Wynn v. City Of Talladega Board of Education et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins on 10/9/2012. (JLC)
2012 Oct-09 AM 10:00
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
ARIEL WYNN, by and through her
next friend Regina Wynn,
) Case No.: 1:12-CV-742-VEH
CITY OF TALLADEGA BOARD
OF EDUCATION, DOUGLAS
CAMPBELL, In his official capacity )
as SUPERINTENDENT OF
TALLADEGA CITY SCHOOLS,
and Douglas Campbell in his
THIS CAUSE is before the court on the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss
(Doc. 4) (the “Motion”) for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff timely responded to
the Motion on August 28, 2012. (Doc. 8.) Defendants submitted a reply on
September 4, 2012. (Doc. 9.) The Motion is now ripe for disposition.
The court must view the factual allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable
to the plaintiff. Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 705 (11th Cir. 2010). Therefore, the court states
the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, drawing all reasonable inferences in her favor.
Factual Allegations of the Complaint
Ariel Wynn (“Wynn”), an African-American female, is a former student at
Talladega High School. She has an excellent academic record and was a member
of the National Honor Society. She served as a cheerleader and was elected by her
classmates as Miss Talladega High School. In her first eleven and a half years of
school, Wynn had a spotless disciplinary record.
That changed half-way through her senior year. On December 15, 2011,
Wynn attended a basketball game between Talladega High School and Anniston
High School. The Complaint does not disclose whether Anniston and Talladega
are “rivals.” Nor does the Complaint disclose exactly who threw the first punch or
why. But, it is clear that a brawl broke out involving students and alumni of both
schools. Wynn did not participate in the brawl, meaning she did not throw a
punch nor did she attempt to defend herself. Wynn did help a friend who was
injured in the fray.
After the brawl, a vice principal questioned Wynn. In a written statement,
Wynn denied any participation in the fight. The school principal also questioned
Wynn on January 16, 2012. She again denied any participation. The principal
then falsely told Wynn that she was on camera participating in the brawl and
insisted she admit that she participated. Wynn maintained her innocence.
Nonetheless, the principal suspended Wynn for five (5) days, gave her in-school
suspension for five (5) days, removed her title of Miss Talladega High School,
kicked her off the cheerleading squad, and put her on probation from the National
Honor Society. Wynn appealed to the Defendant Superintendent Douglass
Campbell, who affirmed her punishment. She then appealed to the Defendant, the
City of Talladega Board of Education (the “Board”).
The Board held a hearing on Wynn’s appeal on February 13, 2012. Both
sides were allowed to present witnesses but neither side was allowed to cross
examine them. The school principal testified on behalf of Superintendent
Campbell. The principal said that Wynn had admitted to someone (it is not
exactly clear who) that she participated in the brawl and that two teachers heard
Wynn admit to participating in the brawl. (Doc. 1 at 3.) Conversely, a police
officer, who was on the scene the night of December 15, 2011, testified that Wynn
was not involved in the brawl. Another student, who had admitted to participating
in the fight, testified that she was not suspended. Initially, the Board found it had
insufficient information to decide Wynn’s appeal. The Board then met privately
with Superintendent Campbell. After that meeting, the Board affirmed the
Superintendent’s decision in a three to two vote. The members who voted to
affirm are white; the members who voted to reverse are black.
Claims Asserted and Relief Sought
Wynn’s Complaint includes two (2) counts. However, Count One consists
only of factual allegations. It does not identify a claim for relief nor ask the court
to grant any relief. Therefore, the court will treat Count One as background
factual information rather than a claim for relief.
Count Two alleges the Defendants deprived Wynn of rights guaranteed by
the Fourteenth Amendment in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1985.
Specifically, Wynn alleges the Defendants denied her substantive and procedural
due process when they discussed her appeal ex parte and behind closed doors. The
Complaint also suggests that the Defendants deprived Wynn of substantive and
procedural due process when they affirmed her suspension and punishment.
Finally, the Complaint alleges that the Defendants denied Wynn equal protection
under the law because other students, who admitted their participation in the
December 15th brawl, were not suspended or disciplined as harshly as Wynn.
Wynn seeks injunctive relief as well as money damages. First, Wynn asks
this court to enjoin the Board from utilizing policies which will deprive students
of their right to an open and fair hearing. Wynn also asks this court to reinstate
her title of Miss Talladega High School, restore her to her position on the
cheerleadering squad, set aside any punishment she has received from the National
Honor Society related to the fight and suspension, and set aside her suspensions
and expunge her disciplinary record. Wynn requests money damages for her
mental and emotional distress as well as punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and
STANDARD FOR MOTION TO DISMISS
A Rule 12(b)(6) motion attacks the legal sufficiency of the complaint. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only that the
complaint provide “‘a short and plain statement of the claim’ that will give the
defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff’s claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S. Ct. 99, 103 (1957), abrogated by
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S. Ct. 1955 (2007); see also Fed. R.
Civ. P. 8(a).
While a plaintiff must provide the grounds of her entitlement to relief, Rule 8
does not mandate the inclusion of detailed factual allegations within a complaint.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Conley, 355 U.S. at 47, 78 S. Ct. 103). However,
d eman ds
the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). “[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it
may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the
complaint.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563, 127 S. Ct. at 1969.
“While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must
be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S. Ct. at 1950.
“When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity
and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id.
(emphasis added). The court therefore “accept[s] as true the facts set forth in the
complaint and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff’s favor.” Randall v.
Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 705 (11th Cir. 2010). “Under Twombly’s construction of Rule
8 . . . [a plaintiff’s] complaint [must] ‘nudge [any] claims’ . . . ‘across the line from
conceivable to plausible.’ Ibid.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680; 129 S. Ct. at 1950-51.
A claim is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. “The plausibility
standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,’ but it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (citation omitted)
To survive the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, Wynn’s Complaint must allege
facts which plausibly indicate that the Defendants violated her constitutional rights.
The Defendants contend that the facts in Wynn’s Complaint, even when viewed in
the light most favorable to her, fail to state a constitutional violation. (Doc. 5 at 18.)
Before the court can analyze whether Wynn’s Complaint properly states a claim for
a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, the court must examine Wynn’s standing
to seek some of her requested relief.
This court must sua sponte inquire into its subject matter jurisdiction whenever
it may be lacking. See Univ. of S. Ala. v. Am. Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 405, 410 (11th
Cir. 1999). Regarding mootness, the Eleventh Circuit has explained:
Article III of the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of the federal courts
to the consideration of certain “Cases” and “Controversies.” The
doctrine of mootness is derived from this limitation because an action
that is moot cannot be characterized as an active case or controversy.
“[A] case is moot when the issues presented are no longer ‘live’ or the
parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome.” Any decision
on the merits of a moot case would be an impermissible advisory
Adler v. Duval Cnty. Sch. Bd., 112 F.3d 1475, 1477 (11th Cir. 1997) (citations
omitted). In her Complaint, Wynn seeks a prospective injunction prohibiting the
Board from “utilizing policies which will abrogate the rights of students coming
before it from receiving fair and impartial hearings when they come before them.”
(Doc. 1 at 5.) However, Wynn graduated from high school in May 2012.
Therefore, she no longer has a legally cognizable interest in the policies the Board
uses for its students. Adler, 122 F.3d at 1447. Wynn essentially concedes this
issue in her Response to the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 8 at 5–6.)
Similarly, because Wynn is no longer a student at Talladega High School, the
court cannot reinstate her to the cheerleading squad or any other extracurricular
activities. Therefore, to the extent Wynn’s claims request an injunction
prohibiting the Board from utilizing policies which will result in unfair and
impartial hearings, her claims are MOOT. To the extent Wynn’s claims request
her reinstatement to the cheerleading squad and extracurricular activities, her
claims are also MOOT.
Substantive Due Process
The Substantive Due Process Clause2 of the Fourteenth Amendment
“protects individual liberty against certain government actions regardless of the
fairness of the procedures used to implement them.” Collins v. City of Harker
Heights, Tex., 503 U.S. 115, 125, 112 S. Ct. 1061, 1068 (1992) (internal quotation
marks omitted). The Clause limits a state’s power to abridge those rights which
are “fundamental, that is, . . . implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.” Lewis v.
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects both substantive and
procedural rights. The text of the Constitution does not distinguish between “substantive” and
“procedural” Due Process. However, because this case involves both concepts, and because both
concepts are distinct, the court will reference the substantive component of the Due Process
Clause as the “Substantive Due Process Clause” and the procedural component of the Due
Process Clause as the “Procedural Due Process Clause.”
Brown, 409 F.3d 1271, 1272–73 (11th Cir. 2005) (citations and internal quotation
marks omitted). Fundamental rights include those rights incorporated from the
Bill of Rights as well as certain nontextual but implicit rights. See Erwin
Chemerinsky, Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies 513, 813 (4th ed.
2011). Additionally, the Substantive Due Process Clause protects against the
wholly arbitrary abuse of government power. See County of Sacramento v. Lewis,
523 U.S. 833, 845–46, 118 S. Ct. 1708, 1716 (1998). “[O]nly the most egregious
official conduct can be said to be arbitrary in the constitutional sense,” Id.
(citation and internal quotations marks omitted). The official conduct must “shock
the conscience” or violate the “decencies of civilized conduct.” Id. at 846.
Because fundamental rights derive directly from the Constitution, the
Eleventh Circuit has said that:
areas in which substantive rights are created only by state law (as is the case
with tort law and employment law) are not subject to substantive due
process protection . . . .
Lewis, 409 F.3d at 1272–73 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see
also Greenbriar Vill., L.L.C. v. Mountain Brook, City, 345 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th
Cir. 2003) (“[N]on-legislative deprivations of state-created rights . . . cannot
support a substantive due process claim, not even if the plaintiff alleges that the
government acted arbitrar[ily] and irrationally.”) (citation omitted).
The Complaint alleges two potential deprivations of Wynn’s constitutional
rights: (1) the Board’s ex parte, closed door meeting with Superintendent
Campbell (the “Opening Meeting Violation”) which denied Wynn an open
meeting; and (2) the Defendant’s decision to affirm her suspension (the
“Suspension Violation”) which denied Wynn the opportunity to attend Talladega
High School. The court will address each in turn.
The Open Meeting Violation
To state a substantive due process claim for the Opening Meeting Violation,
Wynn must have a constitutional right to an open meeting. Wynn’s Complaint
does not identify the source of her right to an open meeting. The Bill of Rights
does not guarantee a right to an open meeting, and therefore, this right is not an
incorporated one. And, neither the Supreme Court nor the Eleventh Circuit has
recognized a nontextual constitutional right to an open meeting. Thus, the Court
declines to find, in the first instance, that such a right is “implicit in the concept of
In her Response to the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 8), Wynn
points to the Alabama Opening Meetings Act, Ala. Code § 36-25A-1 (1975) (the
“Act”), as the source of her right to an open meeting. The Act prohibits a state
governmental body from holding an executive session3 for any reason, other than
those enumerated in the Act. See Ala. Code § 36-25A-7(a). Wynn contends that
the Board’s meeting with Campbell was an unauthorized executive session.
Assuming without deciding that Wynn’s complaint alleges a violation of the
Act, Wynn’s Substantive Due Process Claim based on this violation must fail.
The Act creates a state-substantive right to an open meeting. Because this right is
created solely by state law, it is not protected by the Substantive Due Process
Clause under binding authority from the Eleventh Circuit. See Lewis, 409 F.3d at
The Eleventh Circuit does recognize an exception to the general rule that
state-created rights are not protected by the Substantive Due Process Clause. The
The Act defines an executive session as “[t]hat portion of a meeting of a governmental
body from which the public is excluded for one or more of the reasons prescribed in Section 3625A-7(a).” Ala. Code § 36-25A-2(2). Section 36-25A-7 permits a governmental body to hold an
executive session for, among other reasons:
To deliberate and discuss evidence or testimony presented during a public or contested
case hearing and vote upon the outcome of the proceeding or hearing if the governmental
body is acting in the capacity of a quasi-judicial body, and either votes upon its decision
in an open meeting or issues a written decision which may be appealed to a hearing
officer, an administrative board, court, or other body which has the authority to conduct a
hearing or appeal of the matter which is open to the public.
Ala. Code § 36-25A-7(a)(9).
Legislative Exception holds that “[w]here an individual’s state-created rights are
infringed by ‘legislative act,’ the substantive component of the Due Process
Clause generally protects [the individual] from arbitrary and irrational action by
the government.” Lewis, 409 F.3d at 1273. To qualify for this exception, the state
actor’s decision must be a legislative act. Id. Non-legislative deprivations of a
state created right “cannot support a due process claim.” Id.
The Eleventh Circuit’s has characterized legislative acts as: “apply[ing] to
larger segments of-if not all of-society; laws and broad-ranging executive
regulations are the most common examples.” Lewis, 409 F.3d at 1273. Executive
acts, on the other hand, typically, “apply to a limited numbers of persons (and
often to only one person); executive acts . . . arise from the ministerial or
administrative activities of members of the executive branch. The most common
examples are employment terminations.” Id.
After careful consideration, the court finds that the Board’s decision to enter
executive session was an executive act. First, even assuming the Board decided to
hold an improper executive session on February 13, 2012, the decision to hold an
executive session applied only to Wynn’s case. The Board did not adopt a new
rule or policy which applied broadly and prospectively. See McKinney v. Pate, 20
F.3d 1550, 1557 n.9 (11th Cir. 1994). Thus, the Board’s decision was more akin
to an employment termination decision or an administrative act rather than a
broad-reaching executive regulation. Moreover, Wynn contends that the Board
was acting in a quasi-judicial role when it decided her appeal. (See Doc. 8 at 3.)
Therefore, because the Board’s decision to go into executive session was not a
legislative act, this exception does not apply to Wynn.
Finally, the Complaint does not allege an abuse of official power which is
sufficiently egregious to be arbitrary in the constitutional sense. Wynn alleges that
the Board improperly excluded her (and the public) from a meeting with
Superintendent Campbell, and that, while behind closed doors, Campell convinced
the Board to affirm Wynn’s suspension. These facts do not shock the conscience
or violate the decencies of civilized conduct. Wynn does not allege the Board
colluded with Campbell to go into executive session. Nor does she allege facts
which show the Board had an unconstitutional reason for going into executive
session. In fact, the Complaint necessarily implies the Board had not yet decided
Wynn’s fate at the time it entered executive session. (See Doc. 1 at 4) (asserting
that Campbell “was allowed outside the presence of Plaintiff and counsel to
persuade Board member to change their votes”) (emphasis added).
Wynn implies that the Board’s vote on her suspension discriminated against
her on account of her race. (Doc. 1 at 4, ¶ 31.) However, Wynn has not alleged
facts showing the Board denied Wynn an open meeting on account of her race.
Moreover, Alabama citizens can challenge violations of the Act in court.
See Ala. Code § 36-25-9. The Act establishes procedures for these challenges, and
authorizes a court to set aside any decision of a governmental body made while in
violation of the Act. Although the availability of postdeprivation procedures
primarily concerns procedural due process, the court finds their availability further
underscores that the Board decision was not arbitrary in the constitutional sense.
If a governmental body errs in entering executive session, the aggrieved citizen
can vindicate her rights in court. Therefore, the Board decision does not “shock
the conscience” such that it violated Wynn’s rights under the Substantive Due
For the foregoing reasons, Wynn’s Complaint fails to allege sufficient facts
to show a constitutional violation relating to the Open Meeting Violation.
Therefore, Wynn’s substantive due process claim related to the Open Meeting
Violation is due to be DISMISSED.
The Suspension Violation
Turning next to Wynn’s suspension, it is well settled that “[t]he right to
attend a public school is a state-created, rather than a fundamental, right for the
purposes of substantive due process.” C.B. ex rel. Breeding v. Driscoll, 82 F.3d
383, 387 (11th Cir. 1996) (citing Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 221, 102 S.Ct. 2382,
2396 (1982)). Thus, the Defendants’ decisions to affirm Wynn’s suspension and
punishment did not deprive her of a fundamental right. Wynn’s substantive due
process claim based on the Suspension Violation is, therefore, due to be
Procedural Due Process
To state a claim for a violation of the Procedural Due Process Clause, a
plaintiff must show that (1) the defendant deprived her of life, liberty, or property
interest (2) without the process required by the Constitution. See Barnes v.
Zaccari, 669 F.3d 1295, 1303 (11th Cir. 2012). The property interests protected
by this Clause do not arise directly from the Constitution but from an independent
source such as state law. See id. (citing Perry v. Sindermann, 408 U.S. 593, 602
n.7, 92 S. Ct. 2694, 2700 n.7 (1972)). The Defendants do not seriously dispute
that Wynn has a protected property interest in her right to an opening meeting
under the Act. (Doc. 9 at 3.) And, it is well settled that Wynn’s right to attend
Talladega High School is a protected property interest. See, e.g., Goss v. Lopez,
419 U.S. 565, 574, 95 S. Ct. 729, 736 (1975); Barnes, 669 F.3d at 1305; Dixon v.
Ala. State Bd. of Educ., 294 F.2d 150, 157 (5th Cir. 1961). Therefore, the court
will turn to whether Wynn received the process required by the Procedural Due
The process required varies depending on the “time, place and
circumstances.” Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 334, 96 S. Ct. 893, 902
(1976) (citation omitted). In Mathews v. Eldridge, the Supreme Court adopted a
three-factor balancing test to determine what process is due in a particular
situation. This test weighs (1) the private interest affected by the official action;
(2) the risk of an erroneous deprivation through the procedures used, and (3) the
burden the government would face from additional or substitute procedures. Id. at
335, at 903. Although a predeprivation hearing is preferred, the Supreme Court
and the Eleventh Circuit both recognize predeprivation process is sometimes
impractical or impossible. See, e.g., McKinney, 20 F.3d at 1562–63; see also
Tinney v. Shores, 77 F.3d 378, 382 (11th Cir. 1996). In such instances, the
availability of an adequate postdeprivation remedy will satisfy the requirements of
the Procedural Due Process Clause. See McKinney, 20 F.3d at 1562–63 (stating
that when predeprivation process is impossible or impracticable, then due process
is satisfied by adequate postdeprivation remedies); Tinney, 77 F.3d at 382.
Because the postdeprivation remedy affords a plaintiff constitutionally adequate
process, the deprivation does not amount to a violation of the Procedural Due
Process Clause. See Tinney, 77 F.3d at 382 (“The state’s action is not complete
unless and until it refuses to provide a post-deprivation remedy.”)
1. The Open Meeting Violation
As described above in § III.B.2, the Act prohibits a state governmental body
from holding an executive session except for one of several enumerated reasons.
See Ala. Code § 36-25A-7(a). The Defendants seem to admit that the facts, as
stated in the Complaint, allege an arguable violation of the Act. (Doc. 9 at 3.)
However, Defendants contend that, even if the Board violated the Act, no due
process violation occurred because Wynn had a constitutionally adequate
postdeprivation remedy for the violation.
The court agrees with the Defendants. The rule in McKinney v. Pate and
Tinney v. Shores controls here. These cases hold that, when predeprivation
process is impractical or impossible, adequate postdeprivation remedies will
satisfy the requirements of the Due Process Clause. Here, the court finds that
predeprivation process is impractical for three reasons. First, the state cannot
predict in advance when and how a governmental body will violate the Open
Meetings Act. The state cannot police every meeting of a governmental body.
Nor can the state feasibly authorize each and every executive session. Second,
requiring predeprivation process in this situation could paralyze the government’s
ability to function. Officials might avoid entering an executive session lest they
violate the Constitution, yet at the same time, refrain from addressing issues which
they do not want discussed in public. Third, the private interest at issue is a
citizen’s right to a transparent government. See Ala. Code § 36-25A-9. An
individual suffers little personal harm from an erroneous deprivation. Moreover,
public officials have incentives other than the Open Meetings Act which
encourages them to avoid unauthorized executive sessions.
Having concluded that a predeprivation hearing is impractical or impossible
in this situation, the court finds that Wynn’s postdeprivation remedies are
adequate. See Ala. Code § 36-25A-9 (describing procedures to remedy violations
of the Act). For example, any citizen may challenge a violation of the Act. Ala.
Code § 36-25A-9(a) If a court finds a violation, it can invalidate any official
action taken in violation of the Act and fine the officials responsible. §§ 36-25A9(f) & (g). The Act also prohibits the governmental body from paying the fine or
reimbursing the official the cost. Ala. Code § 36-25A-9(g). The court concludes
these procedures are adequate to vindicate a plaintiff’s right to an open meeting
under the Act.
For the foregoing reasons, the court finds that Wynn’s Complaint fails to
state a procedural due process claim for a violation of the Open Meetings Act.
Therefore, Wynn’s procedural due process claim as it relates to the Open Meeting
Violation is due to be DISMISSED.
The Suspension Violation
Defendants admit that procedural due process required them to provide
Wynn constitutionally adequate notice and a hearing before they suspended her.
Doc. 5 at 4; see also Barnes v. Zaccari, 669 F.3d 1295, 1305 (11th Cir. 2012).
However, Defendants contend that Wynn received all the process she was due
under the Constitution. In Goss v. Lopez, the United States Supreme Court
established the process due a student facing a short term suspension:
. . . [D]ue process requires, in connection with a suspension of 10 days or
less, that the student be given oral or written notice of the charges against
him and, if he denies them, an explanation of the evidence the authorities
have and an opportunity to present his side of the story. . . .
There need be no delay between the time ‘notice’ is given and the
time of the hearing. In the great majority of cases the disciplinarian may
informally discuss the alleged misconduct with the student minutes after it
has occurred. We hold only that, in being given an opportunity to explain
his version of the facts at this discussion, the student first be told what he is
accused of doing and what the basis of the accusation is.
419 U.S. 565, 581–82, 95 S. Ct. 729, 740 (1975) (emphasis added); see also
Driscoll, 82 F.3d at 387 n.3. Even if the court aggregates Wynn’s five (5) day outof-school suspension and her five (5) day in-school suspension, the total time
amounts to only ten (10) days. Therefore, Goss is on point.
Goss does not require elaborate procedures before school officials may
suspend a student. It only requires that the student receive notice of the charges,
the basis for them, and an “opportunity to explain [her] version of the facts.”
Goss, 419 U.S. at 582, 95 S. Ct. at 740. The Complaint clearly alleges that Wynn
received notice of the charges and an opportunity to explain herself before she was
suspended. (Doc. 1 at 2.) Therefore, Wynn received all the process required by
the United States Constitution.
Of course, schools are free to afford students more process than is
constitutionally required. For instance, if a state-supported school promises
students additional procedural protections prior to a suspension (either through a
student handbook or otherwise) and the student has a legitimate claim of
entitlement to those procedural protections, then the state can violate the
Procedural Due Process Clause when it fails to follow these additional (but not
constitutionally required) procedures. See, e.g., Barnes, 669 F.3d at 1303–05
(holding that a student code of conduct created a legitimate claim of entitlement to
certain procedures before a student is suspended or expelled).
In this case, Wynn’s Complaint does not allege she has a legitimate claim of
entitlement to additional procedures not guaranteed by the Constitution. Wynn
has not attached a copy of Talladega High School’s procedures for student
suspensions. Nor did she attach a copy of the Board’s procedures for hearings or
appeals of student disciplinary decisions.
For the foregoing reasons, Wynn has not alleged facts establishing that the
Defendants violated her rights under the Procedural Due Process Clause when
they affirmed her suspension. Therefore, Wynn’s procedural due process claim
related to the Suspension Violation is due to be DISMISSED.
The Supreme Court has long recognized “equal protection claims brought
by a ‘class of one,’ where the plaintiff alleges that she has been intentionally
treated differently from others similarly situated and that there is no rational basis
for the difference in treatment.” Vill. of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564,
120 S. Ct. 1073, 1074 (2000). To prevail on a “class of one,” selectiveenforcement claim, a plaintiff must show (1) she was treated differently from other
similarly situated persons, and (2) the Defendant treated the plaintiff differently
for an unconstitutional reason. See Campbell v. Rainbow City, Ala., 434 F.3d
1306, 1314 (11th Cir. 2006); Strickland v. Alderman, 74 F.3d 260, 264 (11th Cir.
1996). To be similarly situated, individuals must be similar in all material
respects. See Racine Charter One, Inc. v. Racine Unified Sch. Dist., 424 F.3d 677,
680 (7th Cir. 2005) (“To be considered ‘similarly situated,’ comparators must be
‘prima facie identical in all relevant respects.’”(citations omitted)). “Indeed, [i]t
is clear that similarly situated individuals must be very similar indeed.” Id.
Wynn contends that she was suspended while other students, who admitted
to participating in the brawl, were not suspended. Yet, her Complaint fails to
allege facts showing she was treated differently from a similarly situated student.
The Complaint alleges that students who admitted to participating in the brawl
were not disciplined. But, these students are not similarly situated to Wynn. See
Davis v. Houston Cnty., Ala. Bd. of Educ., 291 F. App’x 251, 252 (11th Cir. 2008)
(unpublished); Roy v. Fulton Cnty. Sch. Dist., 288 F. App’x 686, 688 (11th Cir.
2008) (unpublished). These student admitted to participating in the fight while
Wynn has consistently denied any participation.
Wynn’s Complaint alleges that she presented the Board with significant
evidence that she did not participate in the December 15 brawl. But, the court is
not reviewing whether the Superintendent or the Board made the right decision in
affirming Wynn’s discipline. The court is deciding whether Wynn’s Complaint
states a claim for which the court can grant relief. See Craig v. Selma City Sch.
Bd., 801 F.Supp. 585, 594 (S.D.Ala. 1992). Therefore, the question of whether or
not Wynn actually participated in the December 15 brawl is irrelevant to the
court’s legal analysis of this claim.
Because Wynn’s Complaint fails to state a claim under the Equal Protection
Clause, this claim is due to be DISMISSED.
For the forgoing reasons, to the extent Wynn seeks an injunction against the
Board and her reinstatement to the cheerleading squad, Wynn’s claims are
MOOT. Wynn’s remaining claims fail to state a claim for which this court can
grant relief. Therefore, the Defendants’ Motion (Doc. 4) is due to be, and hereby
is, GRANTED. Accordingly, Wynn’s remaining claims are hereby DISMISSED
DONE and ORDERED this 9th day of October, 2012.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS
United States District Judge
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