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Doe v. Town of Stoughton

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

April 25, 2018

Jane Doe, Plaintiff,
Town of Stoughton, Juliette Miller, and Marguerite Rizzi, Defendants.


          Indira Talwani United States District Judge

         A teacher employed by the Town of Stoughton (“the Town”) allegedly sexually assaulted Jane Doe for several years while she was a high school student. Doe brings federal and state law claims against the Town and two school administrators for violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681; 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and various state laws. Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss the First Amended Complaint [#21], presently before the court, seeks dismissal of all but one claim. The motion is ALLOWED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. Background as Alleged in the First Amended Complaint

         The plaintiff, Jane Doe, attended Stoughton High School at the time of the events in question. First Am. Compl. (“Compl.”) ¶¶ 11, 14, 17-18 [#18]. Defendant Juliette Miller was, at the relevant times, the principal of Stoughton High School. Id. ¶ 3. Defendant Marguerite Rizzi was, at the relevant times, the Superintendent of Stoughton Public Schools. Id. ¶ 4.

         Doe became involved in the Destination Imagination extracurricular program at Stoughton High School during the 2013-14 school year, when she was a sophomore. Id. ¶ 11. The program was run by Timothy Norton, a teacher at Stoughton High School. Id. ¶¶ 5, 11. Starting in the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, Norton allowed Doe to keep her personal and school belongings in his classroom and to rest in the backroom of his classroom, engaged in intimate one-on-one conversations with Doe, texted Doe individually on a regular and late night basis on non-educational matters, and spent time with Doe one-on-one during and after school hours. Id. ¶¶ 17-18. The complaint alleges that Doe and Norton's relationship became physical in November 2014, and Doe and Norton “initially engaged in sexual intercourse in February 2015 and thereafter.” Id. ¶ 20. Doe was observed on multiple occasions alone late at night in Norton's classroom and/or the classroom's more private back room. Id. ¶ 16.

         In the fall of 2015, another student informed his teacher that he had observed Norton providing Doe with special treatment. Id. ¶ 21. The student and teacher reported to Miller that they had observed Doe parking her vehicle at the nearby school and subsequently getting into Norton's vehicle. Id. Miller launched an investigation into the relationship between Doe and Norton after receiving this report. Id. The complaint alleges, however, that “[t]he ‘investigation' was perfunctory and conducted in a hostile and coercive environment in a manner which obstructed the revelation of the truth and was accusatory of the ‘victim.'” Id. ¶ 22. “Neither Ms. Doe nor Norton was disciplined as a result of this ‘investigation' and Norton's abuse of Ms. Doe continued through her senior year and beyond . . . .” Id. ¶ 31.

         In September 2017, Doe and Norton ended their relationship and Doe disclosed their relationship to another teacher. Id. ¶ 38. That teacher reported that information “to the principal for Stoughton and other administrative personnel.” Id. ¶ 39. At that point, Stoughton served Norton with an “intention to dismiss” notice and the matter was reported to the Stoughton Police Department. Id. ¶ 40.

         This action followed.

         II. Standard

         In resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must “examine whether the operative complaint states a claim for which relief can be granted, construing the well-pleaded facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepting their truth and drawing all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor.” Ruivo v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 766 F.3d 87, 90 (1st Cir. 2014). The court first “distinguish[es] the complaint's factual allegations (which must be accepted as true) from its conclusory legal allegations (which need not be credited), ” and then “determine[s] whether the factual allegations are sufficient to support the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable.” Saldivar v. Racine, 818 F.3d 14, 18 (1st Cir. 2016) (citation omitted).

         III. Discussion

         A. Uncontested Claims

         As to a number of the issues raised by Defendants, there is now no disagreement between the parties.

         First, Defendants challenge Plaintiff's allegation that some or all Defendants are liable for violating various Massachusetts statutes, including the mandatory reporter statute, M.G.L. ch.119, § 51A, the anti-bullying statute, M.G.L. ch. 71, § 37O, and the statute requiring schools to notify personnel of mandatory reporting obligations, M.G.L. ch. 71, § 37L. Defendants contend that these Massachusetts statutes do not provide for a private right of action. See Def.s' Mem in Support of Mot. to Dismiss (“Def. Mem.”) 9-11 [#22]. At the hearing on the motion to dismiss, Plaintiff's counsel clarified that the complaint does not seek to assert stand-alone claims based on ...

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