Hough v. Shakopee Public Schools, Case No. 07-CV-2508 (PJS/RLE).

Decision Date30 March 2009
Docket NumberCase No. 07-CV-2508 (PJS/RLE).
PartiesTristan J. HOUGH and Trevin A. Hough, by and through their Guardian and Parent, Rayne Abbott; Daniel J. Manthey; Emily Troseth; and David Moravec, Plaintiffs, v. SHAKOPEE PUBLIC SCHOOLS (Independent School District No. 720); Shakopee Board of Education; Kathy McKay, Director of Special Education for Shakopee Public Schools, in her individual capacity; Minnesota River Valley Special Education Cooperative (Joint Powers School District No. 993); Lezlie Prettyman Olson, Director, in her individual capacity; Darren Kermes, Director, in his individual capacity; Colleen Trosen, Special Education Coordinator, in her individual capacity; and Barbara Bahnson, Special Education Administrator, in her individual capacity, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Minnesota

Margaret O'Sullivan Kane, Kane Education Law, LLC, for plaintiffs.

Amy E. Mace, Ratwik Roszak & Maloney, for defendants Shakopee Public Schools, Shakopee Board of Education, and Kathy McKay.

Timothy J. O'Connor, Lind Jensen Sullivan & Peterson, PA, for defendants Minnesota River Valley Special Education Cooperative, Lezlie Prettyman Olson, Darren Kermes, Colleen Trosen, and Barbara Bahnson.

ORDER ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND MOTION FOR SEPARATE TRIALS

PATRICK J. SCHILTZ, District Judge.

Plaintiffs were enrolled in special-education programs operated by defendant Minnesota River Valley Special Education Cooperative ("MRVSEC"). Defendant Shakopee Public Schools ("Shakopee") is one of six school districts that belong to MRVSEC.1 Shakopee often refers its students with special needs to programs run by MRVSEC. Three of the five plaintiffs in this action were referred by Shakopee to MRVSEC; the other two plaintiffs were referred by districts that are not parties to this action.

The MRVSEC programs attended by plaintiffs differed in many respects, but they had one thing in common: Every student was searched every day when he or she arrived at school. Generally speaking, students had their backpacks and purses searched, and students were required to empty their pockets, remove their shoes and socks, turn down the waistband of their pants, and sometimes to submit to a patdown search.

This is essentially a Fourth Amendment case, but plaintiffs have filed a "kitchen-sink" complaint, in which they allege not only that the searches violated the Fourth Amendment, but also that the searches violated numerous other provisions of the United States Constitution, the Minnesota Constitution, federal statutes, Minnesota statutes, and the common law. Plaintiffs contend that the searches violated their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to procedural due process, substantive due process, and equal protection of the laws. Plaintiffs raise due-process claims under the Minnesota Constitution. Plaintiffs contend that the searches amounted to disability discrimination in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12132, the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (known as "§ 504" of the Act), and the Minnesota Human Rights Act ("MHRA"), Minn.Stat. § 363A.12 subd. 1. And plaintiffs bring tort claims under Minnesota law for intrusion upon seclusion (a type of invasion of privacy).2

The parties cross-move for summary judgment, and Shakopee moves for a separate trial if its motion for summary judgment is denied. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants summary judgment to all defendants on all of plaintiffs' claims, with two exceptions: First, the Court grants summary judgment to plaintiffs on their Fourth Amendment claim against MRVSEC. Second, the Court denies summary judgment both to plaintiffs and to the MRVSEC defendants on the claims of Trevin Hough and Daniel Manthey for intrusion upon seclusion. The Court also denies as moot Shakopee's motion for a separate trial.

I. BACKGROUND

MRVSEC is a school district established under Minnesota's Joint Powers Statute, Minn.Stat. § 123A.15, to serve students who need special education. For the sake of convenience, the Court will sometimes refer to these as "disabled" students or as students with "special needs." MRVSEC enrolls students from each of its six member districts: Shakopee, Belle Plaine, Jordan, New Prague, Prior Lake-Savage, and Montgomery-Lonsdale. Kermes Aff. ¶ 2 [Docket No. 144]. MRVSEC's governing board is made up of one representative from each of these six districts. Individual defendants Lezlie Prettyman Olson, Darren Kermes, Colleen Trosen, and Barbara Bahnson are all former or current officials of MRVSEC. Individual defendant Kathy McKay is the Director of Special Services (including special-education services) for the Shakopee school district.

MRVSEC operates programs at several different locations. Within a particular program, MRVSEC may group students according to their age or their needs into what are effectively subprograms. Four MRVSEC programs are at issue in this case: the New Prague Education Center ("New Prague"), the Oasis program, the River Valley Education Center ("River Valley"), and the Town Square Education Center ("Town Square"). Within River Valley, there is both a junior high and a senior high, as well as a program for students with pervasive developmental disorders ("PDD"). Within Town Square, there are programs called "Crossings I," "Crossings II," "Potentials," "Journeys," and "Pathways." Town Square serves high-school-age students and, overall, is a "transition program" aimed at preparing its students to live independently. Town Square is located in a shopping mall.3

All of these programs are designated as "Setting IV" programs under federal law. Bahnson Aff. ¶ 17 [Docket No. 143]. Setting IV programs are non-residential public schools that exclusively serve disabled students. Id. ¶ 12.

The parties generally agree that plaintiffs were searched at the beginning of every school day when they attended New Prague, Oasis, River Valley, and Town Square. These searches have been conducted at Town Square since 2001 and at the other programs since 1998.4 The searches are discussed in detail below, in connection with plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claims.

Plaintiffs Daniel Manthey, Tristan Hough, and Trevin Hough, who lived in the Shakopee school district at the time of the events underlying this suit, are suing Shakopee and MRVSEC and associated individual defendants.5 Plaintiffs Emily Troseth6 and David Moravec, who lived outside of the Shakopee school district, are suing only MRVSEC and the MRVSEC-associated individual defendants. The Court summarizes below the basic facts about each plaintiff.7 To avoid confusion, the Court refers to plaintiffs by their first names (as do the parties).

A. Daniel

Daniel began attending junior high at River Valley in December 2003, when he was fourteen years old. He attended River Valley for the rest of the 2003-2004 school year, except for a short period in May 2004 when he attended the Carver-Scott Educational Cooperative. In the fall of 2004, Daniel was incarcerated at the Hastings Juvenile Services Center. After he was released, he attended senior high half-time at River Valley and half-time at Shakopee Senior High from December 2004 through December 2005. Daniel then attended Shakopee Senior High full-time from January 2006 through March 2007, and attended programs at Carver-Scott Educational Cooperative thereafter. In total, then, Daniel attended River Valley programs for about two years, from December 2003 to December 2005. Daniel turned eighteen in January 2007.

An assessment of Daniel's special-education needs conducted in January 2003 found that he was eligible for special-education services based on an "Other Health Disability." O'Connor Aff. [Docket No. 129] Ex. 8 at MRV00093. Specifically, the assessment concluded that Daniel suffered dysthymia (a type of chronic depression) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD"). Id. at MRV00092. Further, the assessment said that Daniel showed "a pattern of emotional or behavioral responses that are of significant concern to his mother and school staff" and that his "inability to manage his behavior in the school setting is greatly impacting his success...." Id. at MRV00093. According to the evaluation, when he was in the eighth grade, Daniel had "several serious behavior problems" such as "refusal to cooperate, verbal abuse, disruptive behavior, pulling fire alarm with a false 911 call, pushing, shoving, scuffling and physical assault." Id. at MRV00081.

Subsequent individual education plans ("IEPs") based on the January 2003 evaluation identified Daniel's primary disability as "Emotional/Behavior Disorder." Mace Aff. [Docket No. 122] Ex. 24 at 1 (IEP dated December 2003); Mace Aff. Ex. 26 at MRV00052 (IEP dated December 2004); Mace Aff. Ex. 25 at 1 (IEP dated May 2004). An IEP dated November 17, 2005 and based on an evaluation prepared the same day identified Daniel's primary disability as "Other Health Disabilities." Mace Aff. Ex. 27 at 1.

At the beginning of the ninth grade, before he enrolled in MRVSEC, Daniel was expelled from two different schools. First, Daniel was expelled from Shakopee Junior High after he brought a pocketknife to school. O'Connor Aff. Ex. 3 ("Daniel Dep.") at 13-15. He was then expelled from the Carver-Scott Educational Cooperative after less than two weeks for threatening to kill a fellow student. Id. at 23-24, 148. The police were called because of the threat, and Daniel was charged in juvenile court. Id. at 24-25. Daniel has also been convicted as a juvenile for assaulting or threatening family members. Id. at 39-40.

While at River Valley, Daniel was once found with a lighter in his pocket. Id. at 66. The police were called to River Valley roughly five to ten times on Daniel's account. Id. at 80-81, 85-86. When he was at Shakopee High School, the police...

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