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Davis v. Chase County School District No. 536

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

April 5, 2019

DEANN DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CHASE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT No. 536 A/K/A WAUNETA-PALISADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          John M. Gerrard Chief United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the defendants' motion for summary judgment. Filing 18. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant that motion, and Davis' amended complaint will be dismissed.

         BACKGROUND

         From 2007 until she was terminated on December 2, 2016, the plaintiff, Deann Davis, worked as an administrative assistant for the primary defendant, Chase County School District. Filing 20 at 3. During the fall of 2016, Davis' son, Tyler, was also a student in the Chase County School District. Filing 20 at 3. Unfortunately, Tyler was accused of engaging in some questionable behavior. Specifically, Tyler was accused of doing "something inappropriate with another students' pop can after a football game." Filing 10 at 5. Although Tyler denied those charges, he was not permitted to play in the next football game. Filing 10 at 5.

         After Tyler's temporary football suspension, Davis and her husband met with Superintendent Rand Geier, Wauneta-Palisade Principal Joseph Frecks, and a school counselor to discuss Tyler's behavior. Filing 10 at 6. Although the meeting appeared to go well, Tyler apparently continued to act inappropriately. Filing 10 at 7-8. Eventually, Tyler was also kicked off the basketball team. Filing 10 at 7-8. This prompted Davis and her husband to transfer Tyler to a different school in a different school district. Filing 10 at 7. A few days after Tyler transferred, Davis' employment with the Chase County School District was terminated. Filing 10 at 8.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is proper if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. SeeFed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial responsibility of informing the Court of the basis for the motion, and must identify those portions of the record which the movant believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). If the movant does so, the nonmovant must respond by submitting evidentiary materials that set out specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.

         On a motion for summary judgment, facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a genuine dispute as to those facts. Id. Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the evidence are jury functions, not those of a judge. Id. But the nonmovant must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Id. In order to show that disputed facts are material, the party opposing summary judgment must cite to the relevant substantive law in identifying facts that might affect the outcome of the suit. Quinn v. St. Louis County, 653 F.3d 745, 751 (8th Cir. 2011). The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmovant's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could conceivably find for the nonmovant. Barber v. C1 Truck Driver Training, LLC, 656 F.3d 782, 791-92 (8th Cir. 2011). Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial. Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042.

         DISCUSSION

         Davis claims that she was unlawfully fired because she advocated for her son. Seefiling 10 at 9. That termination, Davis contends, violated the following constitutional and statutory provisions:

1. The right to free speech as protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Filing 10 at 11.
2. The right to due process pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.[1] Filing 10 at 11.
3. Various rights under the Equal Opportunity in Education Act, Neb. Rev. Stat. § 79-2, 114 et seq. Filing 10 at 10.
4. The right to accrued wages under the Nebraska Wage Payment and Collections Act, Neb. Rev. Stat. § 14-813. Filing 10 at 12.

         The School District and its employees have moved for summary judgment on each of Davis' allegations. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant that motion, and Davis' claims will be dismissed.[2]

         I. CONSTITUTIONAL VIOLATIONS

         As noted above, Davis claims that her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated. Filing 10 at 11. Those constitutional claims are brought against the School District and the School District's employees in their official and individual capacities. The Court will first evaluate Davis' official capacity claims before addressing Davis' claims against Geier and Frecks in their individual capacities.

         Official Capacity

         (A) ...


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