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Doe v. Tippecanoe School Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, LaFayette Division

December 14, 2017

JANE DOE, as mother and natural guardian of JANE DOE 2, Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the Court on: Defendants' Motion to Summary Judgment, filed on October 27, 2016 (DE #44); Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment against Defendant Tippecanoe School Corporation, filed on March 6, 2017 (DE #68); Defendants' Motion to Strike Certain Evidence Designated by Plaintiffs [sic] Regarding Summary Judgment, filed on May 4, 2017 (DE #78); Defendants' Motion to Limit or Exclude the Testimony of Plaintiffs' [sic] Expert Witnesses, filed on May 4, 2017 (DE #80); and Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Supplement Qualifications of Dr. Kristine Chapleau, filed on June 19, 2017 (DE #92). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment (DE #44) is GRANTED. Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment (DE #68) is DENIED AS MOOT. Defendants' motion to strike evidence (DE #78) is DENIED. Defendants' motion to limit or exclude Plaintiff's expert witnesses (DE #80) is DENIED AS MOOT. Plaintiff's motion for leave to supplement (DE #92) is DENIED AS MOOT. Plaintiff's claims for violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a), are DISMISSED. The Clerk is directed to REMAND this case to Tippecanoe Circuit Court for further proceedings.


         Jane Doe 2 (“Doe”) was a fourteen year old student at Defendant Tippecanoe School District Corporation's (“TSC”) McCutcheon High School when she first met teacher Jakob Robinson (“Robinson”) during the second semester of her freshman year. Over time, Robinson became Doe's mentor, and Doe worked as Robinson's teacher's assistant. Doe's mother Jane Doe (“Plaintiff”), school counselors and others raised concerns about Robinson's close relationship with Doe with school administrators. Beginning in late 2014, during Doe's junior year of high school, Robinson and Doe engaged in a sexual relationship for approximately three months. During that time, Robinson and Doe kept their sexual relationship a secret from Plaintiff, teachers and school administrators. Doe eventually confessed the sexual relationship. Robinson pled guilty to child seduction and is in prison.

         In July 2015, Plaintiff, as natural guardian of Doe, filed a lawsuit in Tippecanoe Circuit Court against TSC and high school administrators John Beeker and Fred Roop (together, “Defendants”). Defendants removed the case to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Lafayette Division. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (“Complaint”) alleges a state law claim of negligence, and violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”), 20 U.S.C. §1681(a). Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims (DE #44). Plaintiff filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of contributory negligence (DE #68). Defendants filed a motion to strike portions of Plaintiff's evidence (DE #78), and a motion to limit or exclude Plaintiff's expert witnesses (DE #80). Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to supplement an expert's qualifications (DE #92). All five motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for adjudication.


         Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Evidence

         Defendants move to strike certain portions of Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts as being impermissible legal conclusions, irrelevant, and based on speculation. “Motions to strike are heavily disfavored, and usually only granted in circumstances where the contested evidence causes prejudice to the moving party.” The Cincinnati Ins. Co. v. Lennox Industs., Inc., No. 3:14-CV-1731, 2016 WL 495600, at *4 (N.D. Ind. Feb. 9, 2016) (citing Kuntzman v. Wal-Mart, 673 F.Supp.2d 690, 695 (N.D. Ind. 2009), and Gaskin v. Sharp Elec. Corp., No. 2:05-CV-303, 2007 WL 2228594, at *1 (N.D. Ind. July 30, 2007)). Furthermore, “[i]t is the function of the Court, with or without a motion to strike, to carefully review the evidence and to eliminate from consideration any argument, conclusions, and assertions unsupported by the documented evidence of record offered in support of the statement.” Davis v. Munster Med. Research Found., Inc., 213 F.Supp.3d 1074, 1083 (N.D. Ind. 2016) (citations omitted). The Court has sifted through the voluminous evidence and has considered it under the applicable federal rules, giving each piece the credit to which it is due. Accordingly, the Court denies the motion to strike (DE #78) as unnecessary.

         Undisputed Facts

         TSC operates McCutcheon High School (“McCutcheon”). Defendant John Beeker (“Beeker”) has been the principal at McCutcheon since 2002. Beeker considers himself to be in a “[f]raternity” with the teachers at McCutcheon. (DE #70-2 at 3-4.) During the time period at issue, McCutcheon had four assistant principals, including Jake Burton (“Burton”), Michael Lowrey (“Lowrey”), and Defendant Fred Roop (“Roop”). These administrators are in charge of evaluating teachers. TSC has a sexual harassment policy, and expects its administrators to look into improper teacher-student relationships.

         Doe began attending McCutcheon as a freshman in 2012-13. At that time, Robinson was a physical education (“PE”) teacher and assistant football coach at McCutcheon. Doe met Robinson during the second semester of her freshman year, when he taught her PE class. Doe testified that she and Robinson “would talk a lot and . . . joke around” while in Robinson's class. (DE #45-7 at 2.) Doe confided to Robinson about family problems at home, after which he gave her a hug and told her that “he was always going to be there” for her. (Id.) According to Doe, she knew at that point that “he cared for me.” (Id.) At that time, Doe thought of Robinson only as a “mentor” and “father figure.” (Id. at 3.) He encouraged Doe in sports and wanted her to do her best in school. During her freshman year, Doe once went to Robinson's house to watch a football game on television, and Plaintiff knew that she Doe was going to do so. At that time, Plaintiff knew that Doe considered Robinson to be a “mentor/father figure, ” and “probably had a crush” on Robinson. (DE #45-6 at 2, 9.) Plaintiff saw Doe and Robinson interact, but never noticed Robinson ever act in a way that seemed affectionate in any way, or put her on guard, during Doe's freshman or sophomore years. (DE #45-6 at 9.)

         During the first semester of Doe's sophomore year, Doe worked as a teacher's assistant (“TA”) for Robinson. Robinson and she began hugging almost daily, but always when the two were alone, because they “didn't want anybody to see it.” (DE #45-7 at 5.) Doe began eating lunch in the office of McCutcheon's head football coach, Ken Frauhiger (“Frauhiger”), where Frauhiger or Robinson would help her with homework. (Id.) Beeker was aware that Robinson and Doe had eaten lunch together, but did not know they did so with regularity. During passing periods, Doe would visit Robinson in the hallway where he stood with Frauhiger and Scott Muncy (“Muncy”), who was an assistant football coach and PE teacher. According to Muncy, Doe interacted with Robinson, Frauhinger and Muncy. (DE #45-9 at 2.) Robinson and Doe would engage in “silly play, ” in that Robinson would occasionally mess Doe's hair, punch her in the arm, or give her a “wet willy.” (DE #45-7 at 8; see DE #70-12 at 6). Robinson would also act this way with other students. (DE #70-12 at 6.) Frauhiger “never saw anything, ” though he noted that Doe came to talk with Robinson, Muncy and Frauhiger between every passing period. (Id. at 4.) Frauhiger spoke to Robinson about the time he spent with Doe because another teacher thought Doe was spending an excessive amount of time at PE. Frauhiger asked Robinson if he was “doing everything right and . . . being the person you're supposed to be, ” to which Robinson responded, “Absolutely, she's my daughter and you know that.” (DE #45-5 at 6.) When Doe's friends would ask Doe “what are you and Robinson, ” she would say, “he's like a dad to me.” (DE #45-7 at 5.)

         Burton saw Doe talking to all three PE teachers, but “didn't see anything that [he] thought was out of ordinary.” (DE #45-3 at 3.) Burton noted that “kids would go to different staff member's offices and eat lunch with them all the time so that wasn't anything unusual in my mind.” (Id. at 7.) Burton testified that during Doe's sophomore year, he heard that Robinson and Doe “were seeing each other more than a student/teacher relationship, ” that “they are together all the time, ” and that their relationship was “[t]oo close, ” “unusual” or “odd.” (Id. at 2-3.) Burton believes that he discussed the matter with Beeker two or three times during Doe's sophomore year. (Id. at 3.) Beeker told Burton that he had talked to Doe's mother, and that she said there was nothing to it. (Id.)

         Robinson and Doe spoke over the phone and texted each other during her sophomore year. During one phone call, Robinson told Doe that he loved her, but she understood this to be fatherly love, and she told him that she loved him like a father. (DE #45-7 at 7-8.) Doe described his texts as “flirtatious” (such as using a winky face) but not sexual. (Id. at 13.) At the end of her sophomore year and into her junior year, Robinson began to tell Doe about problems in his marriage. (Id. at 15.)

         Plaintiff testified that during Doe's sophomore year, she told Beeker that Doe “talks about [Robinson] a lot, more than an average student, I think, should talk about a teacher. But on one hand, I knew that - she liked him. You could tell that she liked him” and that he was her mentor. (DE #45-6 at 7.) She also told Beeker that Doe and Robinson were talking about Robinson's divorce. (Id. at 8.) At this point, Plaintiff did not have a concern that “there was anything going on.” (Id.) Beeker testified that Plaintiff called him to ask about Doe's role as a TA. (DE #70-2 at 2.) In response to Plaintiff's call, Beeker asked Frauhiger if he had seen Doe being late for class or “hanging around down there.” (Id.) Beeker wanted to make sure Doe was not abusing her TA position. (Id.)

         During the second semester of Doe's sophomore year, Doe met with school counselor Stephanie Rodgers (“Rodgers”). (DE #70-16 at 2.) Doe told Rodgers that she and her mother had been arguing a great deal regarding her contact with Robinson, and that she and Robinson texted each other outside of school. (Id.) Rodgers asked Doe if her conversations with Robinson ever became inappropriate, “[d]id you have a sexual conversation, or were you intimate with him in any way, ” and Doe responded no. (Id.) Thereafter, Rodgers spoke to another school counselor and Burton about her conversation with Doe. Burton asked her if she thought if there was any sexual contact between Robinson and Doe, and she responded that she did not believe that was happening. (Id. at 3.) Burton told Rodgers that he would speak with Robinson, and that Rodgers “could basically step back.” (Id.)

         In the fall of 2014 (Doe's junior year), Jennifer Smith (“Smith”) became Doe's school counselor. Smith testified that another school counselor told her that there was “talk of [Doe's] relationship with Jake [Robinson]” but she did not provide Smith with any specifics. (DE #45-11 at 4.) Doe told Smith that her mother was concerned about her relationship with Robinson, and explained that that Robinson was like a father figure to her. (Id.) Smith did not ask Doe for any specifics about her relationship with Robinson. (DE #70-18 at 5.) Smith told Burton that she had some sense of “crossing the line” in the relationship between Robinson and Doe, but did not discuss the details with him. (DE #45-3 at 6.) Burton told her that it was “I don't know how many times, let's say twentieth time I've heard this stuff. Take it to Beeker because he's involved in it and he knows. He's talked to the mom. The mom says it's ok.” (Id.) Smith passed this information along to Beeker. Beeker asked Smith if she thought “anything is going on, and at that point [she] said no.” (DE #45-11 at 4.)

         Plaintiff contacted Beeker twice during Doe's junior year regarding Doe's relationship with Robinson. She told Beeker that Robinson had discussed his marital problems with Doe, and had asked her to go to King's Island with Robinson “to help with one of his daughters;” Plaintiff had denied this request. (DE #45-6 at 11.) Beeker responded that he did not know why Robinson had asked Doe to go to King's Island, but noted that Robinson was Doe's mentor. (Id. at 12.) In a separate conversation, Plaintiff told Beeker that Robinson and Doe were having lunch together in the football office, and she wanted it to stop. (Id.) Beeker told her that “he would keep an eye on it.” (Id. at 13.) At some point months before January 2015, Beeker told Frauhiger that Plaintiff was concerned about Robinson and Doe “spending an inordinate amount of time together.” (DE #45-5 at 2.) Frauhiger testified that Beeker “asked me if there was anything inappropriate going on and I said absolutely not.” (Id. at 3.) Frauhiger told Robinson, “[d]on't do anything to get yourself in trouble, ” because Beeker had called him. (DE #70-12 at 6.)

         At the beginning of Doe's junior year, Robinson was one of Doe's teachers and she was his TA. (DE #45-7 at 15.) She would see him after every class period. (Id.) According to Doe, their hugs became more like “a boyfriend/girlfriend hug, ” but were hidden, “[u]sually in the weight room.” (Id.) In early October 2014, Robinson was absent from school for a week. After learning that Robinson was getting a divorce, Doe texted him. Robinson told her that he loved her and she was the only person he wanted to talk to. (Id. at 17.) On October 5, 2014, Doe had a friend drive her to Robinson's house. When she arrived, Robinson hugged her and cried about the breakdown of his marriage. Doe had not told Plaintiff where she was going, and left because Plaintiff kept calling her. She later returned to Robinson's house after he texted that he “needed” her, where they kissed. (Id. at 20). Robinson and Doe first had sexual intercourse in mid-October at Robinson's residence. (Id. at 21.) Doe was sixteen years old at that time. They had sexual encounters at school while behind closed doors, including in ...

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