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Doe v. Fort Zumwalt R-Ii School District

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

April 11, 2019

James Doe, on behalf of himself and 77 other similarly situated individual minors next friend John Doe Plaintiff- Appellant
v.
Fort Zumwalt R-II School District Defendant Matthew M. Hansen, in his official capacity as a Former Teacher of the Fort Zumwalt R-II School District; Bernard Dubray, Superintendent of the Fort Zumwalt R-II School District, Official capacity only; Mike Clemens, Assistant superintendent of the Fort Zumwalt R-II School, Official capacity only; Patty Corum, Assistant superintendent of the Fort Zumwalt R-II School District, Official capacity only; Jackie Floyd, Assistant superintendent of the Fort Zumwalt R-II School District, Official capacity only; Greg Solomon, Employee of the Fort Zumwalt R-II School District, Official capacity only; Nelda Wetzel, Principal of Lewis & Clark Elementary School, Official capacity only; Jill Hutchenson, Principal of Dardenne Elementary School, Official capacity only; John and Jane Doe, Principals or principal designees in charge of supervision at the Cuivre River summer camp, Official capacity only; Dan Hadfield, 5th grade teacher from Progress South Elementary School, Official capacity only; John and Jane Doe, 5th grade teachers in charge of supervision at the Cuivre River summer camp, Official capacity only Defendants - Appellees

          Submitted: January 17, 2019

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - St. Louis

          Before BENTON, MELLOY, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

          BENTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         On behalf of his minor son, John Doe represents a class of current and former students of the Fort Zumwalt R-II School District who were videotaped in the nude by Matthew M. Hansen at the District's overnight camp. Doe sued Hansen in his individual and official capacities under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for statutory and constitutional violations. He also brought § 1983 claims against several District administrators, school principals, and teachers (the District Defendants) in their official capacities for constitutional violations. The district court[1] entered default judgment against Hansen in his individual capacity, and summary judgment for the District Defendants. Doe v. Hansen, 2018 WL 2223679 (E.D. Mo. May 15, 2018). Doe appeals. Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, this court affirms.

         I.

         Hansen was a teacher in the Fort Zumwalt R-II School District. The District sponsors an overnight outdoor camp for fifth graders that is staffed by District employees. It assigned one teacher to each cabin. It also assigned a teenage student "camp counselor" to each cabin in order to assist the teacher and report improper behavior. Hansen staffed the camp as a teacher, assigned to a cabin. In 2013, he pled guilty to child pornography-related charges. He admitted using a hidden camera to videotape fifth-grade students in the nude inside the cabins from 2007 to 2011.

         During this time, the District's policies addressed Hansen's conduct. They prohibited teachers from "[e]ngaging in any conduct that violates Board policies . . . [or] constitutes criminal behavior." They required teachers to "[m]aintain courteous and professional relationships with pupils" and prohibited them from "mak[ing] advances toward, or engag[ing] in any sexual relationship with a district student." In 2008, the District adopted an "Audio and Visual Recording" policy explicitly prohibiting the use of recording equipment "where the occupants would have a reasonable expectation of privacy." The District also conducted criminal background checks on employees, including Hansen. It did not have knowledge of Hansen's conduct until his arrest in 2012.

         In 2016, Doe sued on behalf of a class of current and former students whom Hansen videotaped. The class asserted claims against Hansen and the District under the Child Abuse Victims Rights Act of 1986 (CAVRA), 18 U.S.C. § 2255, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The District filed an answer. Hansen did not. The district court entered default judgment against Hansen for liability under CAVRA. Doe then filed two amended complaints. The Second Amended Complaint asserts claims against Hansen in his individual and official capacities under § 1983 for violations of CAVRA and the constitutional right of privacy. It also includes § 1983 claims for failure to supervise and train against seven current and former District employees (and unnamed John and Jane Doe defendants) responsible for camp supervision (the District Defendants) in their official capacities. The District filed an answer.

         Doe dismissed the claims against Hansen in his individual capacity. Doe then moved to enforce against the District the default judgment against Hansen under CAVRA for statutory damages. The district court denied the motion, clarifying that the default judgment against Hansen was in his individual capacity and is not enforceable against the District (which responded to the claims against Hansen in his official capacity).

         The District moved for summary judgment on all counts. Doe renewed his motion to enforce the default judgment against the District and, in the alternative, moved for summary judgment on the CAVRA count against Hansen. The district court denied Doe's motions and granted summary judgment to the District. Doe appeals the grant of summary judgment only for the failure to train and supervise under § 1983. He also appeals the denial of his motion for default judgment against the District.

         II.

         This court reviews de novo a grant of summary judgment, viewing the evidence most favorably to the nonmoving party. Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). Summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine dispute of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).

         "It is well-settled that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects the liberty interest of a child in public school from sexual abuse." P.H. v. School Dist. of Kansas City, 265 F.3d 653, 658 (8th Cir. 2001). Doe sued the District Defendants in their official capacities under § 1983 for violating the Due Process Clause by failing to adequately supervise and train staff and students. A suit against the District Defendants in their official capacity is a suit against the District. See Brewington v. Keener, 902 F.3d 796, 800 (8th Cir. 2018). A municipality like the District "cannot be held liable on a respondeat superior theory, that is, solely because it employs a tortfeasor" like Hansen. Szabla v. City of Brooklyn Park, 486 F.3d 385, 389 (8th Cir. 2007) (en banc), citing Monell v. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978). Where a municipal policy or custom "itself violates federal law, or directs an employee to do so, resolving [ ] issues of fault and causation is straightforward." Board of Cty. Comm'rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 404 (1997). However, in cases like this, where the plaintiff claims that "municipal action lawful on its face caused an employee to ...


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