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Lee v. New Castle Community School Corporation

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

January 23, 2017

BENJAMIN LEE, and DEVON BUCK Plaintiffs,
v.
NEW CASTLE COMMUNITY SCHOOL CORPORATION, DARRELL HUGHES, GREG WOOD, and AMY BLAKE, in their individual capacities, Defendants.

          ENTRY ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, with respect to claims filed by Plaintiff Benjamin Lee (“Lee”). (Filing No. 41.) Lee alleges that he suffered harassment, discrimination, and abuse from his guidance counselor, Darrell Hughes (“Hughes”). (Filing No. 1.) In particular, Lee alleges that the Defendants Hughes, New Castle Community School Corporation (“the School Corporation”), Greg Wood (“Wood”), and Amy Blake (“Blake”) (collectively, “the Defendants”) violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”), and 20 U.S.C. § 1681 (“Title IX”) by perpetrating the abuse and/or allowing it to occur and continue. (Filing No. 1.) On March 3, 2016, the Court granted the parties' Unopposed Joint Motion for Leave to File Motion for Summary Judgment on the Statute of Limitations Issue Only. (Filing No. 35.) Thus, Defendants move for summary judgment on the basis that Lee's claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. For the following reasons, the Court DENIES the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following material facts are not necessarily objectively true; but, as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the facts are presented in the light most favorable to Lee as the non-moving party. See Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

         The School Corporation is a public school corporation located in New Castle, Indiana. (Filing No. 1 at 3.) From 1996 through 2013, the School Corporation operated an alternative school known as North Campus. (Filing No. 1 at 3.) At all relevant times, Wood and Blake served as administrators at North Campus. (Filing No. 1 at 3-4.) The School Corporation hired Hughes as a school counselor in 1998, and he remained employed there through January of 2014. (Filing No. 1 at 4.) During the spring of 2006, when he was 13 years old, Lee attended Shenandoah Middle School, a middle school within the School Corporation. (Filing No. 1 at 5.) Lee faced expulsion from that school, and Hughes encouraged and facilitated Lee's transfer to North Campus. (Filing No. 1 at 5.)

         Hughes conducted one-on-one counseling sessions with students in his office, and Lee often attended those sessions. (Filing No. 1 at 6.) During those sessions, Hughes would sometimes give Lee massages which included rubbing Lee's back, shoulders, and calves. (Filing No. 1 at 6; Filing No. 47-1 at 10.) Sometimes Hughes would touch Lee in open class settings. (Filing No. 1 at 6; Filing No. 47-1 at 14.) Hughes would often remove Lee from his classes, including Wood's class, in order to bring Lee to his office. (Filing No. 1 at 6; Filing No. 47-1 at 5.) When Lee was approximately 14 years old, Hughes began inviting Lee to his home in Muncie, Indiana. (Filing No. 1 at 6.) Hughes would offer Lee alcohol and drugs while at his home. (Filing No. 1 at 6; Filing No. 47-1 at 16-17.) Lee began selling drugs to Hughes, and the two would sometimes engage in drug use together. (Filing No. 1 at 7; Filing No. 47-1 at 13-16.) Hughes also purchased Lee a variety of clothes and shoes. (Filing No. 1 at 6.) Lee made at least ten visits to Hughes' home between the ages of 14 and 17. (Filing No. 47-1 at 16.)

         Hughes told Lee that he could help Lee pursue a career in modeling, and under the guise of creating a portfolio, Hughes took pictures of Lee wearing only underwear. (Filing No. 1 at 6; Filing No. 47-1 at 14-15.) When Lee was a junior in high school, Hughes may have attempted to fondle Lee's genitalia during one of Lee's trips to Hughes' home. (Filing No. 1 at 7; Filing No. 47-1 at 18.) During one visit, Lee awoke with his pants unbuckled and his underwear in disarray. (Filing No. 1 at 7; Filing No. 47-1 at 16-17.) Hughes also encouraged Lee to take showers at his home. (Filing No. 1 at 7; Filing No. 47-1 at 17-18.) Hughes would often be sitting at his computer while Lee showered. (Filing No. 1 at 7; Filing No. 47-1 at 18.) Eventually, Lee discovered a digital recording device in Hughes' bathroom. (Filing No. 1 at 10; Filing No. 47-1 at 24.) Lee did not return to Hughes' home after finding the recording device. (Filing No. 47-1 at 19.) Lee turned 18 on January 29, 2011. (Filing No. 56-1 at 2.)

         On January 16, 2014, Lee was told by federal and state law enforcement officials that Hughes had used a video recording device to record images of Lee while in the shower. (Filing No. 1 at 14.) Prior to receiving this information, Lee had not considered that Hughes might have retained videos and images of him in the shower. (Filing No. 1 at 14.) Lee filed this Complaint on September 23, 2015.

         On August 3, 2016, Defendants moved for summary judgment, asserting that Lee's claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary judgment is appropriate if “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 489-90 (7th Cir. 2007). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court reviews “the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Zerante, 555 F.3d at 584 (citation omitted). “However, inferences that are supported by only speculation or conjecture will not defeat a summary judgment motion.” Dorsey v. Morgan Stanley, 507 F.3d 624, 627 (7th Cir. 2007) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Additionally, “[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial.” Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490 (citation omitted). “The opposing party cannot meet this burden with conclusory statements or speculation but only with appropriate citations to relevant admissible evidence.” Sink v. Knox County Hosp., 900 F.Supp. 1065, 1072 (S.D. Ind. 1995) (citations omitted).

         “In much the same way that a court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment, nor is it permitted to conduct a paper trial on the merits of [the] claim.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001) (citations and quotation marks omitted). “[N]either the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties nor the existence of some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts is sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Chiaramonte v. Fashion Bed Grp., Inc., 129 F.3d 391, 395 (7th Cir. 1997) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendants assert that the applicable statute of limitations on Lee's claims is two years from the date that Lee's cause of action accrued. (Filing No. 43 at 8-12.) They argue that Lee's claims accrued, at the latest, in June 2011 when Lee graduated from high school, meaning that the statute of limitations expired in June of 2013. (Filing No. 43 at 14.) Because Lee did not ...


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