United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
NOELLE-MARIE HARRINGTON, by her mother and next friend, CORRINE HARRINGTON,, Plaintiffs,
CITY OF ATTLEBORO, RICHARD GEORGE, DOUGLAS SATRAN, PATRICIA KNOX, MARK DONNELLY, JEFFREY NEWMAN and ELIZABETH YORK,, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. Casper United States District Judge.
Noelle-Marie Harrington (“Noelle”), by her mother
and next friend Corrine Harrington (“Corrine”),
has filed this lawsuit against Defendants City of Attleboro
(“Attleboro”), Richard George
(“George”), principal of Brennan Middle School,
Douglas Satran (“Satran”), principal of Brennan
Middle School, Patricia Knox (“Knox”), an
assistant principal of Brennan Middle School, Mark Donnelly
(“Donnelly”), an assistant principal of Brennan
Middle School, Jeffrey Newman (“Newman”),
principal of Attleboro High School, and Elizabeth York
(“York”), an assistant principal of Attleboro
High School. Plaintiff's remaining claim alleges a
violation of Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 against
Attleboro (Count I). D. 8. Attleboro has moved for summary
judgment. D. 54. For the reasons stated below, the Court
DENIES the motion for summary judgment.
Standard of Review
Court grants summary judgment where there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the undisputed facts
demonstrate that the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A fact is
material if it carries with it the potential to affect the
outcome of the suit under the applicable law.”
Santiago-Ramos v. Centennial P.R. Wireless Corp.,
217 F.3d 46, 52 (1st Cir. 2000) (quoting Sanchez v.
Alvarado, 101 F.3d 223, 227 (1st Cir. 1996)). The movant
bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact. Carmona v. Toledo, 215 F.3d
124, 132 (1st Cir. 2000); see Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant meets
its burden, the non-moving party may not rest on the
allegations or denials in her pleadings, Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986), but
“must, with respect to each issue on which she would
bear the burden of proof at trial, demonstrate that a trier
of fact could reasonably resolve that issue in her
favor.” Borges ex rel. S.M.B.W. v. Serrano-
Isern, 605 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2010). “As a
general rule, that requires the production of evidence that
is ‘significant[ly] probative.'” Id.
(quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249) (alteration in
original). The Court “view[s] the record in the light
most favorable to the nonmovant, drawing reasonable
inferences in his favor.” Noonan v. Staples,
Inc., 556 F.3d 20, 25 (1st Cir. 2009).
following material facts are undisputed unless otherwise
noted. Noelle attended Brennan Middle School in Attleboro
(“BMS”) for sixth through eighth grades. D. 62,
¶ 33. Noelle is 5'11” and weighs over
200 pounds, making her one of the biggest students in her
class. D. 62, ¶ 34. In seventh grade, Noelle began
telling certain friends that she “like[d] girls.”
D. 62, ¶ 35. Noelle attests that her sexual preference
became well-known by her classmates at that time. D. 62,
seventh grade, two brothers in Noelle's class
(“Chris H. and Cam H.”) asked her out on a date.
D. 62, ¶¶ 37-41. When she declined, explaining that
she did not like boys, they called her a “dyke”
and “fag.” Id. The parties dispute
whether Noelle reported this and other harassment. Attleboro
state that Noelle never reported the incidents, and Plaintiff
offers deposition testimony by Knox, as well as Noelle's
testimony that she told a teacher, who told her to ignore it,
and that this and other events were known to George, Satran,
Knox, Donnelly and other individuals at BMS. D. 62,
¶¶ 43, 51, 53, 62, 65.
faced verbal and physical harassment by another boy in
seventh grade (“Tommy C.”), who on multiple
instances punched and tripped her. D. 62, ¶¶ 44-45,
54-55, 61-64, 66-67. Noelle testified that on at least one of
these instances, Tommy C. punched her after she refused his
“sarcastic” requests that she date him, calling
her a “dyke” when she declined. D. 62, ¶ 45.
Knox investigated one of these punching incidents, first
meeting with Noelle and Corinne, and after Tommy C. denied
the allegations, referring the dispute to the school
psychologist for peer-to-peer mediation. D. 62, ¶¶
46-50. Noelle was also referred to the school psychologist
for similar peer-to-peer mediation when Tommy C. twisted her
arm, possibly breaking it, and then in ninth grade when they
were again placed in the same class, poked her during class
and resumed his verbal harassment. D. 62, ¶¶ 82-84.
Knox also investigated an allegation that Tommy C. had
tripped Noelle, causing her to break or otherwise injure her
wrist, though the nature and extent of the injury is in
dispute. D. 62, ¶¶ 56-59. While BMS administrators
said that evidence of such an injury would have resulted in a
serious response, D. 62, ¶ 59, documents showing that
Noelle had either broken or severely sprained her wrist,
requiring a cast, were a part of Noelle's school records,
D. 62, ¶¶ 58-60. Knox later investigated another
allegation that Tommy C. pushed Noelle down the stairs, but
testified that when other school administrators did not know
anything about the event, the investigation did not proceed
further or result in any punishment. D. 62, ¶ 69.
Plaintiff offers Noelle's testimony that she told the
school nurse on at least one occasion about the tripping, as
well as Knox's testimony and nursing records showing that
Noelle had told the school nurse the source of her injuries.
D. 62, ¶¶ 65, 68.
met with Knox several times to discuss the bullying, who told
Corinne that she would handle the incidents but could not
provide particular details on disciplinary outcomes for
privacy reasons. D. 62, ¶ 79. The BMS teachers knew
bullying is not allowed generally and Corinne was told they
would “keep an eye out if they saw anything.” D.
62, ¶ 80.
asked her seventh-grade teachers to change her seat
assignment to keep her away from Tommy C., explaining that he
was harassing her. D. 62, ¶ 71. Some of Noelle's
teachers changed her seating, but others refused. D. 62,
¶ 72. Despite being spoken to by BMS administrators,
Corinne testified that Tommy C. continued to harass Noelle
verbally, though no subsequent event was witnessed by any
teachers. D. 62, ¶ 81. BMS ultimately changed
Noelle's schedule so that Tommy C. was no longer in the
same class as her. D. 62, ¶ 86. Plaintiff offers
Knox's testimony that Tommy C. was never disciplined. D.
62, ¶ 88.
next school year, BMS did not place Noelle in the same class
as Tommy C. D. 62, ¶ 90. However, on at least two
instances in eighth grade, Corinne reported verbal
harassment, including Noelle again being called “dyke,
” “faggot” and other similar terms. D. 62,
¶ 92. Donnelly, who was responsible for discipline for
the eighth grade at BMS, did not have any interactions with
Noelle beyond filing a petition related to her poor school
attendance and appearing in juvenile court in support of that
petition. D. 62, ¶ 93.
Attleboro, at the end of each school year, there is a
transition meeting between BMS and Attleboro High School
(“AHS”) officials to discuss the transition from
middle school to high school, and to pass on information
about particular students' disciplinary or behavioral
issues of concern to administrators. D. 62, ¶¶
95-96. It is disputed whether Noelle and her alleged
harassers were discussed at the transition meeting, and
Plaintiff points to the testimony of several school
officials, including Donnelly, Knox and others, that there
was neither a discussion of Noelle and her alleged abusers
nor a transfer of administrative records relating to
Noelle's harassment. D. 62, ¶ 96.
joined the Gay-Straight Alliance club when she started at
AHS. D. 62, ¶ 101. Noelle did not experience any
harassment during her first semester at AHS, but in February
of ninth grade, Noelle was placed in the same class as Tommy
C., which had not happened since partway through seventh
grade. D. 62, ¶¶ 104-06. Over the course of
approximately one week, Tommy C. poked Noelle during class
and whispered the same slurs at her, including “dyke,
fag, whore, slut, bitch” and adding that “the
world would be better off without [Noelle].” D. 62,
¶¶ 105-06. The classroom teacher moved Tommy
C.'s seat to a different location in the classroom, after
which he did not make any other harassing statements or acts.
D. 62, ¶ 107. York instructed him not to bother, touch,
or comment on Noelle. D. 62, ¶ 108.
assembled a team of administrators to respond to any future
issues raised by Noelle or Corinne. D. 62, ¶ 115. The
parties dispute the impact of this team on the harassment,
and Plaintiff offers the testimony of Noelle's dean, Ann
Montagano (“Montagano”), that many incidents of
harassment endured by Noelle were not appropriately brought
to her attention, and the testimony of Lamore, the school
psychologist, who did not see Noelle at all in high school