Hardwick ex rel. Hardwick v. Heyward, Civil Action No. 4:06-1042-TLW.

Decision Date08 September 2009
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 4:06-1042-TLW.
Citation674 F.Supp.2d 725
CourtU.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
PartiesCandice Michelle HARDWICK, by and through her Parents and Guardians Daryl Lewis HARDWICK and Priscilla Lea Hardwick, Plaintiff, v. Martha HEYWARD in her individual capacity and her official capacity as Principal of Latta Middle School, George H. Liebenrood, Jr., in his individual capacity and his official capacity as Principal of Latta High School, and the Board of Trustees of Latta School District (Dillon County No. 3), Defendants.

Kirk David Lyons, Black Mountian, NC, Lourie Augustus Salley, III, Lourie Salley Law Office, Lexington, SC, for Plaintiff.

Vernie L. Williams, Childs and Halligan, Columbia, SC, Vinton Devane Lide, Vinton D. Lide and Associates, Lexington, SC, for Defendants.

ORDER

TERRY L. WOOTEN, District Judge.

The plaintiff, Candice Michelle Hardwick ("plaintiff"), by and through her parents, Daryl Lewis Hardwick and Priscilla Lea Hardwick, instituted this lawsuit for damages and injunctive relief against defendants Martha Hey ward, in her individual capacity and her official capacity as Principal of Latta Middle School; George H. Liebenrood, Jr., in his individual capacity and his official capacity as Principal of Latta High School; and the Board of Trustees of Latta School District (Dillon County No. 3) ("defendants"). In her First Amended Complaint, the plaintiff alleges the following causes of action: violation of her First Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression; violation of her rights under the South Carolina Constitution; violation of her Fourteenth Amendment right to due process of law; violation of her Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law and violation of the reserved right to express heritage. (Am. Compl., Doc. # 18). The plaintiff filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on September 15, 2006, (Doc. #32), to which the defendants responded on September 19, 2006. (Doc. # 33). This Court held a hearing on the plaintiff's motion for injunctive relief on December 20, 2006. (Doc. # 54). On January 22, 2007, this Court issued an Order denying the plaintiffs motion for injunctive relief. (Doc. # 60). The plaintiff filed a notice of appeal.1 (Doc. # 61). On October 19, 2007, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. (Doc. # 82). On November 5, 2007, the plaintiff filed a response to the defendants' motion in which she agreed to dismiss Count Five of her First Amended Complaint (violation of the reserved right to express heritage). (Doc. # 90). This Court issued an Order on July 14, 2008 denying the defendants' motion to dismiss, but noting the dismissal of Count Five of the First Amended Complaint. (Doc. # 104).

This matter is now before the Court for resolution of the defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) which was filed on June 8, 2009. (Doc. # 120). On June 29, 2009, the plaintiff filed a response to the defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Doc. # 134). The defendants filed a reply to the plaintiffs response on July 13, 2009. (Doc. # 142). This Court held a hearing on this matter on July 31, 2009. (Doc. # 148). This Court has carefully considered the motions, memoranda, affidavits, and exhibits submitted by the parties, as well as the arguments presented at the hearing. The Court has determined the relevant facts from the record presented by the parties and drawn all reasonable factual inferences in favor of the plaintiff as non-moving party.

FACTS

The Latta School District comprises three public schools in Dillon County, South Carolina: Latta High School; Latta Middle School; and Latta Elementary School. The district's total student population of approximately 1,600 is divided nearly equally between students of Caucasian descent ("white") and students of African-American descent ("black"). (Kornblut Aff. 2). Plaintiff Candice Michelle Hardwick was a white student who attended Latta Middle School during the 2002-03 and 2003-04 school years and Latta High School during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 school years.2 (Am. Compl., Doc. # 18).

Both Latta Middle School and Latta High School publish student dress codes. The applicable student dress code for Latta Middle School during the time plaintiff attended provides, in pertinent part:

Generally, student dress is considered appropriate as long as it does not distract others, interfere with the instructional programs, or otherwise cause disruption. Any type of clothing or grooming considered to be disruptive or inappropriate will be handled at the discretion of the administration.

. . . .

Following are some examples that are judged to be inappropriate or distracting in the educational setting; therefore they are not allowed.

. . . .

9. Students may not wear clothing that displays profane language, drugs, tobacco, or alcohol advertisements sexual innuendoes or anything else deemed to be offensive.

(Pl.'s Ex. A, Doc. # 1). The applicable student dress code for Latta High School during the time plaintiff attended provides, in pertinent part:

Latta High School students are to come to school in a neat and clean manner each day. Dress is casual, but some styles, which may be appropriate outside of school, are clearly inappropriate for school. Students may not wear the following:

. . . .

Shirts with obscene/derogatory sayings. (Pl.'s Ex. B, Doc. # 1). Although neither dress code explicitly prohibited clothing that displayed images of the Confederate flag, defendant Liebenrood stated that Confederate flag symbols on clothing had been prohibited since he first arrived at Latta High School in 1980. (Liebenrood Dep. 15:13-20).

In her First Amended Complaint, the plaintiff alleges multiple instances in which she was asked to remove clothing that displayed the Confederate flag as a student of the Latta School District. (Am. Compl., Doc. # 18). The plaintiff first alleges that in April 2003, while attending Latta Middle School, defendant Heyward asked her to remove a t-shirt that displayed the Confederate flag. (Am. Compl., Doc. # 18). The plaintiff alleges several other instances during the 2003-04 school year where she was asked to remove or cover up t-shirts displaying the Confederate flag and, in one instance, was given in-school suspension ("ISS") for refusing to do so. (Compl., Doc. # 18). The plaintiff alleges at least three instances where she was asked to remove or cover up clothing displaying the Confederate flag while she attended Latta High School. (Am. Compl., Doc. # 18). Additionally, the plaintiff alleges that defendant Liebenrood asked her to remove or cover up several tshirts that protested Latta High School's ban on Confederate symbols.3 The plaintiff also alleges that while attending Latta Middle School and Latta High School, other students were asked to cover up or remove t-shirts displaying the Confederate flag and t-shirts protesting the ban on Confederate symbols. (Am. Compl., Doc. # 18). The Court has reviewed the shirts which the plaintiff was asked to remove. Photographs of the shirts at issue have been entered into the record. (Pl.'s Ex., Doc. # 1). Each banned shirt displays the Confederate flag or a portion of the Confederate flag.

During this period, the plaintiff's parents issued several written requests to the defendant Board of Trustees of Latta School District asking the board to remove any disciplinary records the plaintiff compiled as a result of wearing the Confederate flag t-shirts and to reconsider its policy of banning clothing displaying images of the Confederate flag. The defendant Board of Trustees denied these requests. The plaintiff commenced this action on April 1, 2006, while a sophomore at Latta High School. (Compl., Doc. # 1).

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), the defendants are entitled to summary judgment if the pleadings, responses to discovery, and the record reveal that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." A genuine issue of material fact exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). As the party seeking summary judgment, the defendants bear the initial responsibility of informing this Court of the basis for its motion. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). This requires the defendants to identify those portions of the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any," which it believes demonstrate the absence of genuine issues of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548; see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

Though the defendants bear this initial responsibility, the plaintiff as nonmoving party must then produce "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed R. Civ. P. 56(e); see Celotex, 477 U.S. at 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548. In satisfying this burden, the plaintiff must offer more than a mere "scintilla of evidence" that a genuine issue of material fact exists, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, or that there is "some metaphysical doubt" as to material facts. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). Rather, the plaintiff must produce evidence on which a jury could reasonably find in her favor. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

In considering the defendants' motion for summary judgment, this Court construes all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff as nonmoving party. See Miltier v. Beorn, 896 F.2d 848 (4th Cir.1990); Cole v. Cole, 633 F.2d 1083 (4th Cir.1980)....

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3 cases
  • Hardwick v. Heyward
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • March 25, 2013
    ...based on the Confederate flag shirts and on her Fourteenth Amendment equal protection and due process claims. Hardwick ex rel. Hardwick v. Heyward, 674 F.Supp.2d 725 (D.S.C.2009). Candice appealed, but we concluded that we lacked jurisdiction because the district court's opinion did not add......
  • Brown v. Cabell County Bd. Of Educ., Civil Action No. 3:09-0279.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of West Virginia
    • May 26, 2010
    ...whether a ban on Confederate flag clothing is constitutionally permissible. Farmington, 508 F.Supp.2d at 749. Hardwick v. Heyward, 674 F.Supp.2d 725, 733-34 (D.S.C.2009). C. Application of Principles to the Case at Hand In support of his claimed deprivation of First Amendment rights, Plaint......
  • Hardwick v. Heyward
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
    • March 8, 2012
    ...rights by prohibiting her from wearing clothing displaying the Confederate flag ("September 2009 Order"). Hardwick ex rel. Hardwick v. Heyward, 674 F. Supp. 2d 725 (D.S.C. 2009) (Doc. # 150). The plaintiff filed a notice of appeal. (Doc. # 156). On December 10, 2010, the United States Court......

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