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Roe v. Wilson

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 14, 2018

MORGAN ROE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
REGINALD LA'VINCIENT WILSON, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs Morgan Roe, a minor, and his father John Doe allege that a District of Columbia public school teacher sexually abused Roe and the District failed to respond appropriately. Plaintiffs have renewed their motion to file a second amended complaint which adds several new defendants, tort claims, and factual allegations. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants plaintiffs' motion in part and denies it in part.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs filed this action on January 26, 2018, against the District of Columbia, District of Columbia Public Schools (“DCPS”), former DCPS chancellor Antwan Wilson in his official capacity, and former DCPS teacher Reginald Wilson. See Compl. [ECF No. 1]. Plaintiffs alleged that Reginald Wilson, Roe's second grade math teacher at the time, sexually harassed and eventually sexually assaulted Roe, id. ¶ 2, and that school officials failed to respond appropriately to Doe's reports of concern, id. ¶¶ 4-7.

         There is no need to rehash in full detail plaintiffs' efforts to file a second amended complaint. In short, soon after filing an amended complaint [ECF No. 18], which added new defendants and factual allegations, plaintiffs sought leave to file a second amended complaint [ECF No. 19]. After plaintiffs filed a notice of intent to file yet another complaint [ECF No. 24], the Court instructed plaintiffs to file a renewed motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. See April 12, 2018 Minute Order. Plaintiffs did so, [ECF No. 31], but soon sought to file tort claims against the District of Columbia as well, [ECF Nos. 41 & 42]. The Court held a status conference on June 5, 2018, to discuss the several motions related to plaintiffs' efforts to file a second amended complaint and directed plaintiffs to submit another renewed motion for leave. See June 5, 2018 Minute Order. Before the Court now is plaintiffs' operative renewed motion for leave to file a second amended complaint [ECF No. 44].

         II. Legal Standards

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 gives courts discretion whether to grant leave to amend a pleading. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). “Leave to amend a complaint should be freely given in the absence of undue delay, bad faith, undue prejudice to the opposing party, repeated failures to cure deficiencies, or futility.” Richardson v. United States, 193 F.3d 545, 548-49 (D.C. Cir. 1999). A proposed amended complaint is futile when it would not survive a motion to dismiss; determining whether a proposed amended complaint would survive a motion to dismiss is equivalent to review under such motion. See In re Interbank Funding Corp. Sec. Litig., 629 F.3d 213, 215-16 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). The party opposing amendment bears the burden of showing why leave to file an amended pleading should not be granted. Smith v. Café Asia, 598 F.Supp.2d 45, 48 (D.D.C. 2009).

         III. Analysis

         A. Plaintiffs' § 1983 claim

         In Count I, plaintiffs allege that all defendants[1] are liable for Fifth Amendment violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on the District of Columbia's purported custom, policy, or practice of failing to respond appropriately to allegations of sexual misconduct. Plaintiffs seek to elaborate on some of the allegations supporting this claim. See, e.g., Proposed Second Amended Complaint (“Prop. Second Am. Compl.”) [ECF No. 44-3] ¶¶ 208-09, 221-26. The Court grants leave to do so with respect to almost all additions because “factual allegations [that] merely fine-tune the basis for the relief” and “clarify but do not reshape the action[] are rarely a bad thing” and “certainly do[] not provide a basis for denying leave to amend.” Council on Am.-Islamic Relations Action Network, Inc. v. Gaubatz, 793 F.Supp.2d 311, 324 (D.D.C. 2011).

         One paragraph, however, does not belong. Plaintiffs are instructed to remove reference to the District of Columbia's statutory notice requirement, D.C. Code § 12-309, because that requirement is irrelevant to their constitutional claims at issue in Count I. As the Court will discuss in more detail below, however, section 12-309 is relevant to, and indeed bars, plaintiffs' tort claims against the District.

         B. Plaintiffs' Title IX claim

         In Count II, plaintiffs allege a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, based on the District of Columbia's failure to screen teachers and train employees to prevent and report sexual misconduct. Plaintiffs seek to replace previously named defendants District of Columbia Public Schools and Antwan Wilson with Kaya Henderson. However, plaintiffs have conceded that Henderson is not a proper defendant. Accordingly, plaintiffs are instructed to remove the individual defendants from Count II in their corrected second amended complaint, leaving only the District.

         Defendants have not otherwise challenged plaintiffs' minor substantive refinements to their Title IX allegations. Because these minor changes merely fine-tune the basis for relief, the corrected second amended complaint may incorporate the proposed changes. See Council on Am.-Islamic Relations Action Network, Inc, 793 F.Supp.2d at 324.

         C. Plaintiffs' tort claims against the ...


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