United States District Court, District of Columbia
A.M. et al., Plaintiffs,
BRIDGES PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL, Defendant.
C. Lamberth United States District Judge.
the second lawsuit Melissa and Matthew McCall have brought
alleging Bridges Public Charter School teachers physically
abused their disabled daughter A.M. The first, a claim under
the Individuals with Disability Education Act, ended when
this Court granted Bridges summary judgment. See
Order, A.M. v. Bridges Pub. Charter Sch., No.
17-2333 (D.D.C. Mar. 29, 2019), ECF No. 27.
the McCalls bring seven other claims: Three for
discrimination-under the Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the District of
Columbia's Human Rights Act (DCHRA), respectively. And
four more for torts-battery, intentional infliction of
emotional distress (IIED), gross negligence, and gross
negligent supervision. See 2d Am. Compl., ECF No. 10.
again seeks summary judgment. But this time, it falls short.
In arguing over the McCalls' discrimination claims,
neither side followed the familiar footwork from
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792
(1973). Yet the Court holds that case's burden-shifting
scheme keeps the McCalls' discrimination claims alive.
And given the facts surrounding the McCalls' tort claims,
the Court finds summary judgment premature there, too. So the
Court will deny Bridges's motion.
suffers from severe developmental disabilities. Throughout
her early childhood, D.C. Public Schools' early
intervention programs administered support and services,
eventually steering A.M. to Bridges Public Charter School, a
school well-versed in special education.
McCalls were unsatisfied with Bridges. Specifically, Melissa
was troubled by reports that A.M. was not napping, and by
signs that A.M.'s bibs and diapers were not changed
frequently enough. While visiting Bridges, Melissa also
noticed teachers frequently using their cell phones and
yelling at students for minor or involuntary transgressions.
See Melissa McCall Dep. Tr. 80:7-81:3, ECF No. 42-2;
see also ECF No. 44-3 at 21-22.
teacher named Donald Wallace shared similar concerns. Amid
escalating interpersonal difficulties with his Bridges
colleagues, Wallace reported teachers jokingly threatening
nonverbal students with sayings like "I'm going to
punch you in the face" (sometimes including an
expletive), "lifting" students-including
A.M.-"by their shoulders," and forcing a sobbing
A.M. to lay on her cot during naptime by pinning her legs
under a beanbag and "putting [their] feet up" on
the beanbag for added resistance. ECF No. 44-3 at 26-29. But
faced with mounting concerns about his job performance, and
presented with a choice between teaching under a probationary
arrangement or taking a $13, 767 severance package, Wallace
resigned after just two months. See ECF No. 44-3 at
rest of the record paints a more measured picture. To be
sure, one Bridges teacher acknowledged that communication
"barriers" made the classroom "[v]ery
chaotic" and that intrafaculty fighting contributed to a
"toxic" environment. Shantelle Fuller Dep. Tr.
39:16-40:15, 49:7-18, ECF No. 44-4. And the use of the
beanbag restraint was confirmed. See Kristen
Williams Dep, Tr. 33:17-39:19, ECF No. 44-6. Yet Wallace
himself walked back his accusations, testifying at his
deposition that Bridges teachers "all seemed to be
taking extraordinarily good custodial care in a way that
would be perfectly, absolutely, one hundred percent
acceptable in, say, a day care environment," if not a
full-service "special education classroom."
See Donald Wallace Dep. Tr. 103:3-16, ECF No. 44-9.
For their part, the McCalls admit they never saw Bridges
employees mistreat A.M. See Melissa McCall Dep. Tr.
81:8-15; Matthew McCall Dep. Tr. 54:5-13, ECF No. 42-3. And
Bridges's internal investigation concluded Wallace's
abuse allegations "were unfounded." Melissa McCall
Dep. Tr. 114:20-115:5. What's more, a police
investigation triggered by Wallace's report also led to
no criminal charges, see Id. at 153:1-8, but it did
reveal that Wallace made similarly unfounded abuse
allegations against other former colleagues at different
schools. See Donald Wallace Dep. Tr. 59:7-60:5.
still, the McCalls filed this lawsuit. Their disability
claims allege Bridges employees verbally and physically
mistreated A.M. because she was nonverbal. Their battery
claim concerns teachers restraining A.M. with the beanbag and
their bodyweight. Their IIED claim argues the beanbag
restraint was "extreme and outrageous beyond all
possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious,
and utterly intolerable in a civilized community." 2d
Am. Comp. ¶ 69. Their gross negligence claim argues
Bridges teachers gravely breached the standard of care owed
by special-needs teachers. And their gross negligent
supervision claim seeks to hold Bridges liable for allegedly
failing to supervise A.M.'s teachers.
the McCalls sue under two federal statutes-the ADA, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 12101-12213, and the Rehabilitation Act, 29
U.S.C. §§ 701-797-this Court has jurisdiction under
28 U.S.C. § 1331. And because their tort claims
"derive from a common nucleus of operative fact,"
this Court has supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1367. United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs,
383 U.S. 715, 725 (1966). D.C. common law governs these
claims. See McGaughey v. District of Columbia, 684
F.3d 1355, 1357 (D.C. Cir. 2012).
56(c) compels summary judgment if "there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact" and "the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." In
assessing whether genuine factual issues exist, the Court
must "draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
nonmoving party" without "mak[ing] credibility
determinations or weigh[ing] the evidence"- indeed, the
Court "must disregard all evidence favorable to the
moving party that the jury is not required to believe."
Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S.
133, 150-51 (2000). Thus a nonmovant can outlast summary
judgment with evidence "allowing a reasonable jury [to]
return a verdict" in its favor. Chenari v. George
Washington Univ.,847 F.3d 740, 744 (D.C. Cir. 2017);
see also First Nat 7 Bank of Ariz. v. Cities
Serv. Co.,391 U.S. 253, 288-89 (1968) ("[A]ll that
is required [to defeat summary judgment] is ...