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Maco v. Baldwin Union Free School District

United States District Court, E.D. New York

April 13, 2017

RHONDA MACO, Plaintiff,
v.
BALDWIN UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT, LORI A. PRESTI, and CARRIE BILITZKI, Defendants.

          FAMIGHETTI & WEINICK, PLLC, MATTHEW WEINICK, ESQ. Attorneys for Plaintiff

          SILVERMAN & ASSOCIATES, LEWIS R. SILVERMAN, ESQ., GERALD S. SMITH, ESQ. Attorneys for Defendants

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          LEONARD D. WEXLER, United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff opposes the motion. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is granted and Plaintiffs claims are dismissed.

         BACKGROUND

         This is a civil rights action arising out of a report by Defendants to Child Protection Services ("CPS") regarding Plaintiffs care of her minor daughter. In June 2013, Plaintiffs minor child, N.M., was a first-grade student at Steele Elementary School ("Steele"), which is operated by Defendant Baldwin Union Free School District (the "District"). Defendant Lori Presti ("Presti") is the Principal of Steele and Defendant Carrie Bilitzki ("Bilitzki") is Steele's social worker. The relevant facts, which are largely undisputed, are taken from the parties' Local Civil Rule 56.1 Statements, unless otherwise noted.

         N.M. began attending Steele Elementary in 2011. While N.M. was in first grade, both Presti and Bilitzki met with Plaintiff several times regarding N.M.'s behavior and emotional well-being. In June 2013, Plaintiff and her husband met with Presti and Bilitzki concerning an event that occurred with respect to N.M. During this meeting, Plaintiff complained about Bilitzki's treatment of her daughter at the School's Field Day on June 5, 2013.[1] (Weinick Decl., Ex. 4; Smith Decl., Ex. E at 39-40.) While Presti disagreed with Plaintiff and her husband's characterization of the events that led to the meeting, all parties considered the meeting cordial.

         Ms. Maldonado ("Maldonado") - who is not named herein as a Defendant - was N.M.'s second grade teacher during the 2013-2014 school year. N.M. had behavioral issues that were addressed all throughout her second grade year.

         On April 8, 2014, Maldonado emailed Plaintiff twice, advising Plaintiff that N.M. was feeling sad and depressed and recommending that "we all sit down to help her through this."[2]Maldonado further advised Plaintiff that N.M. was being "defiant" and had falsely accused Maldonado of hurting her.

         Based upon the emails Plaintiff received, Plaintiff removed her daughter from school at lunch time on April 8, 2014, representing that N.M. had an appointment to attend.[3] Plaintiff brought N.M. home that day and discussed her behavior with her. In addition, Plaintiff struck N.M. with both her hand and a belt. While Plaintiff does not recall how many times she struck N.M. with her hand, she believes it was more than once. Plaintiff further believes that she struck N.M. with the belt once or twice. This was not the first time Plaintiff physically disciplined her daughter. Plaintiff then returned N.M. to school.

         When N.M. returned to school, she informed Maldonado that Plaintiff struck her with a belt in the face during lunch. Upon learning this information, Maldonado contacted the School Nurse. Thereafter, Presti spoke with N.M., who advised Presti that Plaintiff struck her repeatedly with a belt and her hand. Presti also had the School Nurse examine N.M., which revealed no marks or injuries.

         Presti then spoke with Bilitizki about what had occurred. Bilitizki informed her that, based upon the information they had, a report should be made to CPS. At approximately 1:51 p.m. on April 8, 2014, a report was made to CPS concerning Plaintiff and N.M. via telephone call.[4] The issue of suspected physical abuse was raised with CPS at that time, as well as the fact that counseling had been previously recommended for N.M. to address her behavioral issues.[5]

         On April 9, 2014, CPS contacted Bilitzki and asked her to check with N.M.'s teacher to see if she was completing homework assignments and projects. CPS also requested that Bilitizki fax copies of progress reports and report cards. Bilitzki advised CPS that N.M. had missed eight homework assignments since January and that her grades had declined in homework and neatness. The report card provided to CPS by Bilitzki also indicated that some of N.M.'s grades had dropped recently and that the issue of incomplete homework assignments had been raised.

         Thereafter, a CPS social worker met with and examined N.M. CPS also met with Plaintiff and her husband, as well as Presti. On April 29, 2014, the CPS ...


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