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Wells v. Ayers

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division

November 9, 2017

LEONA WELLS, individually and as next friend of C.M.H, a minor, Plaintiff,
v.
NATHAN AYERS, JEFF JOHNSON, ETOWAH MIDDLE SCHOOL, ATTALLA BOARD OF EDUCATION, DAVID BOWMAN, WYMAN CASH, GARY HUFF, PRESTON NIX, DEBORAH DIXON, and DUANE SMITH, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a civil action filed by the Plaintiff, Leona Wells, on her own behalf, and “as Mother and Next Friend of C.M.H., a Minor.” (Doc. 1 at 1). The Complaint names the following Defendants: Nathan Ayers, the Assistant Principal of Etowah Middle School; Jeff Johnson, the Principal of Etowah Middle School; the Etowah Middle School; the Attalla Board of Education (the “Board”); and David Bowman, the Superintendent of Attalla City Schools. The Complaint also names as Defendants the following members of Attalla City Schools Board of Education: Wyman Cash, Gary Huff, Preston Nix, Deborah Dixon, and Duane Smith. The Complaint alleges that all of the Defendants are liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for “Violation of Substantive Due Process Rights.” (Count One). Against Ayers alone, the Complaint sets out claims under Alabama law for battery, negligence, and wantonness. (Counts Two, Four, and Five respectively). Against Johnson, Bowman, the Etowah Middle School, and the Board, the Complaint sets out the Alabama state law claim for negligent supervision and training. (Count Three).[1] Finally, the Complaint alleges that all of the Defendants engaged in a conspiracy to commit battery. (Count Six). All Counts arise out of a paddling which Ayers administered to C.M.H.

         The case comes before the Court on the Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (the “Motion”). (Doc. 20). For the reasons stated herein, the Motion will be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I.THE PLAINTIFF CONSENTS TO THE DISMISSAL OF ALL DEFENDANTS EXCEPT AYERS AND JOHNSON, AND TO THE DISMISSAL OF COUNT THREE IN ITS ENTIRETY

         Based on the representations by the Plaintiff (doc. 21 at 1-2), all Defendants except Ayers and Johnson will be dismissed. All dismissals, except for Etowah Middle School, will be without prejudice. Etowah Middle School will be dismissed with prejudice. Furthermore, the Plaintiff agrees that Count Three, the negligent supervision claim, is due to be dismissed as well. (Doc. 21 at 9). That claim will be dismissed with prejudice as to all Defendants except the Board. (See doc. 21 at 9, n. 10). Count Three will be dismissed without prejudice as to the Board.

         II. STANDARD

         Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[a]fter the pleadings are closed--but early enough not to delay trial--a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). The Eleventh Circuit has stated:

“Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate where there are no material facts in dispute and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” [Perez v. Wells Fargo N.A., 774 F.3d 1329, 1335 (11th Cir. 2014)] (quoting Cannon v. City of West Palm Beach, 250 F.3d 1299, 1301 (11th Cir. 2001)). We accept as true the material facts alleged in the non-moving party's pleading and construe them in the light most favorable to that party. Id. Judgment on the pleadings should be denied “[i]f a comparison of the averments in the competing pleadings reveals a material dispute of fact.” Id.

Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. v. Kopp, 658 Fed.Appx. 564, 567 (11th Cir. 2016).

         III. MATERIAL FACTS ALLEGED IN THE PLEADINGS

         The Complaint alleges:

16. The Attalla Schools permits teachers to inflict corporal punishment on their students.
17. The Attalla Schools ask for parents to sign documents permitting the school to inflict corporal punishment.
18. One form of corporal punishment meted out at Attalla Schools is paddling.
19. Before paddling a student, the student must have previously received at least four written conduct notices home for their parent to sign.
20. Wells moved to Attalla before the 2016-17 school year.
21. She enrolled two children, including C.M.H., as students at Etowah Middle.
22. C.M.H. is an athletic child and an excellent student.
23. Wells signed documents which authorized Etowah Middle to paddle C.M.H. provided that C.M.H. deserved paddling under the school policies and the school provided Wells with notice beforehand.
24. On Friday September 9, 2016, C.M.H. licked his fingers in class.
25. The teacher misinterpreted C.M.H.'s actions as an obscene gesture.
26. C.M.H.-12 years old and unaware of any obscene significance of his movements-denied doing anything wrong.
27. The teacher referred C.M.H. to Assistant Principal Ayers's office for discipline.
28. Ayers decided to paddle C.M.H. despite the fact that it was C.M.H.'s first time to be in trouble at Etowah Middle and the offense involved was, at best, minor, at worst, a mere miscommunication.
29. Assistant Principal Ayers did not speak to either Wells or Wells's husband before paddling C.M.H.
30. The paddling was witnessed by Principal Johnson.
31. Ayers hit C.M.H.
32. C.M.H. cried in pain.
33. Ayers waited sixty seconds and then hit C.M.H. again.
34. C.M.H. told his mother what happened when he got home.
35. Wells didn't understand why C.M.H. was punished for such a seemingly ...

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