United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KEITH WATKINS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Today, education is perhaps the most important function of
state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance
laws and the great expenditures for education both
demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to
our democratic society. It is required in the performance of
our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the
armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship.
. . . In these days, it is doubtful that any child may
reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the
opportunity of an education.
Justice Earl Warren penned those words in 1954. Brown v.
Bd. of Educ., 347 U.S. 483, 493 (1954). They remain true
in 2019. So year after year, for those reasons and more,
parents across Alabama send their children to public school.
parents send their children to school, they essentially
delegate some of their parental authority to teachers and
school administrators. There is a Latin phrase for that
concept: “in loco parentis, ” which
translates “in the place of a parent.”
Vernonia Sch. Dist. 47J v. Acton, 515 U.S. 646,
654-56 (1995); Smith v. Smith, 922 So.2d 94, 98
(Ala. 2005); 1 William Blackstone, Commentaries
*453. But the power to act in the place of a parent comes
with solemn responsibilities. Educators must educate
students. They must also protect students.
least that is how things should be. If the allegations in
this case are true, Southlawn Middle School in Montgomery,
Alabama, is a place where rape is not taken seriously.
was a student at Southlawn Middle when her fellow students
allegedly gang-raped her. K.R.'s mother, Arvilla Stinson,
filed this suit on K.R.'s behalf. According to
Stinson's complaint, Assistant Principal Tramene Maye
saw three boys drag K.R. into an abandoned building.
The boys then raped K.R. But Maye ignored the incident and
told K.R.'s stepsister to “go on about her
business.” When Principal Rafiq Vaughn learned about
the rape later that day, he was allegedly more worried about
bad press than he was about K.R. He also told K.R. to
“love her body” and remarked that she looked like
his girlfriend. K.R. eventually changed schools, but the
three boys stayed at Southlawn Middle. They were never
lawsuit, Stinson claims the Montgomery County Board of
Education is liable under Title IX because it was
deliberately indifferent to sexual harassment. Stinson also
claims that Principal Vaughn and Assistant Principal Maye
committed common-law torts. All three Defendants moved to
dismiss the Second Amended Complaint (Doc. # 33) for failure
to state a claim (Docs. # 34, 36).
reasons below, the Board's motion to dismiss
Stinson's Title IX claim is due to be granted. Title IX
imposes a “rigorous and hard to meet” standard,
Hill v. Cundiff, 797 F.3d 948, 975 (11th Cir. 2015),
and despite the appalling allegations in Stinson's
complaint, that standard is not met here. That leaves Stinson
with her tort claims against Principal Vaughn and Assistant
Principal Maye. Because those claims are based entirely on
Alabama common law, the court determines that Stinson should
pursue them in state court. This case is therefore due to be
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
court has federal-question subject-matter jurisdiction over
Stinson's Title IX claim. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331,
1343(a). The court declines to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over her common-law claims. Id. §
1367(c). The parties do not contest personal jurisdiction.
Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint. To survive a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint “must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility
when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.
ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must take the facts
alleged in the complaint as true and construe them in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff. Resnick v. AvMed,
Inc., 693 F.3d 1317, 1321-22 (11th Cir. 2012). But a
court need not accept mere legal conclusions as true.
Id. at 1325.
Middle School is a public school in Montgomery, Alabama,
under the control of the Montgomery County Board of
Education. At all material times, Rafiq Vaughn was Southlawn
Middle's principal, making him the highest-ranking
on-campus official. Tramene Maye was the school's
after school, K.R. and her stepsister were walking off the
Southlawn Middle campus when three boys grabbed K.R. and
dragged her into an abandoned building. The court infers from
the Second Amended Complaint that the boys were three of
K.R.'s fellow Southlawn Middle students. (See
Doc. # 33, at 11.) Stinson does not specify whether the
abandoned building was on school property; she simply alleges
it was “on the perimeter of the school property.”
(Doc. # 33, at 8.) But construing the allegations in the
light most favorable to Stinson, the court assumes that the
building was on campus - inside, not outside, the perimeter.
K.R.'s age is not alleged.
stepsister told Assistant Principal Maye what the boys were
doing to K.R., and Maye had witnessed the boys grab and drag
K.R. According to Stinson, what Maye observed met the
Board's definition of bullying and harassment. But Maye
did not intervene. Nor did he report the incident to
Principal Vaughn. Instead, Maye told K.R.'s stepsister to
“go on about her business.” (Doc. # 33, at 8.)
Two of the boys then gang-raped K.R. while the third boy kept
happened to be on campus at the time. She soon learned about
K.R.'s rape and immediately went to discuss it with
Principal Vaughn. But Vaughn showed “little concern for
K.R.” He “pleaded” with Stinson not to call
the media. Vaughn also told K.R. that she needed to
“love her body, ” and he remarked that K.R.'s
adult figure was like his ...