175 F.3d 68 (1st Cir. 1999), 98-2149, Hasenfus v. LaJeunesse

Docket Nº:98-2149.
Citation:175 F.3d 68
Party Name:Alfred HASENFUS and Gale Hasenfus, Individually and o/b/o Jamie Hasenfus, Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. L. Roger LaJEUNESSE, et al., Defendants, Appellees.
Case Date:April 29, 1999
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
 
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175 F.3d 68 (1st Cir. 1999)

Alfred HASENFUS and Gale Hasenfus, Individually and o/b/o

Jamie Hasenfus, Plaintiffs, Appellants,

v.

L. Roger LaJEUNESSE, et al., Defendants, Appellees.

No. 98-2149.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

April 29, 1999

Heard April 5, 1999.

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Tracie L. Adamson with whom Susan V. Wallace, Sumner H. Lipman, Robert J. Stolt, and Lipman & Katz, P.A. were on brief for appellants.

Deirdre M. Smith with whom Melissa A. Hewey and Drummond Woodsum & MacMahon were on brief for appellees L. Roger LaJeunesse, Paul Knowles, Carlo Kempton and Winthrop Board of Education.

Edward R. Benjamin, Jr. with whom Thompson & Bowie was on brief for appellee Town of Winthrop.

Before SELYA, BOUDIN and STAHL, Circuit Judges.

BOUDIN, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from the district court's dismissal of a complaint filed by Alfred and Gale Hasenfus, on behalf of themselves and their minor child Jamie Hasenfus, arising out of Jamie's attempted suicide at school. The complaint set forth claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law against the Town of Winthrop, Maine, and others. The facts alleged in the complaint are as follows.

In the spring of 1996, Jamie was a 14-year-old student in the 8th grade of the Winthrop Middle School. On May 2 of that year, Jamie was reprimanded by her teacher, Carlo Kempton, for misconduct during a physical education class on the

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school softball field. Kempton told Jamie to return to the locker room. No one from the school staff was supervising the locker room. After returning to the locker room, Jamie tried to hang herself. Classmates found Jamie and called for emergency help. Jamie survived but, at first in a coma, spent several weeks in the hospital and was left with permanent impairments.

The complaint describes two other incidents as background to the attempted suicide. One was that Jamie had been raped when she was 13 and later underwent the further trauma of testifying against the rapist. School officials were aware of the rape. Jamie had reported it to the school nurse, Jackie Kempton (wife of the gym teacher, Carlo Kempton), and was later counseled by the school nurse and school guidance counselor. According to the complaint, Carlo Kempton knew or should have known of the rape and should not have sent Jamie "alone and unsupervised away from the area he was monitoring when he knew or should reasonably have known that she was despondent or distressed."

The other background event was that seven other students in the Winthrop Middle School had also attempted suicide in the three months prior to May 1996. Several of those attempts had occurred at school or school events, and Jamie apparently knew or was associated with at least two of those students. According to the complaint, the school failed to take various possible measures to cope with the epidemic, such as offering special counseling and monitoring programs within the school and providing more information to parents about the outbreak.

On April 30, 1998, just short of two years after Jamie's suicide attempt, the Hasenfus parents brought suit in the district court on behalf of Jamie and themselves. The defendants, in addition to the town and its board of education, included three individuals: the superintendent of schools, the principal of Jamie's school, and the gym teacher (Carlo Kempton). The counts with which we are centrally concerned were based upon section 1983; they charged that specific acts and omissions by defendants acting under color of state law deprived Jamie of her Fourteenth Amendment rights, including, inter alia, rights to life and physical safety. The parents alleged the infringement of their right to family integrity.

The gist of the wrongful acts charged to the town, school board, superintendent, and principal were the failure to take a range of preventive actions listed in the complaint to cope with the suicide epidemic and, specifically as to Jamie, three narrower failures or mistakes discussed at the end of this opinion. Carlo Kempton's alleged wrongful acts were reprimanding Jamie in front of her classmates and sending her alone to the locker room. The same facts were alleged as violations of the Maine Constitution and as common law torts of negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The defendants moved to dismiss the section 1983 counts for failure to state a claim, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), and asked that the state claims then be dismissed for lack of federal jurisdiction, Wagner v. Devine, 122 F.3d 53, 57-58 (1st Cir.1997), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 118 S.Ct. 880, 139 L.Ed.2d 869 (1998). The magistrate judge recommended this course (with one variation irrelevant here), and the district court thereafter approved the recommendation. This appeal followed. On review, we take the factual allegations of the complaint as true, drawing reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiffs. Garita Hotel L.P. v. Ponce Fed. Bank, FSB, 958 F.2d 15, 17 (1st Cir.1992).

The central question for us on this appeal is whether the conduct attributed to the defendants violates the federal Constitution so far as it protects against state action depriving one of life or liberty without "due process of law." The most familiar dimension of due process is protection of procedural rights, but the due process

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