United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
TERRENCE W. BOYLE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on defendants' motions to
dismiss. [DE 23, 25, 31]. The motions have been fully briefed
and are ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow,
defendants' motions to dismiss [DE 23, 25, 31] are
granted and plaintiffs complaint is dismissed.
2012, plaintiff, then approximately 11 or 12 years old, was
sexually abused by Ronald Olson, then a 24-year-old teacher
at Wendell Middle School in Wake County, North Carolina. [DE
1, ¶¶ 1-2]. Mr. Olson was plaintiffs sixth-grade
language arts teacher. Id. ¶ 47. Mr. Olson used
his position as plaintiffs teacher to "repeatedly
separate, isolate, and confine Plaintiff during school hours
to sexually abuse, video or photograph, and otherwise
feloniously engage in sex acts with the minor
Plaintiff." Id. ¶ 48. This continued until
Mr. Olson was arrested in October 2012. Id. ¶
70. In March 2013, Mr. Olson pleaded guilty to three felony
sex offenses and is currently serving a custodial sentence
with the North Carolina Department of Corrections.
Id. ¶ 1.
initiated this action in February 2019, within one year of
attaining the age of majority. Id. Plaintiff asserts
claims against three defendants-Sue Frederick, Teresa
Crowther, and Sandy Ormerod-who were employed by the Wake
County Board of Education ("Board of Education") as
teachers at Wendell Middle School in 2012, against the Board
of Education, and against Mary Castleberry, who was the
principal at Wendell Middle School in 2012. Id.
¶¶ 18; 42-45. Plaintiff brings claims against the
individual defendants in both their individual and their
alleges that defendants "permitted Mr. Olson to be
alone, unmonitored, and unsupervised with Plaintiff during
and outside of standard school hours," "allowed Mr.
Olson to provide Plaintiff with an iPod touch as an
enticement for Plaintiff to continue to engage in sexual
activity with Mr. Olson and as a way to communicate directly
with Plaintiff without Plaintiffs parents having access to
such communications," and "forced Plaintiff on at
least two occasions to subject himself to unsupervised
isolation with [Mr.] Olson against Plaintiffs wishes."
Id. ¶¶ 49-52. Plaintiff further alleges
that defendants "failed to provide training or
education" to help teachers "protect students
from sexual abuse, identify signs of child sexual abuse,
identify grooming behaviors of sexual predators," and
so on. Id. ¶ 57. Plaintiff claims that
defendants "knew or should have known of Mr. Olson's
egregious conduct, and failed to take action to save
Plaintiff from Mr. Olson's felonious conduct.
Id. ¶ 62. Plaintiff alleges that the Board of
Education, "by its actions and inactions, created a
climate whereby sexual misconduct was not only possible, but
was tolerated." Id. ¶ 67.
alleges that (1) the Board of Education violated Title IX, 20
U.S.C. §§ 1681, et seq.; (2) the Board of
Education violated Title IX following Mr. Olson's arrest
in October 2012; (3) the Board of Education and Ms.
Castleberry violated plaintiffs constitutional rights,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, by failing to train
Wendell Middle School's teachers; (4) Ms. Castleberry
violated plaintiffs constitutional rights, pursuant to §
1983, by failing to properly supervise the teachers; (5) Ms.
Castleberry, Ms. Crowther, Ms. Frederick, and Ms. Ormerod all
violated plaintiffs constitutional rights, pursuant to §
1983, by perpetuating a practice that enabled teachers like
Mr. Olson to remove students from school activities and spend
time alone with them; (6) defendants all violated plaintiffs
constitutional rights, pursuant to § 1983, by adopting a
"practice and de facto policy [that] directly
created the danger of improper conduct" and imposed a
"state-created danger"; (7) Ms. Castleberry, Ms.
Crowther, Ms. Frederick, and Ms. Ormerod were all grossly
negligent, and the Board of Education is vicariously liable
for their negligence; (8) the Board of Education is
vicariously liable for Mr. Olson's assaults; (9) the
Board of Education is vicariously liable for Mr. Olson's
batteries; (10) Ms. Castleberry, Ms. Crowther, Ms. Frederick,
and Ms. Ormerod intentionally inflicted emotional distress on
plaintiff; and (11) defendants negligently inflicted
emotional distress on plaintiff. Id. ¶¶
the Board of Education and defendants Castleberry, Frederick,
and Ormerod moved to dismiss plaintiffs claims against them
under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
[DE 23, 25]. The following month, defendant Crowther moved to
dismiss plaintiffs claims against her under Rule 12(b)(6).
[DE 31]. Plaintiff has responded in opposition to the motions
to dismiss. [DE 33, 34, 37].
have all moved to dismiss plaintiffs claims against them for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted
under Rule 12(b)(6). When considering a motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(6), "the court should accept as true
all well-pleaded allegations and should view the complaint in
a light most favorable to the plaintiff." Mylan
Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir.
1993). A complaint must state a claim for relief that is
facially plausible. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Facial plausibility means that the
court can "draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged," as
merely reciting the elements of a cause of action with the
support of conclusory statements does not suffice.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The Court need not accept
the plaintiffs legal conclusions drawn from the facts, nor
need it accept unwarranted inferences, unreasonable
conclusions, or arguments. Philips v. Pitt County Mem.
Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009).
Plaintiffs claims against the Wake County Board of Education
Board of Education's motion to dismiss plaintiffs claims
must be granted. First, plaintiff has failed to allege
sufficient facts to state a Title IX claim against the Board
of Education upon which relief can be granted. Sexual
harassment and sexual abuse of a student by a teacher can
constitute discrimination on the basis of sex under Title IX.
See Franklin v. Gwinnett Cty. Pub. Sch, 503 U.S. 60,
75 (1992) (sexual harassment that qualifies as sex
discrimination under Title VII also qualifies under Title
IX). "An institution can be held liable for a Title IX
violation only if 'an official who . . . has authority to
address the alleged discrimination and to institute
corrective measures . . . has actual knowledge of
discrimination in the [institution's] programs and fails
adequately to respond' or displays 'deliberate
indifference' to discrimination." Jennings v.
Univ. of N. Carolina, 482 F.3d 686, 700 (4th Cir. 2007)
(quoting Gebser v. Lago Vista Indep. Sch. Dist., 524
U.S. 274, 290 (1998)) (alterations in original). That is,
institutions like the Board of Education can only be held
liable for Title IX violations if an official with authority
to remedy the discrimination has actual knowledge that
discrimination is occurring or is deliberately indifferent to
plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts, even drawing all
reasonable inferences in his favor, to plausibly suggest that
the Board of Education had actual knowledge of Mr.
Olson's conduct or was deliberately indifferent to that
conduct. First, Ms. Castleberry, as principal of Wendell
Middle School, was not an official with authority to remedy
the discrimination that plaintiff complains of. Despite
plaintiffs suggestion that this Court ignore Fourth Circuit
precedent, Baynard v. Malone, 268 F.3d 228 (4th Cir.
2001), is controlling. In Baynard, the Fourth
Circuit determined that whether "a supervisory employee
may be viewed as the proxy of the school district depends
upon whether the district has delegated to that employee the
traditional powers of an employer." 268 F.3d at 239.
Baynard held that a school principal was not the
"functional equivalent" of the public school
district, given that state law reserved for the school board
"the power to hire, fire, transfer, or suspend
teachers." Id. Similarly, North Carolina does
not confer upon its public school principals the powers of an
employer, reserving those powers to the school board instead.
See generally N.C. Gen. Stat. §§
115C-276(j), 115C-288, 115C-299, 115C-325. If Ms. Castleberry
is not a proxy for the Board of Education such that her
actual knowledge could be imputed to the Board, then neither
are the teacher defendants.
to the extent that plaintiff attempts to state a Title IX
claim for events that occurred following Mr. Olson's
arrest, plaintiff has failed to allege that the Board of
Education took any action that discriminated against
plaintiff on the basis of his sex. Plaintiff alleges that the
Board of Education "acted with deliberate indifference
to Plaintiffs right to a safe and secure education
environment," failed to provide him with counseling and
academic support, and failed to terminate or discipline other
employees. [DE 1, ¶ 89]. But, even taking plaintiffs
allegations as true, plaintiff has not established that any
of the Board of ...