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Chapman v. Ouellette

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 9, 2016

JARRON CHAPMAN, a minor suing by and through his mother and next friend, ARTIVIA J. DRAKE Plaintiff,
v.
KATHLEEN OUELLETTE, MARGARET CHERUBINI, GREGORY ZIOGAS, MICHAEL HARRIS, WATERBURY BOARD OF EDUCATION Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff, Jarron Chapman, brings this lawsuit through his mother and next friend, Artivia J. Drake, against Defendants, Kathleen Ouellette, Margaret Cherubini, Gregory Ziogas, Michael Harris, and the Waterbury Board of Education. (ECF No. 1.) Chapman alleges that Defendants (1) deprived him of his liberty and property rights, including his right to a public education under the Connecticut Constitution, without due process of law and in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as enforced through 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 (id. ¶ 15); (2) deprived him of his privacy rights under state law (id. ¶ 16); and (3) engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct knowing it was likely to cause him emotional distress (and that did cause him emotional distress). (Id. ¶¶ 16-17.)[1] Chapman seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, costs, and a temporary and permanent injunction requiring Defendants to return Chapman “to good standing as a student at Crosby High School and to cease and desist from all efforts to expel him.” (Id. at 5-6.)

         Defendants have moved for summary judgment against the Plaintiff, and the Plaintiff has not opposed the motion. The Plaintiff filed a response to Defendants’ motion for summary judgment stating that “[Plaintiff’s counsel] agrees that the defendants’ arguments are legally sound and therefore will not oppose the motion.” (ECF No. 30.) The Court must nonetheless undertake its own analysis. See Vermont Teddy Bear Co. v. 1-800 Beargram Co., 373 F.3d 241, 242 (2d Cir. 2004). For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS in part Defendants’ motion for summary judgment, and in particular, grants summary judgment as to the federal claims and dismisses the state law claims without prejudice.

         I. Factual Background [2]

         Plaintiff Jarron Chapman was born on April 17, 1997. (Defendants’ Local Rule 56(a)1 Statement (“Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt.”) ¶ 6.) Although Chapman was a minor at the time he filed this lawsuit, he is now an adult. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 3; Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 6.) Chapman completed his freshman, sophomore, and junior years at Crosby High School (Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 7), a public school in Waterbury, Connecticut. (Id. ¶ 1.) At the times relevant to the complaint-August 27 and August 28, 2014-Defendant Greg Ziogas was interim principal of Crosby, Defendant Michael Harris was an assistant principal at Crosby (id. ¶¶ 3-4), Defendant Dr. Kathleen Ouelette was the Superintendent of Schools for the Waterbury Board of Education (“WBE”) (id. ¶ 2), and Defendant Margaret Cherubini was a secretary for the WBE. (Id. ¶5.)

         On August 5, 2014, officers from the Waterbury Police Department (“WPD”) found Chapman with 48 glassine bags of heroin and arrested him for possession of narcotics with intent to sell. (Id. ¶¶ 8-10.) On August 27, 2014, Cherubini “electronically transmitted a copy of the police report” about Chapman’s arrest to Ziogas, Harris, and Barbara Bouley. (Id. ¶ 16.) Bouley works as a secretary for the WBE and is assigned to Ouellette. (Id. ¶ 20.) Harris and Ziogas became aware of Chapman’s arrest because of Cherubini’s e-mail. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18.) The police report was not shared with anyone else. (Id. ¶ 49.)

         On the morning of August 28, 2014, Ouellette was at Crosby for reasons unrelated to this case. (Id. ¶ 21.) While Ouellette was at Crosby, she learned about Chapman’s arrest. (Ouellette Aff. ¶ 8.) “Ouellette advised Ziogas and Harris to follow all procedures required to ensure that Chapman received his due process prior to any disciplinary action being taken.” (Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 24.)

         After they reviewed the arrest report, Ziogas and Harris decided to suspend Chapman for ten days, from August 29, 2014, until September 12, 2014, in accordance with WBE policy. (Id. ¶ 23.) On August 28, 2014, Ziogas, Harris, and another assistant principal went to Chapman’s third period class and brought Chapman to the main office. (Chapman Depo. at 36, 38, 41-42.) Harris asked Chapman if there was anyone that he could call to pick him up from school. (Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 28.) Chapman called his mother, Drake, using Ziogas’s phone. (Id.) Ziogas and Harris met with Chapman and told him that he was being suspended because of his arrest. (Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶¶ 25-27.) “Harris and Ziogas provided Chapman with an opportunity to explain himself or provide them with his version of events surrounding his arrest” (id. ¶ 35), but Chapman declined. (Id. ¶ 36.) When Drake arrived, approximately ten minutes after Chapman called her (id. ¶¶ 30-31), Chapman left the building and went to Drake’s car. (Id. ¶ 36 (citing Drake Depo. at 33).) Chapman believed that he was expelled from school on August 28, 2014. (Id. ¶ 40.)

         When Drake arrived, she went to Harris’s office. (Id. ¶¶ 30-31.) There, Drake met with Harris and Ziogas, along with a social worker and Mike Tripp, a WPD officer assigned to Crosby as a school resource officer. (Id. ¶¶ 37, 42; Drake Depo. at 33.) “Harris told Drake that Chapman was being suspended for ten days due to his arrest and provided her with a Waterbury Public Schools ‘policy and procedure handout.’” (Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 32.) Harris also told Drake that there would be a hearing to determine whether Chapman would be expelled (id. ¶ 33), and that Harris would ask that Chapman not be expelled. (Id. ¶ 34.) Drake’s meeting with Harris and Ziogas lasted about 20 minutes (id. ¶ 37 (citing Drake Depo. at 33)), and “was not confrontational or hostile.” (Id. ¶ 38 (citing Ziogas Aff. at ¶ 14; Harris Aff. ¶ 6).) Drake met with Harris, Ziogas, and possibly Tripp again on the following day, August 29, 2014, for approximately twenty minutes. (Id. ¶¶ 41-43.) “Following the August 29, 2014 meeting, Drake’s only interaction with anyone at Crosby from August 29, 2014 to September 11, 2014 was to pick up and hand in the Plaintiff’s schoolwork every two days.” (Id. ¶ 44.)

         On August 28, 2014, Ziogas recommended that Ouellette proceed with an expulsion hearing in accordance with the WBE “Safe School and Positive Climate Handbook, Article 5, Section 4(a)(iii).” (Id. ¶ 39.) Wendy Owen, Acting Director of Special Education and Pupil Services for Waterbury Public Schools, sent a letter to Chapman and Drake informing them that an expulsion hearing would take place, and advising them that they would “receive written notification of the date, time, and place of such a hearing.” (Id. ¶ 45; Defendants’ Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (“Defs.’ Br.”) Ex. H.)

         Chapman withdrew from Waterbury Public Schools on September 15, 2014 (Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶ 46) and enrolled in Naugatuck Public Schools (id. ¶ 48), where he was scheduled to graduate in June 2015. (Id. ¶ 50.) An expulsion hearing never took place. (Id. ¶ 47.)

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate only when “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue exists as to any material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986). If the moving party carries its burden, “the opposing party must come forward with specific evidence demonstrating the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact.” Brown v. Eli Lilly & Co., 654 F.3d 347, 358 (2d Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). An issue of fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Konikoff v. Prudential Ins. Co. of America, 234 F.3d 92, 97 (2d Cir. 2000) (citation omitted). “A dispute regarding a material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Williams v. Utica Coll. of Syracuse Univ., 453 F.3d 112, 116 (2d Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). On summary judgment, a court must “construe the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the movant.” Caronia v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., 715 F.3d 417, 427 (2d Cir. 2013) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

         Although “[t]he non-moving party need not respond to the motion [for summary judgment] . . ., a non-response runs the risk of unresponded-to statements of undisputed facts proferred by the movant being deemed admitted.” Jackson v. Fed. Exp., 766 F.3d 189, 194 (2d Cir. 2014) (citations omitted). “Even when a motion for summary judgment is unopposed, the district court is not relieved of its duty to decide whether the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Vermont Teddy Bear Co. v. 1-800 Beargram Co., 373 F.3d 241, 242 (2d Cir. 2004). “Before summary judgment may be entered, the district court must ensure that each statement of material fact is ...


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