McLean v. Pine Eagle Sch. Dist., Case No. 3:15-cv-654-SI

Decision Date01 July 2016
Docket NumberCase No. 3:15-cv-654-SI
Citation194 F.Supp.3d 1102
Parties Linda Mallery MCLEAN, Plaintiff, v. PINE EAGLE SCHOOL DISTRICT, NO. 61; John Minarich, Mark Butler, William Johnson, David Schmitt, Dwight Saunders, Robert Seal, Michael Corley, Cammie deCastro, and Shawn Thatcher, in their individual and official capacities; and Alpine Alarm Communications and Construction, LLC, an Oregon Limited Liability Company, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Oregon

Ralph E. Wiser, One Centerpointe Drive, Suite 570, Lake Oswego, OR 97035; Roderick Boutin, Boutin & Associates , PC, 5005 Meadows Road, Suite 405, Lake Oswego, OR 97035; Cody Hoesly, Larkins Vacura Kayser , 121 S.W. Morrison Street, Suite 700, Portland, OR 97204. Of Attorneys for Plaintiff.

Karen M. Vickers and Blake H. Fry, Mersereau Shannon LLP, One S.W. Columbia Street, Suite 1600, Portland, OR 97258. Of Attorneys for Defendants Pine Eagle School District, No. 61; John Minarich; Mark Butler ; William Johnson; David Schmitt ; Dwight Saunders; Robert Seal; Michael Corley ; Cammie DeCastro; and Shawn Thatcher.

David R. Auxier, Coughlin & Leuenberger , PC, Post Office Box 1026, Baker City, OR 97814. Of Attorneys for Defendant Alpine Alarm Communications and Construction, LLC.

OPINION AND ORDER

Michael H. Simon, District Judge.

In this case, a former elementary school teacher is suing the school district where she previously worked, as well as several district administrators, employees, and school board members. She also is suing a private company that is co-owned by the chair of the school board. Plaintiff's school district held an in-service workday for teachers on April 26, 2013. Plaintiff was at school, working alone in her classroom. Most students were not at school that day.

On the afternoon of April 26, several of the Defendants participated in an "active shooter drill" at the elementary school where Plaintiff was working. None of the teachers, including Plaintiff, were given any advance warning. Two men entered the school building. One of them lit firecrackers inside the building. The two men were wearing masks and disguises to hide their identities. They each carried a "starter" pistol. One man walked down the hallway leading to the library. The other walked down the hallway leading to Plaintiff's classroom. He entered and found Plaintiff alone.

Once inside, the masked man pointed his "starter" pistol directly at Plaintiff. He pulled the trigger. The pistol was loaded with. 22 caliber blanks. Pulling the trigger caused a loud noise, which sounded like a gunshot. Smoke came out of the gun. The masked man said to Plaintiff, "You're dead." He ran away.

Plaintiff claims that as a result of what happened during this unannounced active shooter "drill," she became distraught, shaken, and mentally, physically, and emotionally ill. In this lawsuit, she alleges four claims for deprivation of her federal constitutional rights and two state common law claims, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil assault. All Defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motions are granted in part and denied in part. Plaintiff's constitutional claims are dismissed, but she may proceed to trial on her two state law claims, at least against several of the Defendants.

STANDARDS

A party is entitled to summary judgment if the "movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The moving party has the burden of establishing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Clicks Billiards, Inc. v. Sixshooters, Inc. , 251 F.3d 1252, 1257 (9th Cir.2001). Although "[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge ... ruling on a motion for summary judgment," the "mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position [is] insufficient...." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 252, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

BACKGROUND

Pine Eagle School District, No. 61 ("Pine Eagle") is located in Halfway, Oregon, in a rural part of the state. Halfway has a population of 286. Emergency response times can take more than an hour.

Linda Mallery McLean ("McLean") is a former elementary school teacher who worked for Pine Eagle. In addition to suing the school district, McLean is suing several of its administrators, employees, and school board members. The administrators and employees being sued by McLean are: Michael Corley ("Corley") (Superintendent of Pine Eagle), Cammie deCastro ("deCastro") (Principal of Pine Eagle's elementary and high schools), and Shawn Thatcher ("Thatcher") (school safety officer and maintenance person for Pine Eagle). The two school board members sued by McLean are: John Minarich ("Minarich") (Chair of the Pine Eagle school board, and also President and co-owner of Alpine Alarm Communications and Construction, LLC ("Alpine Alarm")); and David Schmitt ("Schmitt") (member of the Pine Eagle school board). McLean also is suing Alpine Alarm.1

On December 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, a lone gunman fatally shot 20 children ranging in age from 6 to 7 years old, as well as six adult staff members. One month later, on January 14, 2013, the Pine Eagle school board met. Principal deCastro reported that she had recently spoken with school board Chair Minarich, who pointed out that in light of the recent events at Sandy Hook, "notification is very important, and the [school's] communication system is lacking." Minarich told the school board that he was a professional in emergency situations, saying "It's what I do for a living." Minarich then suggested that the Pine Eagle school district needed a committee to look at safety options. The school board approved the formation of a Safety Committee to formulate policy for an emergency response to an intruder (or active shooter) situation. Minarich volunteered to serve on that committee and asked for others to join him. Board members David Schmitt and William Johnson and Principal deCastro all volunteered to join Minarich on the Safety Committee. Shortly thereafter, Pine Eagle's safety officer and maintenance person Shawn Thatcher joined the Safety Committee.

On February 4, 2013, Safety Committee members Minarich, deCastro, and Thatcher, along with Superintendent Corley, attended a presentation in Baker City, Oregon on the "Run, Hide, Fight" recommended response to active shooter incidents. This presentation did not include any training for active shooter drills. On February 11, 2013, the school board met. They were told about what had been learned at the presentation the previous week.

The school board next met on March 11, 2013. Principal deCastro advised that school staff, including teachers, soon will be attending a presentation in Baker City on the "Run, Hide, Fight" recommended response. They were told that after a Pine Eagle teacher attended a training session, the administration required that attendee to develop a written safety plan for his or her classroom, implementing what had been learned.

Also at the March 11th school board meeting, school safety officer Thatcher told the board that he had spoken with Alpine Alarm (Chair Minarich's company) "to explore costs to implement security measures for the school," including "communication options." Alpine Alarm is a small business that installs and services security systems throughout Oregon and Idaho, including for school districts. Minarich is the President and co-owner of the company. Minarich's wife is the Vice President and also a co-owner. Shortly thereafter, Minarich submitted an estimate for the cost of upgrading Pine Eagle's security system. The school district, however, decided not to upgrade its system at that time.

On March 14, 2013, McLean and other Pine Eagle teachers attended the "Run, Hide, Fight" presentation in Baker City. The presentation consisted of a lecture, a video, and a question and answer period. The presentation did not include training on active shooter drills.

After the March 14 presentation, the members of the Safety Committee—Minarich, deCastro, Thatcher, and Schmitt—planned an unannounced active shooter drill to take place at the Pine Eagle elementary school on the afternoon of April 26, during a teacher in-service workday, when no students were expected to be present. That was also the day that the teachers' written safety plans were due.

Minarich, deCastro, Thatcher, and Schmitt intended the drill to simulate a response to an active shooter intrusion in order to test the teaching staff's "Run, Hide, Fight" responses. Minarich testified during his deposition that the purpose of the drill was "[s]ituational awareness, policies, making sure that the staff was following the training, the run, hide, fight, trying to verify whether doors were locked, was there easy egress." ECF 35-5 at 22. According to Principal deCastro, a teacher fighting back would have been among the several possible successful responses to the drill. Additionally, Schmitt testified during his deposition that he continued to be supportive of the drill, even though he knew that a teacher could have fought back, including by using a sharp weapon. ECF 38-1 at 272. Minarich, deCastro, Thatcher, and Schmitt did not have any training in planning or...

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