United States District Court, District of Columbia
CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
John Doe and his minor son Morgan Roe allege that a District
of Columbia public school teacher sexually assaulted Morgan
and that the District and two school officials failed to take
actions that would have prevented the assault. They have sued
the District of Columbia, the teacher (Reginald Wilson), and
the school's principal (Dale Mann) and vice-principal
(Jacqueline Anderson). All defendants have moved to dismiss
plaintiffs' second amended complaint either in full or in
part. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant
the District of Columbia's motion to dismiss in full;
Wilson's partial motion to dismiss in part; and Mann and
Anderson's motion to dismiss in part. The Court will deny
Wilson's motion to strike one aspect of the
plaintiffs' requested relief.
required on a motion to dismiss, the Court draws this factual
background from the complaint, “assum[ing] the truth of
all well-pled factual allegations.” Sissel v. U.S.
Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 760 F.3d 1, 4
(D.C. Cir. 2014). The defendants naturally dispute many of
the allegations, and Wilson “strongly denies”
sexually harassing or assaulting Morgan. Wilson MTD, ECF No.
67, at 7 n.3.
originally filed this action in January 2018 against the
District of Columbia, District of Columbia Public Schools
(“DCPS”), a former DCPS chancellor in his
official capacity, and former DCPS teacher Reginald Wilson.
In September, the Court granted plaintiffs leave to file a
second amended complaint (“SAC”), which raises
constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the
District of Columbia, Wilson, and John Eaton Elementary
School Principal Dale Mann and Vice-Principal Jacqueline
Anderson (Count I); a claim under Title IX of the Education
Act Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et
seq. against the District (Count II); common-law
negligence and negligence per se claims against Mann
and Anderson (Count III); and common-law assault, battery,
and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims
against Wilson (Count IV). See Second Am. Compl.
(“SAC”), ECF No. 60-1. Plaintiffs allege that
Wilson, Morgan's second-grade math teacher at the time,
sexually harassed and eventually sexually assaulted Morgan,
id. ¶ 2, and that school officials failed to
respond appropriately to his father Doe's reports of
concern prior to the assault, id. ¶¶ 4-7.
to plaintiffs, in mid-April 2012, Doe met with Morgan's
homeroom teacher and Principal Mann to discuss Morgan's
misbehavior in class. Id. ¶ 38. Morgan had not
previously had behavioral problems. Id. ¶ 39.
After the meeting, father and son ran into Wilson.
Id. ¶ 49. According to plaintiffs, Wilson knelt
before Morgan and told him how he should behave in school
before telling Morgan how “special” he is and
“demonstratively caress[ing]” the boy's face.
Id. ¶¶ 50-51. A few days later, Morgan
told his mother that Wilson had said he had “pretty
eyes” in front of his math class. Id. ¶
April 24, 2012, Doe learned that Morgan had apparently become
upset and kicked a chair around the classroom after Wilson
did not give him candy. Id. ¶¶ 61, 67. The
next day, Doe identified himself to Wilson as Morgan's
father. Id. ¶¶ 68-70. He did so, Doe
claims, because he believed child sex abusers tend to target
fatherless children. Id. ¶ 71.
that day, Vice-Principal Anderson called Doe into her office
to explain that he was making Wilson feel uncomfortable.
Id. ¶¶ 75-77. Doe responded that Wilson
“should . . . feel uncomfortable”
because he had “spent several months making sexual
come-ons and overtures to his seven-year son Morgan,
often in front of Morgan's classmates (ex. telling Morgan
that he had ‘pretty eyes,' caressing Morgan's
face with his hand while dramatically expounding on how
‘special' he believed Morgan to be, etc.).”
Id. ¶ 78 (emphases in original). Over the
course of the next month, Doe repeated “to Principal
Mann what [he] had told vice-principal Anderson about Wilson
making sexual overtures to Morgan.” Id. ¶
80. However, according to plaintiffs, neither Mann nor
Anderson responded to Doe's concerns. Id. ¶
allege that later in April or May 2012, Wilson asked Morgan
to stay in the classroom alone with him while the other
students waited outside. Id. ¶ 85. Wilson
allegedly told the boy he had again been misbehaving before
fondling Morgan's penis through his pants. Id.
¶¶ 86-87. Morgan told his mother about what
happened but did not tell his father until over a year later
in June 2013. Id. ¶¶ 91, 123.
Doe and his family moved to Illinois in February 2013.
Id. ¶ 119. At his new school, Morgan's
behavior deteriorated further and he was bullied for being
“effeminate.” Id. ¶ 120. Morgan
also expressed a desire to kill himself on multiple
occasions. Id. ¶¶ 121-22. After Morgan
finally told his father in June 2013 what had allegedly
happened with Wilson, Doe called the police. Id.
¶¶ 123-24. The police interviewed Wilson and
presented an arrest warrant to the prosecutor, but according
to plaintiffs, she declined to pursue the case. Id.
following year, in June 2014, Doe filed an administrative
notice of a tort claim with the D.C. Office of Risk
Management (“DCORM”) based on the alleged sexual
harassment and assault. Id. ¶
Two years later, Doe was notified that “after a lengthy
investigation, ” the office had determined that
“the facts do not indicate liability on the part of the
District of Columbia government, or its employees, in regards
to this serious allegation.” Id. ¶ 148.
noted above, plaintiffs filed this lawsuit in January 2018.
They amended the complaint in March, see ECF No. 18,
and, after much back and forth, filed the operative second
amended complaint in late September, see ECF No.
60-1. The District of Columbia, Mann, and
Anderson have moved to dismiss all of the claims against
them. DC MTD, ECF No. 65; Mann and Anderson MTD (“M/A
MTD”), ECF No. 80. Wilson moves for partial dismissal
and has also moved to strike certain parts of the relief
plaintiffs request. Wilson MTD. After receiving multiple
extensions, plaintiffs filed their oppositions to the
District and Wilson's motions on December 11, 2018. ECF
Nos. 81 & 82. Plaintiffs timely filed their opposition to
Mann and Anderson's motion on December 17, 2018.
See ECF No. 84. Despite being instructed that the
Court will grant no further extensions, see Dec. 6,
2018 Minute Order, plaintiffs on December 18, 2018 moved for
leave to file out of time amended oppositions to the District
and Wilson's motions. See ECF No. 87. Those
defendants oppose this request. See ECF Nos. 90
& 94. Nonetheless, the Court will consider the arguments
and revisions advanced in those amended
oppositions. Defendants' motions to dismiss the
second amended complaint are now ripe for the Court's
Standard of Review
analyzing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must determine whether the
complaint “contain[s] 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)). This
requires “factual content that allows the court to draw
the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. To make this
determination, the Court “must take all of the factual
allegations in the complaint as true.” Id. It
must also “constru[e] the complaint liberally in the
plaintiff's favor with the benefit of all reasonable
inferences derived from the facts alleged.” Stewart
v. Nat'l Educ. Ass'n, 471 F.3d 169, 173 (D.C.
Cir. 2006). Finally, the Court may only “consider the
facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached thereto or
incorporated therein, and matters of which it may take
judicial notice.” Id.
John Doe's Claims
have moved to dismiss all claims brought by John Doe in his
individual capacity as time-barred under the applicable
three-year statute of limitations. DC MTD at 11 (citing D.C.
Code § 12-301(8)); M/A MTD at 7-8 (citing same). In
response, Doe explains that he has “never sought relief
for himself under Title IX or 42 U.S.C. [§] 1983,
” Pls' Opp'n to DC MTD at 10, but at the same
time alludes to the possibility of filing tort claims against
“any of the Defendants” in the future,
id. at 11; Pls' Opp'n to M/A MTD at 2.
extent Doe seeks or intends to bring tort claims in his
individual capacity against any of the defendants, they are
barred by section 12-301(8). Doe resists this outcome by
urging Court to accept any tort claims under the
“doctrine of laches.” See Pls'
Opp'n to DC MTD at 11-13; Pls' Opp'n to M/A MTD
at 2-3. But the equitable doctrine of laches is an
affirmative defense available to defendants who
would be prejudiced by a plaintiff's unreasonable delay
in filing suit. Maalouf v. Islamic Rep. of Iran, 306
F.Supp.3d 203, 212 n.9 (D.D.C. 2018) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(c)(1)). Out of an abundance of caution, though, the Court
will liberally construe plaintiffs' argument as a more
general one for equitable relief from the statute of
any potential individual tort claims would be decided under
D.C. law, they are subject to D.C. tolling rules. The trouble
for Doe is that ordinarily, “District of Columbia law
does not recognize an equitable tolling exception to the
statute of limitations.” Johnson v. Marcheta
Inv'rs Ltd. P'Ship, 711 A.2d 109, 112 (D.C.
1998). The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has
recognized just “two limited exceptions to [its]
generally strict application of the statute of limitations:
the lulling doctrine and the discovery rule.” East
v. Graphic Arts Indus. Joint Pension Tr., 718 A.2d 153,
156 (D.C. 1998). The lulling doctrine tolls the limitations
period when a defendant “has done anything that would
tend to lull the plaintiff into inaction, and thereby permit
the limitation period prescribed by the statute to
run.” Id. at 156-57 (citation omitted).
“Anything” here means “something that
amounted to an affirmative inducement to plaintiffs to delay
bringing action.” Beach TV Props., Inc. v.
Solomon, 306 F.Supp.3d 70, 89 (D.D.C. 2018) (citation
omitted). And under the discovery rule, a “claim does
not accrue until the plaintiff, exercising due diligence, has
discovered or reasonably should have discovered all of the
essential elements of her possible cause of action[.]”
Farris v. Compton, 652 A.2d 49, 54 (D.C. 1994)
offers two reasons why he should not be barred from advancing
untimely tort claims but neither falls within these limited
exceptions. First, he says he relied on the advice of an
attorney to file what proved to be a dead-end administrative
tort claim with the DCORM instead of a civil lawsuit in
either D.C. or federal court. Pls' Opp'n to DC MTD at
11-12; Pls' Opp'n to M/A MTD at 2-3. Frustrated
though he may be with the attorney's advice, it does not
save Doe's individual claims from dismissal. In the
analogous context of federal equitable tolling, this Court
recently emphasized that “[e]quitable tolling is not
appropriate in cases with ‘garden variety claim[s] of
excusable neglect.' Where, as [claimed] here,
‘counsel blundered to his client's prejudice, the
remedy is malpractice litigation against the culprit, not the
continuation of litigation against an adversary who played no
role in the error.'” Congress v. District of
Columbia, 324 F.Supp.3d 164, 173 n.8 (D.D.C. 2018)
(first quoting Irwin v. Dep't of Veterans
Affairs, 498 U.S. 89, 96 (1990); then quoting
Farzana K. v. Indiana Dep't of Educ., 473 F.3d
703, 706 (7th Cir. 2007)).
do suggest that the District played some role in the error by
“unreasonably delay[ing] Doe, and thus Roe, from filing
this action, by taking an unreasonable two-year period to
issue what should have been an automatic denial of his tort
claim.” Pls' Opp'n to DC MTD at 13; Pls'
Opp'n to M/A MTD at 3. Unlike plaintiffs' first
explanation for the delay, their second focuses on
defendants' conduct and has the ring of the lulling
doctrine. However, plaintiffs identify no
affirmative misconduct on the part of the DCORM,
such as misrepresenting that plaintiffs would prevail in that
action, that prevented them from suing within the statutory
neither limited exception to the statute of limitations
applies, the Court will dismiss any claims brought by Doe in
his individual capacity as barred by section 12-301(8). That
section does not apply to Morgan Roe, however, because he was
and still is a minor. D.C. Code § 12-302(a)(1). By
extension, the Court will not dismiss as time-barred any
claims that Doe brings as a representative of his minor son.
The remainder of this opinion, then, discusses only claims as
they relate to Morgan and Doe in his representational
Section 1983 Claim Against All Defendants (Count I)
bring constitutional claims against all defendants under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. SAC ¶¶ 196-216. These claims
are premised on purported violations of Morgan's Fifth
Amendment due process and equal protection rights. Plaintiffs
allege a substantive due process violation based on
Morgan's right “to be free from conduct that
violates his bodily integrity, ” id. ¶
203 (D.C.), ¶ 206 (Wilson), and an equal protection
violation based on Morgan's right “to be free from
discrimination on the basis of his sex, ” id.
¶ 204 (D.C.), ¶ 207 (Wilson), ¶ 210
moves to dismiss some, but not all, of the § 1983 claims
against him on the ground that plaintiffs have failed to
allege recognized constitutional violations. Wilson MTD at 4,
8. The District of Columbia moves to dismiss the § 1983
claims against it because plaintiffs have failed to allege
municipal liability. DC MTD at 11. And Mann moves to dismiss