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Abshire v. Boudreaux

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

October 26, 2018





         Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss filed by one of the defendants in the above-captioned matter, the Lafayette Parish School Board (“the Board”). See Record Document 7. The Board contends that Plaintiff Mark Abshire's (“Abshire”)[1] complaint fails to state any claim upon which relief can be granted. See id. For the reasons which follow, the Motion to Dismiss is DENIED.


         The factual allegations contained in the complaint are accepted as true and are as follows.[2] T.A. attends high school in Youngsville, Louisiana, which is within the Lafayette Parish School District. Pursuant to an Intergovernmental Agreement for School Resource Officer (“SRO”) services entered into between the Board and the City of Youngsville, Officer Richard Vincent (“Officer Vincent”), alleged by Abshire to be an employee of the City of Youngsville and/or the Youngsville Police Department, was assigned to T.A.'s school as its SRO. See Record Document 1. Abshire alleges that in October of 2017, an instructor at the school directed T.A. to leave class for being loud. Once in the hallway, the teacher called Officer Vincent, who escorted T.A. to the office. When they arrived at the office, T.A. began to speak to a school official to explain what occurred, but Officer Vincent told T.A. to shut up and “suddenly and without warning slapped him acorss [sic] the face.” Id. at 4 ¶ 10. On November 2, 2017, the same teacher directed T.A. to leave class and go to a “common area outside of the classroom known as the ‘neighborhood' to complete his work.” Id. at 4 13. Officer Vincent arrived in the area a short while later and “slapped T.A. in the face several times and instructed him ‘do your work.'” Id. Later that same day, a different teacher called for Officer Vincent over the intercom. While T.A. was seated in the classroom, Officer Vincent entered and instructed T.A. to leave. As T.A. was gathering his things, Officer Vincent told him to “come” and “quit being slow.” Id. at 4-5 ¶ 14. Abshire asserts that “suddenly and without warning Officer Vincent picked T.A. off the ground by his book sack and removed him from the classroom.” Id.

         Abshire alleges that the “force used by Richard Vincent was excessive under the circumstances and was carried out maliciously and sadisticly [sic] in violation of T.A.'s civil rights.” Id. at 5 ¶ 16. He further contends that it “is a common pattern, practice and custom for Lafayette School Board staff to call SRO's to respond and intervene in matters that do not involve and [sic] criminal activity or alleged criminal activity, ” that it “is a common pattern, practice and custom for Lafayette Parish School Board staff to call SRO's to respond and enforce school policy, ” and that it “is a common pattern, practice and custom for Lafayette Parish School Board staff to utilize SRO's to inflict corporal punishment on students as a means of marinating [sic] order in direct contradiction to its written policy.” Id. at 7 ¶¶ 23-25. Abshire also asserts that the agreement providing for SROs “fails to provide adequate guidance or restrictions regarding use of force by SRO's against schoolchildren.” Id. at ¶ 26. He further contends that the agreement “does not provide guidance on appropriate detention; on appropriate uses of force for children in school settings, or on methods of de-escalation prior to using force on children.” Id.

         Abshire filed suit arising out of alleged violations of T.A.'s civil rights, specifically the use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. See Record Documents 1, 18 and 34. He also asserts claims of battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. See id. Relevant to the instant motion, he asserts a claim for municipal liability and failure to investigate, train or supervise against the Board. He sued Chief Rickey Boudreaux of the Youngsville Police Department, in his official and individual capacities, the City of Youngsville, the Board, Officer Richard Vincent, in his official and individual capacities, and the City of Youngsville's insurer, Atlantic Specialty Insurance Company.[3] See id. The Board has now moved to dismiss all of Abshire's claims against it.[4] See Record Document 7. Abshire filed an opposition and the Board filed a reply. See Record Documents 14 and 23.


         I. Pleading Standards And The Rule 12(b)(6) Standard.

         Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a pleading contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” The standard for the adequacy of complaints under Rule 8(a)(2) is now a “plausibility” standard found in Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007), and its progeny. Under this standard, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. at 555-56, 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (citations omitted). If a pleading only contains “labels and conclusions” and “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” the pleading does not meet the standards of Rule 8(a)(2). Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citation omitted).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows parties to seek dismissal of a pleading for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court generally “may not go outside the pleadings.” Colle v. Brazos Cnty., Tex., 981 F.2d 237, 243 (5th Cir. 1993) (citation omitted). However, a court may rely upon “documents incorporated into the complaint by reference [] and matters of which a court may take judicial notice” in deciding a motion to dismiss. Dorsey v. Portfolio Equities, Inc., 540 F.3d 333, 338 (5th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted); see Fed.R.Evid. 201. Additionally, courts must accept all allegations in a complaint as true. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1965.

         A motion to dismiss is “viewed with disfavor and is rarely granted.” Turner v. Pleasant, 663 F.3d 770, 775 (5th Cir. 2011), quoting Harrington v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 563 F.3d 141, 147 (5th Cir. 2009). Dismissal is appropriate only if the complaint fails to plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1974. To satisfy this standard, the complaint must provide more than conclusions, but it “need not contain detailed factual allegations.” Colony Ins. Co. v. Peachtree Constr., Ltd., 647 F.3d 248, 252 (5th Cir. 2011). However, it must allege enough facts to move the claim “across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1974. Determining whether the plausibility standard has been met is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

         II. Section 1983/Monell Claims Against Local Governments.

         Title 42, United States Code, Section 1983 provides a claim against anyone who, under color of state law, deprives another of his or her constitutional rights. In Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York., 436 U.S. 658, 694, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 2037-38 (1978), the Supreme Court held that Congress intended Section 1983 to apply to local government entities as well as to persons. The Monell Court further held that municipalities and local government agencies cannot be held liable for constitutional torts under Section 1983 pursuant to a theory of respondeat superior, but they can be held liable “when execution of a government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury.” Id. Therefore, to succeed on a Monell claim against a local government entity, the plaintiff must establish (1) an official policy or custom, of which (2) a policymaker can be charged with actual or constructive knowledge, and (3) a constitutional violation whose moving force is that policy or custom. See Fuentes v. Nueces Cnty., Tex., 689 Fed.Appx. 775, 777 (5th Cir. 2017), quoting Valle v. City of Hous., 613 F.3d 536, 541-42 (5th Cir. 2010). Locating an official policy or custom ensures that a local government entity will be held liable only for violations of constitutional rights that resulted from the decisions of those officials whose acts may fairly be said to be those of the government entity itself. See Bd. of Comm'rs of Bryan Cnty. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403-04, 117 S.Ct. 1832, 1388 (1997).

         III. Analysis.

         The Board contends that there are no facts asserted in the complaint that would plausibly support any theory of liability against it under Section 1983. The Court ...

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