Garedakis v. Brentwood Union School District

Filing 69

ORDER by Judge Hamilton denying 42 Motion to Strike ; granting 44 Motion to Dismiss; granting 48 Motion for Joinder; granting 49 Motion for Joinder (pjhlc1, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/22/2015)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 8 9 MICHAEL GAREDAKIS, et al., Plaintiffs, No. C 14-4799 PJH 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 v. ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS; ORDER DENYING MOTION TO STRIKE 12 13 BRENTWOOD UNION SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., 14 Defendants. _______________________________/ 15 16 Defendants' motion to dismiss the first cause of action alleged in the second 17 amended complaint ("SAC"), and to strike certain allegations in the SAC, came on for 18 hearing before this court on April 8, 2015. Plaintiffs appeared by their counsel Todd Boley 19 and Zoya Yarnyka; defendant Dina Holder appeared by her counsel Eric Bengston; and the 20 remaining defendants appeared by their counsel Christopher Vincent. Having read the 21 parties' papers and carefully considered their arguments and the relevant legal authority, 22 the court hereby GRANTS the motion to dismiss and DENIES the motion to strike. 23 BACKGROUND 24 Plaintiffs are six minors who were formerly enrolled at Loma Vista Elementary 25 School ("Loma Vista") and/or Kray Elementary School ("Kray"), within the Brentwood Union 26 School District ("BUSD") in Brentwood, California, and their guardians ad litem and parents. 27 Listed as plaintiffs in the SAC are Michael Garedakis, Tamara Garedakis, and M.G., a 28 minor by and through his guardian ad litem Michael Garedakis; Yolanda Jackson and A.G., 1 a minor by and through her guardian ad litem Yolanda Jackson; Lawrence Gullo, Danielle 2 Gullo, and B.G., a minor, by and through his guardian ad litem Danielle Gullo; Kathryn 3 McGuire and M.R., a minor, by and through his guardian ad litem Kathryn McGuire; Viviana 4 Rose and B.R., a minor, by and through his guardian ad litem Viviana Rose; and Ahmad 5 Razaqi, Dania Razaqi, and E.R., a minor, by and through his guardian ad litem Dania 6 Razaqi. teacher at Loma Vista until May 2010, and then at Kray); Lauri James ("James" – former 9 principal of Loma Vista); Jean Anthony ("Anthony" – former Director of Special Education at 10 BUSD); Margo Olson ("Olson" – Director of Special Education and Interventions at BUSD); 11 For the Northern District of California Defendants are BUSD, Dina Holder ("Holder" – formerly employed by BUSD as a 8 United States District Court 7 Margaret Kruse ("Kruse" – Assistant Superintendent at BUSD); Merrill Grant ("Grant" – 12 former Superintendent at BUSD); and Brian Jones ("Jones" – principal of Kray). 13 Plaintiffs allege that Holder subjected the minor plaintiffs – each of whom has been 14 diagnosed with autism, Down's syndrome, or some other developmental disorder – to 15 verbal and physical abuse while they were in her classroom. At the time of the alleged 16 abuse, the minor plaintiffs ranged in age from three to about six years. Some were 17 nonverbal and all had difficulties with communication. 18 Holder was a special education teacher in BUSD schools from 1996 to 2012. 19 Plaintiffs assert that as early as 2008, defendants James, Jones, Olson, Anthony, Kruse, 20 and Grant were aware that Holder was subjecting students in her classrooms to physical 21 and verbal abuse. Holder eventually resigned from BUSD as part of terms of a settlement 22 reached in a lawsuit filed in this court, Phelan v. Holder, C-12-0465 LB (N.D. Cal.) ("the 23 Phelan action"). Holder's teaching credentials were revoked by the California Commission 24 on Teacher Credentialing in February 2013. 25 Plaintiffs filed the original complaint in this case on October 28, 2014. On December 26 15, 2014, plaintiffs filed the first amended complaint ("FAC") pursuant to stipulation. On 27 January 30, 2015, plaintiffs filed the second amended complaint ("SAC"), apparently 28 pursuant to an informal agreement among the parties. 2 1 The SAC includes a lengthy account of a series of incidents involving special 2 education students during the period 2008-2010, including allegations regarding three 3 students who are not plaintiffs in the present lawsuit – LL, who was a student in Holder's 4 class during the 2007-2008 school year, see SAC ¶¶ 38-43; KG, who was a student in 5 Holder's class during a portion of the 2008-2009 school year, see SAC ¶¶ 44-47; and JP, 6 who was a student in Holder's class in 2010, see SAC ¶¶ 54-67.1 7 As for the minors who are plaintiffs in the present action, plaintiffs allege that MG 8 (diagnosed with Autism-nonverbal), who was in Holder's class during the 2008-2009 school 9 year, came home with red marks on his arms several times, became agitated and reluctant to go to school, and began to throw tantrums after being enrolled in Holder's classroom. 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 Plaintiffs assert further that MG became "sexually aroused by the sight of toes" as a result 12 of a "game" played by the adults in Holder's classroom when he was 3 or 4 years old, and 13 that he remains "fixated on feet," which plaintiffs claim makes it impossible for his parents 14 to take him into public places. SAC ¶ 68-75. 15 Plaintiffs allege that AG (diagnosed with Downs Syndrome), who was in Holder's 16 class during 2008-2009, 2010-2011, and 2011-2013 school years, became unhappy and 17 withdrawn after being placed in Holder's class, and developed imaginary friends and began 18 seeing monsters, and later told her mother that Holder was "mean" and "hit kids." SAC 19 ¶¶ 79-88. 20 Plaintiffs assert that BG (diagnosed with Autism Spectrum-like symptoms, with 21 speech delays), who was in Holder's class in 2009-2011, became more sensitive to yelling 22 and more aggressive after starting in Holder's classroom, hitting not only himself but also 23 others. He also allegedly became prone to lying on the floor and hiding his head, and later 24 communicated that Holder would yell at the class and tell them to shut up. SAC ¶¶ 91-95. 25 Plaintiffs allege that MR (diagnosed with Autism Spectrum), who was in Holder's 26 27 28 1 JP and his parents were among the plaintiffs in the Phelan action. LL and his parents and KG and his parents were among the plaintiffs in another lawsuit, related to the Phelan action – Guerrero v. Brentwood Union School District, C-13-3873 LB. 3 1 class in 2008-2010, arrived home from school with a large bruise on his arm, and at other 2 times had "bruises and scratches." He also allegedly became more aggressive (including 3 towards family members) and started having nightmares after starting in Holder's 4 classroom, and started diving under the table whenever he heard a loud noise, and that he 5 "observed other children being verbally and physically abused by Holder." SAC ¶¶ 98-104. 6 Plaintiffs assert that BR (diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Delay and kindergarten with a different teacher. However, after starting first grade in Holder's 9 classroom, he began acting fearful and aggressive, eventually telling his mother that Holder 10 had "grabbed him at the shoulder and neck and shoved him into a chair because he wasn't 11 For the Northern District of California Autism), who was in Holder's class for the 2010-2011 school year, had done well in 8 United States District Court 7 listening," and on other occasions arrived home with large bruises on his arm. SAC ¶¶ 12 107-113. 13 Finally, plaintiffs allege that ER (diagnosed with Autism with delays in speaking and 14 making eye contact), who was in Holder's class from December 2011 to April 2012, began 15 exhibiting behavioral changes almost immediately after being placed in Holder's classroom. 16 He allegedly "observed other children being subjected to physical and verbal abuse by 17 Holder," eventually told his mother that Holder had screamed at him and called him 18 "stupid," and also became more aggressive and sad and lost language skills. SAC ¶¶ 114- 19 121. 20 Plaintiffs also assert that Holder, James, Jones, Olson, Kennedy, Kruse, and Grant 21 "[i]ntentionally interfer[ed] with the parent-child relationship by inflicting abuse on and 22 concealing information regarding the physical and emotional trauma inflicted on" the minor 23 plaintiffs. SAC ¶ 125. They allege that "due to the abuse inflicted by Holder, the minor 24 [p]lainiffs have lost trust in their parents, and this bond is now irreparably damaged." Id. 25 They assert that "[b]ecause of their age, the minor [p]laintiffs believe that the parents were 26 aware of the abusive conditions in the classroom and that their parents knowingly 27 subjected them to the abuse. As a result, the trust necessary for a healthy parent-child 28 relationship has been severely undermined and will impede the parents' ability to provide 4 1 guidance and direction to their children." Id. Plaintiffs allege that the minor plaintiffs 2 reacted to "the trauma they endured" by exhibiting various behavioral symptoms, including 3 "aggression, rage, anxiety, and hypervigilance" that continues to "interfere with the parents' 4 ability to maintain an emotional bond with their children." Id. 5 In the SAC, plaintiffs allege causes of action for (1) violation of the Fourth and (2) discrimination in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 8 U.S.C. § 12131, et seq.; (3) discrimination in violation of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 9 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701, et seq.; (4) violation of California Civil Code § 52.1; (5) battery; 10 (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (7) negligence; (8) negligent supervision; 11 For the Northern District of California Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; 7 United States District Court 6 (9) violation of mandatory duty to report suspected child abuse, imposed under California 12 Penal Code § 11166; (10) violation of California Civil Code § 51; and (11) violation of 13 California Education Code § 220. 14 Defendants seek an order dismissing the first cause of action for violation of 15 constitutional rights, and also seek an order striking certain allegations in the SAC. 16 17 DISCUSSION A. Motion to Dismiss 18 1. 19 A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests for the legal Legal standard 20 sufficiency of the claims alleged in the complaint. Ileto v. Glock, Inc., 349 F.3d 1191, 21 1199-1200 (9th Cir. 2003). Review is generally limited to the contents of the complaint, 22 although the court can also consider a document on which the complaint relies if the 23 document is central to the claims asserted in the complaint, and no party questions the 24 authenticity of the document. See Sanders v. Brown, 504 F.3d 903, 910 (9th Cir. 2007). 25 To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a complaint generally must 26 satisfy only the minimal notice pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, 27 which requires that a complaint include a “short and plain statement of the claim showing 28 that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) 5 1 A complaint may be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim if the 2 plaintiff fails to state a cognizable legal theory, or has not alleged sufficient facts to support 3 a cognizable legal theory. Somers v. Apple, Inc., 729 F.3d 953, 959 (9th Cir. 2013). While 4 the court is to accept as true all the factual allegations in the complaint, legally conclusory 5 statements, not supported by actual factual allegations, need not be accepted. Ashcroft v. 6 Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678–79 (2009); see also In re Gilead Scis. Sec. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 7 1055 (9th Cir. 2008). 8 9 The allegations in the complaint "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level[,]" and a motion to dismiss should be granted if the complaint does not proffer enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Bell Atlantic 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 558-59 (2007) (citations and quotations omitted). A 12 claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to 13 draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." 14 Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted). "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the 15 court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged – but 16 it has not ‘show[n]' – ‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Id. at 679. Where dismissal is 17 warranted, it is generally without prejudice, unless it is clear the complaint cannot be saved 18 by any amendment. Sparling v. Daou, 411 F.3d 1006, 1013 (9th Cir. 2005). 19 2. 20 Defendants seek an order dismissing the first cause of action, which is brought by 21 the minor plaintiffs M.G., A.G., B.G., M.R., B.R., and E.R. against Holder, James, Jones, 22 Olson, Anthony, Kruse, and Grant. At least part of the first cause of action is also asserted 23 by the parents of the minor plaintiffs. 24 Defendants' motion Plaintiffs assert claims under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. In the Fourth 25 Amendment portion of the claim, plaintiffs allege that Holder used excessive force against 26 the minor plaintiffs; and that James, Jones, Olson, Anthony, Kruse, and Grant "failed to act" 27 in response to allegations of serious child abuse by Holder, and "acted with deliberate 28 indifference" to the risk of harm posed by Holder's actions against the minor plaintiffs. In 6 1 the Fourteenth Amendment portion of the claim, plaintiffs allege that Holder, James, Olson, 2 Anthony, Kruse, and Grant violated the due process rights of the minor plaintiffs and their 3 parents, by intentionally interfering with the parent-child relationship, and with the plaintiffs' 4 rights to provide and receive nurture, support, and comfort regarding highly traumatic 5 events. 6 Defendants argue that the excessive force portion of the claim should be dismissed seizure occurred. They contend that the SAC does not adequately allege that Holder 9 engaged in an unlawful seizure, because there are no facts showing that Holder's actions 10 sufficiently limited the minor plaintiffs' freedom of movement, and no allegations showing 11 For the Northern District of California for failure to state a claim because plaintiffs have not alleged that an actionable search or 8 United States District Court 7 that any force used resulted in restrictions beyond those inherent in every-day school 12 attendance. They also assert the allegations against James, Jones, Olson, Anthony, 13 Kruse, and Grant are deficient because plaintiffs allege only that those defendants failed to 14 act, and plead no facts showing that such a failure to act could be considered an unlawful 15 search or seizure. 16 As for the substantive due process portion of the claim, defendants contend that the 17 SAC fails to state a claim because plaintiffs have not identified a sufficient interference with 18 a fundamental right that is actionable under the Fourteenth Amendment, and because the 19 allegations in the SAC do not shock the conscience. In particular, defendants argue that 20 plaintiffs do not allege any interference with custody sufficient to state a substantive due 21 process claim, and that the alleged violation of the parents' right to care for, comfort, and 22 nurture their children is not an interference with custody, and is not a recognized right that 23 would support a due process claim. They argue that plaintiffs are attempting to impose a 24 constitutional duty on teachers and school personnel to inform parents of alleged physical 25 and emotional trauma suffered in the classroom, but they assert that no court has found 26 such a duty or a corresponding constitutionally-recognized liberty interest of either a parent 27 or a child. 28 In opposition, plaintiffs contend that the SAC pleads facts showing that Holder 7 1 violated the minor plaintiffs' rights by subjecting them to daily verbal and physical assaults. 2 They assert generally that Holder "abused" the minor plaintiffs, that the children saw their 3 classmates being "abused," and that Holder has been "observed by numerous persons 4 using unnecessary physical force" (including incidents in which she allegedly kicked, 5 slapped, and shook small children). Plaintiffs argue further that school and BUSD officials 6 and supervisors were "deliberately indifferent" to the risk of harm to students in Holder's 7 classroom. They claim that employees and parents reported to supervisors (including the 8 principal and Olson) that Holder was physically abusing students, but nothing was done to 9 prevent further abuse. Plaintiffs also contend that the SAC adequately pleads ample facts in support of their 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 substantive due process claim, including that the minor plaintiffs' interactions with parents 12 and siblings have become more "violent and riddled with conflict." As examples, they 13 argue that MG's family is still unable to engage in family activities outside the home 14 because of his fixation on women's toes; that AG has detached herself emotionally and has 15 found imaginary friends, "which impedes her interaction with reality;" that BG became "very 16 sensitive" to yelling and began hitting himself and other family members; that MR started 17 hitting family members and diving under the table at the sound of a loud noise; that BR 18 started imagining that "superheroes" would come to his rescue, "which impeded his 19 interaction with reality," and also became aggressive towards family members; and that ER 20 became more aggressive towards his family, especially his younger brother, making 21 interactions difficult. 22 As for defendants' argument that the alleged abuse does not "shock the 23 conscience," plaintiffs respond that official conduct that has the effect of depriving parents 24 of their liberty interest in the companionship and society of their children is by definition 25 something that "shocks the conscience." Morever, they note, the question whether conduct 26 "shocks the conscience" depends on context, and is fact-dependent. They claim that the 27 fact that the BUSD employees had knowledge of Holder's prior actions (actions taken 28 towards students who are not plaintiffs in this case), but nevertheless allowed her to 8 1 continue teaching special-needs children, shows that they were covering up the unlawful 2 conduct, which they believe in itself shocks the conscience. 3 The court finds that the motion must be GRANTED. As a general matter, the 4 allegations as to the minor plaintiffs are too vague and ambiguous to support a 5 constitutional claim. While the SAC describes in great detail the abusive actions taken by 6 Holder during the period 2007-2010 against three students (LL, KG, and JP), who are not 7 plaintiffs in this action, see SAC ¶¶ 38-64, the allegations regarding the minor plaintiffs who 8 are named in this case are insufficient to state a claim. the Fourth Amendment or under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 11 For the Northern District of California It is not entirely clear whether the excessive force claim should be analyzed under 10 United States District Court 9 Defendants appear to object only to having a claim for "excessive force" under both the 12 Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments (although they also object to having a Fourth 13 Amendment claim at all because there are no allegations of any search or seizure). 14 Plaintiffs' position is that they intended to assert an excessive force claim under the Fourth 15 Amendment, not the Fourteenth Amendment. 16 The Fourth Amendment proscribes "unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. 17 Const. amend. IV; Allen v. City of Portland, 73 F.3d 232, 235 (9th Cir. 1995); Franklin v. 18 Foxworth, 31 F.3d 873, 875 (9th Cir. 1994). Violation of the Fourth Amendment requires an 19 intentional acquisition of physical control. Brower v. County of Inyo, 489 U.S. 593, 596 20 (1989). A seizure "in the constitutional sense . . . occurs when there is a restraint on liberty 21 to the degree that a reasonable person would not feel free to leave." Doe v. Hawai'i Dep't 22 of Educ., 334 F.3d 906, 909 (9th Cir. 2003). The ultimate test of reasonableness requires 23 the court to balance the governmental interest that justifies the intrusion and the level of 24 intrusion into the privacy of the individual. Easyriders Freedom F.I.G.H.T. v. Hannigan, 92 25 F.3d 1486, 1496 (9th Cir. 1996). 26 “The consequences of a teacher's force against a student at school are generally 27 analyzed under . . . the Fourth Amendment, although historically courts applied substantive 28 due process analysis . . . .” Preschooler II v. Clark County School Board of Trustees, 479 9 1 F.3d 1175, 1180 (9th Cir. 2007); see also Doe, 334 F.3d at 909. In Doe, the Ninth Circuit 2 confirmed that a student's Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable 3 seizure “extends to seizures by or at the direction of school officials.” Id. (citation and 4 quotation omitted). However, the court also recognized that it might be possible for a 5 school official to use excessive force without actually searching or seizing a student, and 6 held that in such a case, the claim would more appropriately be analyzed under the 7 Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Id. 8 Four years later, in Preschooler II, the Ninth Circuit reaffirmed that while a claim for 9 excessive force should in the school context should ordinarily be brought under the Fourth Amendment, where there are no allegations of search or seizure, the claim should be 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 brought as a substantive due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment. See 12 Preschooler II, 479 F.3d at 1181 n.5. Claims of excessive force under the Fourteenth 13 Amendment require allegations of "egregious . . . conduct in the form of excessive or brutal 14 use of physical force" that rises to the level of a violation of due process. See White v. 15 Roper, 901 F.2d 1501, 1507 (9th Cir. 1990). 16 In Preschooler II, the parent and guardian of a four-year-old non-verbal, autistic child 17 brought an action alleging causes of action including a Fourth Amendment claim of 18 excessive force. The plaintiffs asserted that over a seven- or eight-month period, the 19 child's teacher had grabbed the child's hands and slapped him repeatedly, beat him on the 20 head, slammed him into a chair, and forced him to walk without shoes across the asphalt 21 from the school bus to the classroom. There were also reports of unexplained bruises and 22 scratches on the child's body. The court held that while the claims regarding unspecified 23 bruising and shoeless walks did not rise to the level of a constitutional violation, the 24 allegations of beating and slamming over an extended period were sufficient to state a 25 claim under the Fourth Amendment. See id. at 1180-82. 26 As part of its analysis, the court noted that as early as 1977, the Supreme Court 27 stated that public school students have a constitutional due process right “to be free from, 28 and to obtain judicial relief for, unjustified intrusions on personal security.” Ingraham v. 10 1 Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 673 (1977). Following Ingraham, the Ninth Circuit and other Circuits 2 have held that excessive and unreasonable corporal punishment of public school students 3 violates the students' constitutional rights. See P.B. v. Koch, 96 F.3d 1298, 1304 (9th Cir. 4 1996) (concluding that teacher's use of excessive force with high school students in 1990 5 and 1991 violated plaintiffs' substantive due process rights). 6 In 1989, however, the Supreme Court held in Graham v. Connor that allegations of 7 excessive force in § 1983 actions should be analyzed under a more specific constitutional 8 provision, rather than through generalized notions of substantive due process. See id., 490 9 U.S. 386, 394 (1989). Thus, the Ninth Circuit now typically analyzes excessive force allegations against public school students under the Fourth Amendment. Preschooler II, 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 479 F.3d at 1182 (citing Doe, 334 F.3d at 908, 909). 12 In this context, the court in Preschooler II observed that 13 [i]n light of the clear constitutional prohibition of excessive physical abuse of schoolchildren, and the heightened protections for disabled pupils, no reasonable special education teacher would believe that it is lawful to force a seriously disabled four year old child to beat himself or to violently throw or slam him. Existing law plainly prohibits excessive hitting, dragging or throwing of public school children. 14 15 16 Id. at 1182 (citations omitted). 17 Whether brought under the Fourth or the Fourteenth Amendment, the excessive 18 force claim fails to state a claim. The Fourth Amendment portion of the first cause of action 19 alleges excessive force, but the facts alleged do not show either a search or a seizure of 20 any of the minor plaintiffs. Nor do the facts support a Fourteenth Amendment excessive 21 force claim. The SAC does not allege facts showing that any defendant other than Holder 22 used excessive force, and as to Holder, it does not clearly allege facts showing that she 23 used excessive force against any of the minor plaintiffs. 24 The SAC alleges that MG came home with "red marks" on his arms, but there is no 25 allegation that the red marks were caused by something Holder did (as opposed to the 26 actions of someone else in the classroom). AG told her mother that Holder was "mean" 27 and "hit kids," but there is no allegation that Holder hit AG. BG communicated that Holder 28 11 1 "yelled at the class" and told students to "shut up," but there is no allegation that Holder 2 used physical force against BG. MR arrived home from school with a large bruise on his 3 arm, and at other times had "bruises and scratches," but there is no allegation that Holder 4 herself used physical force against him.2 BR claimed that Holder grabbed him and shoved 5 him into a chair on one occasion, and he also came home with bruises, but there is no 6 allegation that it was Holder who caused the bruising. ER claimed that Holder screamed at 7 him and called him stupid, but there are no allegations that Holder used physical force 8 against him. See SAC ¶¶ 68-121. 9 As for the school official defendants, plaintiffs assert that they are individually liable for Fourth Amendment violations in that they were deliberately indifferent to the rights of the 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 minor plaintiffs to be free from abuse, and to the rights of the parents to be kept informed 12 about the alleged abuse, knowing that Holder posed a risk to the children, and by not 13 reporting or remediating the alleged abuse when they became aware of it. The court 14 interprets this as a claim of supervisory liability under § 1983. 15 Vicarious liability is inapplicable to a § 1983 claim. Thus, a plaintiff must plead that 16 each state official, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the 17 Constitution. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676. A defendant supervisor may be held liable for his or 18 her own actions if there exists either his/her personal involvement in the constitutional 19 deprivation, or a sufficient causal connection between the supervisor's wrongful conduct 20 and the constitutional violation. Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir. 1989); see 21 also Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743-44 (9th Cir. 1978). That is, “[s]upervisors can be 22 held liable for: 1) their own culpable action or inaction in the training, supervision, or control 23 of subordinates; 2) their acquiescence in the constitutional deprivation of which a complaint 24 is made; or 3) for conduct that showed a reckless or callous indifference to the rights of 25 others.” Cunningham v. Gates, 229 F.3d 1271, 1292 (9th Cir. 2000). 26 Here, however, plaintiffs have not alleged facts showing that Holder or the BUSD 27 28 2 Moreover, claims of unspecified bruises and scratches do not rise to the level of a recognized constitutional violation. Preschooler II, 479 F.3d at 1181. 12 1 defendants violated their constitutional rights. See Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1207 (9th 2 Cir. 2011); see also Corales v. Bennett, 567 F.3d 554, 570 (9th Cir. 2009). Thus, any 3 constitutional claim against the BUSD defendants based on failure to act in response to 4 allegations of excessive force must be dismissed as well. 5 As for the Fourteenth Amendment claim of interference with parent-child and children have a constitutional right “to live together without governmental interference.” 8 Wallis v. Spencer, 202 F.3d 1126, 1136 (9th Cir. 2000); see also Santosky v. Kramer, 455 9 U.S. 745, 745 (1982) (fundamental liberty interest of natural parents in care, custody, and 10 management of their child is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment); Lee v. City of Los 11 For the Northern District of California relationships, the court finds that plaintiffs have not stated a claim. It is clear that parents 7 United States District Court 6 Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 685 (9th Cir. 2001) (same). The SAC fails to state a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim for interference 12 13 with parent-child relationships because the alleged interference does not rise to a level that 14 is subject to protection under substantive due process. Not all actions that allegedly affect 15 the parent-child relationship can support a constitutional claim. See E.H. v. Brentwood 16 Union Sch. Dist., 2013 WL 5978008 at *2-3 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 4, 2013). 17 In that case, the plaintiff E.H. was a student at Loma Vista in BUSD. He was 18 physically restrained after he ran away from school (29 times), and on several other 19 occasions was dragged or pulled into the school office by teachers or aides. The plaintiff 20 asserted a substantive due process claim based on alleged interference with the parent- 21 child relationship, but the court dismissed the claim, finding that such a right is considered 22 impaired only in situations such as the death of a child, the loss of parental rights, or the 23 loss of contact with or custody of the child. See id. (citing Kelson v. City of Springfield, 767 24 F.2d 651, 654-55 (9th Cir.1985); Ram v. Rubin, 118 F.3d 1306, 1310 (9th Cir.1997)). The 25 court concluded that because the allegations fell short of asserting termination of parental 26 rights or denial of custody, the claim of interference with parental rights failed to state a 27 claim. 28 In the present case, plaintiffs have cited a number of cases involving substantive 13 1 due process violations based on impairment of the parent-child relationship, but all those 2 cases involve substantially greater deprivations than the "loss of trust" alleged here. For 3 example, the deprivation alleged in Ovando v. City of Los Angeles, 92 F.Supp.2d 1011 4 (C.D. Cal. 2000) was based on a police shooting that left the parent imprisoned for three 5 years and "physically and mentally crippled" thereafter. In Doe v. Dickenson, 615 F.Supp. 6 2d 1002 (D.Ariz. 2009), the plaintiff child was sexually molested while at school. 7 The deprivations and ill effects plaintiffs allege in the SAC are not nearly as severe 8 as those in Ovando and Dickenson. Nor can they be said to have had a "direct effect." For 9 example, plaintiffs are not alleging a fatal shooting by the police as in Curnow ex rel. Curnow v. Ridgecrest Police, 952 F.2d 321 (9th Cir. 1991); Porter v. Osborn, 546 F.32d 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 1131 (9th Cir. 2008); and Wilkinson v. Torres, 610 F.3d 546 (9th Cir. 2010). Rather, 12 plaintiffs are asserting a more inchoate "loss of trust" resulting from Holder's alleged abuse 13 of the children. Moreover, the ill effects plaintiffs allege in this case are relatively minor in 14 comparison to some of the cases where courts have found interference with parental 15 relations. For example, the SAC alleges that one of the minor plaintiffs has "found 16 imaginary friends," that another has become "sensitive to yelling," and that another 17 imagines "superheroes." The court finds that the SAC does not allege facts sufficient to state an actionable 18 19 claim for interference with parent-child relationships. Specifically, as in E.H. v. Brentwood, 20 there are no allegations of interference with custody sufficient to state a substantive due 21 process claim of interference with the parent-child relationship. 22 B. Motion to Strike 23 1. Legal standard 24 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) provides that the court “may order stricken 25 from any pleading any insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or 26 scandalous matter.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f). The function of a 12(f) motion to strike is to 27 avoid the expenditure of time and money that must arise from litigating spurious issues by 28 dispensing with those issues prior to trial . . . .” Whittlestone, Inc. v. Handi-Craft Co., 618 14 1 F.3d 970, 973 (9th Cir. 2010) (quotation and citation omitted). In deciding whether to grant 2 a motion to strike under Rule 12(f), the court must determine whether the matter the 3 moving party seeks to have stricken is an insufficient defense, or is redundant, immaterial, 4 impertinent, or scandalous. Id. at 973-74. 5 Motions to strike are not favored and “should not be granted unless it is clear that 6 the matter to be stricken could have no possible bearing on the subject matter of the 7 litigation.” Colaprico v. Sun Microsystem, Inc., 758 F.Supp. 1335, 1339 (N.D. Cal. 1991). 8 When a court considers a motion to strike, it “must view the pleading in a light most 9 favorable to the pleading party.” In re, Inc. Sec Lit., 114 F Supp. 2d 955, 965 (C.D. Cal. 2000). A court must deny the motion to strike if there is any doubt whether 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 the allegations in the pleadings might be relevant in the action. Id. 12 2. Defendants' motion 13 In this motion, defendants seek an order striking certain allegations in six 14 paragraphs of the SAC, relating to the criminal charges brought against Holder in February 15 2011, and the subsequent plea and sentence, and also relating to the 2013 settlement of 16 the Phelan action, pursuant to which Holder agreed to resign from BUSD. Defendants 17 argue that these allegations are immaterial and unduly prejudicial, and assert in addition, 18 that they are precluded under Federal Rules of Evidence 408 and 410. 19 First, defendants assert that the allegations relating to the Phelan settlement are 20 irrelevant because references to prior settlements are inadmissible under Rule 408, and 21 are immaterial because they are not necessary to the elements of any of the plaintiffs' 22 claims. Second, defendants contend that the allegations relating to the criminal charges 23 and the nolo contendere plea are prejudicial and violative of Rule 410 because evidence of 24 a nolo contendere plea is not admissible in any proceeding, and because a jury is likely to 25 draw unwarranted inferences. 26 In response, plaintiffs argue that the references to the Phelan case and the 27 references to Holder's criminal history are material, not prejudicial, as they support the 28 plaintiffs' theory that defendants had a discriminatory animus against students with 15 1 disabilities (and that they were aware of Holder's propensity for abusing children). As for 2 defendants' argument that the allegations regarding the Phelan case violate Rule 408, 3 plaintiffs assert that the cases cited by defendants relate to "evidence of settlement 4 negotiations," whereas the references here are to the fact of the Phelan settlement, not to 5 any aspect of the settlement "negotiations." Moreover, they contend, allegations in a 6 complaint are not "evidence." Similarly, they argue that the allegations regarding the 7 criminal charges against Holder do not violate Rule 410. They contend that Rule 410 bars 8 "evidence" of a nolo contendere plea in the same case, but note that the prior plea is not 9 related to the present lawsuit (and is not "evidence"). The court finds that the motion must be DENIED. The materiality of some of the 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 allegations may be slight, but there is nothing here that is not a matter of public knowledge. 12 Most of the cases cited by defendants are from courts outside the Ninth Circuit, and all 13 predate the Ninth Circuit's 2010 decision in Whittlestone, where the court held that the only 14 matters that are subject to being stricken pursuant to a Rule 12(f) motion are matters that 15 can be classified as "an insufficient defense," or as "redundant," "immaterial," "impertinent," 16 or "scandalous" matter. 17 In addition, Rule 12(f) applies to pleadings, but defendants' arguments here are 18 focused on "evidence." While defendants may certainly seek an order precluding evidence 19 in the event that the case goes to trial, the Federal Rules of Evidence are not at issue in a 20 motion to strike pleadings under Rule 12(f). 21 22 CONCLUSION In accordance with the foregoing, defendants' motion to dismiss the first cause of 23 action under § 1983 is GRANTED. The SAC does not allege facts showing that any 24 defendant other than Holder used excessive force, and as to Holder, it does not clearly 25 allege facts showing that she used excessive force against any of the minor plaintiffs. 26 While shouting at developmentally disabled children and calling them "stupid" is 27 reprehensible, it does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. Thus, the § 1983 28 excessive force claim against Holder must be dismissed. And having failed to state an 16 1 excessive force claim against Holder, plaintiffs cannot maintain a claim of supervisory 2 liability. As for the Fourteenth Amendment claim of interference with familial relations, the 3 court finds no allegations of interference with custody sufficient to state a substantive due 4 process claim of interference with the parent-child relationship. 5 As plaintiffs did not provide any information as to how they would amend the 6 complaint, were amendment allowed, the court dismisses this claim without leave to 7 amend. Should discovery on the battery cause of action result in evidence regarding the 8 use of force by Holder, plaintiffs can seek leave to amend to add the § 1983 claim back into 9 the case. Defendants' motion to strike is DENIED. 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 IT IS SO ORDERED. 12 Dated: May 22, 2015 ______________________________ PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON United States District Judge 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 17

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