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Jensen v. Indianapolis Public Schools

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

August 8, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS PUBLIC SCHOOLS, BOARD OF SCHOOL COMMISSIONERS FOR THE CITY OF INDIANAPOLIS, MARY SULLIVAN, individually and in her official capacity, SAM ODLE, individually and in his official capacity, LANIER ECHOLS, individually and in her official capacity, MICHAEL O'CONNOR, individually and in his official capacity, GAYLE COSBY, individually and in her official capacity, KELLY BENTLEY, individually and in her official capacity, DIANE ARNOLD, individually and in her official capacity, LEWIS D. FEREBEE, individually and in his official capacity, WANDA LEGRAND, individually and in her official capacity, LE BOLER individually and in her official capacity, SHALON DABNEY, individually and in her official capacity, and LELA TINA HESTER, individually and in her official capacity, Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Indianapolis Public School (“IPS”), Board of School Commissioners for the City of Indianapolis (“the Board”), Mary Ann Sullivan (“Sullivan”), Sam Odle (“Odle”), Lanier Echols (“Echols”), Michael O'Connor (“O'Connor”), Gayle Cosby (“Cosby”), Kelly Bentley (“Bentley”), Diane Arnold (“Arnold”), Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee (“Dr. Ferebee”), Le Boler (“Boler”), Dr. Wanda Legrand (“ Dr. Legrand”), Shalon Dabney (“Dabney”), and Lela Tina Hester's (“Hester”) (collectively, “Defendants”) Rule 72(A) Objection to Order on Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Complaint. (Filing No. 109.) Plaintiff William W. Jensen (“Jensen”) sought the Court's leave to add additional Defendants, Dr. Ferebee, Dr. Legrand, Dabney, Hester, and Boler, (collectively, “Newly Added Defendants”), to his Complaint.[1] Also before the Court is Defendants Motion for Extension of Time to Respond to Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint. (Filing No. 111). For the reasons that follow below, the Court grants the request for extension of time and overrules in part and sustains in part Defendants' objection to the Magistrate Judge's decision.


         A district court may refer for decision a non-dispositive pretrial motion to a magistrate judge under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a). Rule 72(a) provides:

When a pretrial matter not dispositive of a party's claim or defense is referred to a magistrate judge to hear and decide, the magistrate judge must promptly conduct the required proceedings and, when appropriate, issue a written order stating the decision. A party may serve and file objections to the order within 14 days after being served with a copy. A party may not assign as error a defect in the order not timely objected to. The district judge in the case must consider timely objections and modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law.

         After reviewing objections to a magistrate judge's order, the district court will modify or set aside the order only if it is clearly erroneous or contrary to law. The clear error standard is highly deferential, permitting reversal only when the district court “is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.” Weeks v. Samsung Heavy Indus. Co., Ltd., 126 F.3d 926, 943 (7th Cir. 1997).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1) allows a party to amend its pleading once as a matter of course within twenty-one days after serving it, or “if the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is required, 21 days after service of a responsive pleading or 21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b).” After a responsive pleading has been filed and twenty-one days have passed, “a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave. The court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 15(a)(2). The rule, however, “do[es] not mandate that leave be granted in every case. In particular, a district court may deny a plaintiff leave to amend his complaint if there is undue delay, bad faith[, ] or dilatory motive . . . [, or] undue prejudice . . ., [or] futility of amendment.” Park v. City of Chicago, 297 F.3d 606, 612 (7th Cir. 2002) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). A proposed amendment is futile if it “fails to cure the deficiencies in the original pleading, or could not survive a [] motion to dismiss.” Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 472 (7th Cir. 1991). “Whether to grant or deny leave to amend is within the district court's discretion.” Campbell v. Ingersoll Milling Machine Co., 893 F.2d 925, 927 (7th Cir. 1990).


         Jensen instituted this lawsuit following his termination from IPS, alleging violations of procedural and substantive due process rights under both federal and state law. (Filing No. 1.) In 2016, Jensen's most recent title with IPS was Assistant Principal of Longfellow Alternative School (“Longfellow”). Id. at 5. On February 17, 2016, a parent reported an inappropriate sexual relationship (“the Taylor Relationship”) between a student and Longfellow employee and counselor, Shana Taylor (“Taylor”) to Jensen. Id. at 8. After receiving this information, Jensen contacted his supervisor, Deborah Leser (“Leser”), then the Director of Student Services. Id. at 9. Leser directed Jensen to contact Hester, the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources. The very same day, IPS Superintendent, Dr. Ferebee, also learned of at least an inappropriate relationship between Taylor and the student. Hester advised Jensen not to contact the police, and assigned Dabney to investigate.

         On February 23, 2016, Dabney told Mark Cosand (“Cosand”) to report the relationship to Child Protective Services (“CPS”), which Cosand reported the very same day. Id. On March 2, 2016, the “Shana Taylor story” became public. Thereafter, IPS attorney David Given (“Given”) interviewed Leser, as well as others including: Jensen, Cosand, Dabney and Hester. Given explained that his goal was to gather facts regarding the complaint made against Taylor. Dr. Ferebee also conducted interviews. On March 7, 2016, Jensen was suspended from his job duties. Id. at 13. Jensen was scheduled for a hearing on Monday, April 11, 2016; however, IPS abruptly cancelled the hearing on Friday, April 8, 2016, after Jensen's counsel inquired about the conference. Id. at 9-10. Hester and Dabney were criminally charged with failure to make a report on April 12, 2016. No criminal charges were filed against Jensen. On May 31, 2016, Jensen received a letter notifying him that his contract was being terminated by IPS. Id. at 18. On June 23, 2016, a hearing was held before the Board and, on June 30, 2016, the Board unanimously voted to cancel Jensen's employment contracts based on insubordination and neglect of duty.

         Jensen initiated this action on July 29, 2016 alleging the Defendants denied him due process. Specifically, Jensen alleges: 1) Count I-Defendants failed to reschedule the hearing, despite his inability to attend; 2) Count II-Defendants failed to provide proper notice of his alleged wrongdoing prior to the June 23, 2016 hearing before the Board; 3) Count III-Attorney Given and Dr. Ferebee failed to advise him of his Garrity rights prior to interviewing him; 4) Count IV-Defendants' decision to terminate him was arbitrary and capricious; and 5) Count V-the Court should review the decision to terminate Jensen and grant relief to him pursuant to Indiana Code § 4-21.5-5-14. (Filing No. 1.) On July 28, 2017, this Court disposed of Count I (to the extent that it relates to the Board's failure to reschedule Jensen's hearing) and Count II of Jensen's Complaint, regarding deprivation of his Garrity rights. (Filing No. 52 at 13-14.) The Court further determined that, at this early stage in the litigation, Defendants' qualified immunity claim was not yet ripe, due to a lack of information before the Court.[2]

         On December 28, 2017, the deadline to amend the pleadings and/or join additional parties, Jensen filed a Motion to Amend/Correct the Complaint, on the basis of newly discovered information that implicated the proposed Newly Added Defendants. (Filing No. 69 at 2.) Jensen's Motion to Amend his initial Complaint sought to add seven additional defendants: Jonathan Mayes (“Mayes”), Given, Dr. Ferebee, Boler, Dr. Legrand, Hester, and Dabney. On May 31, 2018, Magistrate Judge Doris L. Pryor (the “Magistrate Judge”) granted the Motion to add Boler, Dr. Legrand, Hester, Dabney, and Dr. Ferebee, as defendants. (Filing No. 105.) Although Jensen's Motion to Amend sought to add the Newly Added Defendants to multiple Counts, the Magistrate Judge granted the Motion to add Boler, Dr. Legrand, Hester, Dabney, and Dr. Ferebee, to only Counts III and IV of Complaint; counts that allege under federal and state law the Defendants arbitrarily and capriciously made the decision to terminate Jensen's teaching and administrative assignments. Id. at 9-10. On June 14, 2018, Defendants filed an objection the Magistrate Judge's Order. (Filing No. 109.)


         A. The Magistrate ...

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