullying event, that monitoring Plaintiff MR would not prevent every bullying event and that, notwithstanding the best efforts of supervisors, children get injured and that not every student could be seen all the time." (Id. ¶ 23.)*fn5

On January 12, 2009, S.C. notified Kravatz that the bullying of and aggressive behavior toward M.R. was continuing. (Id. ¶ 27.) S.C. reported that during recess, M.R. had been pushed into the ice by another student. (Id.) The recess monitor acknowledged this incident and told both boys to be nice, but did nothing else to stop the bullying, nor did she report the incident. (Id.) The conduct continued for the entire recess period. (Id.) S.C. also reported other instances of B.S.'s bullying of M.R., including but not limited to body slamming M.R. into a bookcase during an indoor recess and constant chasing of M.R. that left him feeling like he could not escape. (Id.) At this time, the bullying toward M.R. was escalating in severity and frequency. (Id.)

On January 13, 2010, S.C. spoke with Kravatz by telephone about B.S.'s continued bullying of M.R. (Id. ¶ 28.) Kravatz focused on M.R.'s assertiveness skills and suggested that M.R. join the Boy Scouts. (Id.) Plaintiff interpreted Kravatz as implying that M.R. was exaggerating and overreacting, and as blaming M.R. for being bullied. (Id.)

On January 14, 2010, M.R. told S.C. that V.A. had choked him and that M.R. had reported this to Glick. (Id. ¶ 29.) According to M.R., Glick told M.R. that the two students should stay away from each other. (Id.) On or about January 16, 2010, S.C. informed V.A.'s mother that V.A. had choked M.R., but according to Plaintiffs, V.A.'s mother minimized V.A.'s actions. (Id. ¶ 30.) On January 21, 2010, Assistant Principal of North Main Dolores Terlecky called S.C. to tell her that M.R. had been hit and was seen crying. (Id. ¶ 31.) During this incident, V.A. held M.R. down by his wrists, placed above his head, and recruited another student, M.C., to hold down M.R.'s feet. (Id. ¶ 31.)

On January 25, 2010, H.R. and S.C. met with Kravatz, Terlecky, Petroccitto, and Glick concerning the bullying of M.R. (Id. ¶ 32.) At this meeting, S.C. mentioned the choking incident, of which Glick "acted completely unaware." (Id. ¶ 33.) The North Main personnel at the meeting focused on M.R.'s assertiveness and communication skills, which M.R.'s parents again interpreted as placing blame on M.R. and insinuating that M.R. was overly sensitive and exaggerating. (Id.) H.R. and S.C. said that M.R.'s assertiveness skills were not the problem and began asking questions about what was being done to prevent the bullying. (Id.) During this meeting, the parties agreed on several measures designed to stop the bullying, including keeping M.R., V.A., and M.C. separated at all times. (Id.) After the January 25 meeting, S.C. spoke to V.A.'s mother, who "agreed that the classroom was in chaos" and had stated on other occasions that the classroom lacked order and control. (Id. ¶ 34.)

On January 26, 2010, S.C. sent Kravatz an e-mail memorializing the January 25 meeting. (Id. ¶ 35). In the e-mail, she questioned the safety of M.R. and all students in MWCSD, described instances of other children being bullied, and noted the lack of a policy, practice, training, education, and professional development directed at preventing bullying. (Id.) This e-mail suggested possible solutions, including reminding each class that bullying would not be tolerated and would be met with "swift and unpleasant consequences," and sending home a letter with each child indicating that bullying had been a problem lately, reminding the parents of North Main's no-tolerance policy, and asking them to reinforce the need for appropriate behavior. (See Frasca Decl. Ex. 5.) Kravatz responded by letter the same day, and Plaintiffs, although they do not describe the content of Kravatz's response in the Amended Complaint, state that it was ineffectual and inaccurate. (Am. Compl. ¶ 35.)

On January 27, 2010, S.C. sent an e-mail to Kravatz seeking clarification on how MWCSD was going to protect M.R. from bullying and aggressive behavior, and including suggestions of possible solutions to the ...


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