United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division
HEATHER RHODES, Individually, as Natural Mother and Next Friend of C.R., a minor PLAINTIFFS
LAMAR COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT and TONYA CRAFT, Individually DEFENDANTS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Starrett, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment
 filed by Defendants Lamar County School District and
Tonya Craft. After reviewing the submissions of the parties,
the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that this
motion should be granted in part and denied in part.
November 14, 2016, Plaintiff Heather Rhodes
(“Rhodes”) brought this suit on her own behalf
and on behalf of her minor son, C.R. (collectively
“Plaintiffs”), against Defendants Lamar County
School District (the “District”) and Tonya Craft
“Defendants”). Plaintiffs bring claims under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 for false imprisonment, unreasonable
seizure, excessive force, and violations of substantive due
process, as well as claims for violations of the American
with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act, and various
state law claims.
action centers around an incident occurring at the Longleaf
Elementary School, a school within the District, while C.R.
was a student in Craft's class. C.R. suffers from autism.
On November 13, 2013, Craft separated C.R. from the class
during a “meltdown” and had him enter a
“Chill Zone, ” a four-feet-by-four-feet enclosure
pressed against the classroom's wall. Rhodes was on
campus that day meeting with a counselor. When she arrived at
Craft's classroom, she heard C.R. yelling “let me
out” and observed Craft holding the door of the Chill
Zone shut with her foot.
Standard of Review
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that “[t]he court
shall grant 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). “Where the burden of production at
trial ultimately rests on the nonmovant, the movant must
merely demonstrate an absence of evidentiary support in the
record for the nonmovant's case.” Cuadra v.
Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 626 F.3d 808, 812 (5th Cir.
2010) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). The
nonmovant must then “come forward with specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Id. “An issue is material if its resolution
could affect the outcome of the action.” Sierra
Club, Inc. v. Sandy Creek Energy Assocs., L.P., 627 F.3d
134, 138 (5th Cir. 2010) (quoting Daniels v. City of
Arlington, Tex., 246 F.3d 500, 502 (5th Cir. 2001)).
“An issue is ‘genuine' if the evidence is
sufficient for a reasonable [fact-finder] to return a verdict
for the nonmoving party.” Cuadra, 626 F.3d at
812 (citation omitted).
Court is not permitted to make credibility determinations or
weigh the evidence. Deville v. Marcantel, 567 F.3d
156, 164 (5th Cir. 2009) (citing Turner v. Baylor
Richardson Med. Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir.
2007)). When deciding whether a genuine fact issue exists,
“the court must view the facts and the inferences to be
drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party.” Sierra Club, 627 F.3d at 138. However,
“[c]onclusional allegations and denials, speculation,
improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and
legalistic argumentation do not adequately substitute for
specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.”
Oliver v. Scott, 276 F.3d 736, 744 (5th Cir. 2002)
(citation omitted). Summary judgment is mandatory
“against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient
to establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case, and on which that party will bear the
burden of proof at trial.” Brown v. Offshore
Specialty Fabricators, Inc., 663 F.3d 759, 766 (5th Cir.
2011) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)).
Statute of Limitations
concede that the claims brought by Rhodes in her individual
capacity are barred by their applicable statutes of
limitations. Parties agree, though, that these statutes are
tolled for the minor, C.R., and his claims may proceed.
Therefore, the Court will grant the Motion
for Summary Judgment  with respect to Rhodes' claims
in her individual capacity.
§ 1983 Claims
claim that the § 1983 claims against them must fail
because there is no liability for the District and because
qualified immunity protects Craft from liability.
immunity protects government officials sued in their
individual capacities “from liability for civil damages
insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established
statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable
person would have known.” Pearson v. Callahan,
555 U.S. 223, 231, 129 S.Ct. 808, 172 L.Ed.2d 565 (2009)
(quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818,
102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982)). This doctrine, where
applicable, is a bar to suit altogether “rather than a
mere defense to liability.” Id. (quoting
Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526, 105 S.Ct.
2806, 86 L.Ed.2d 411 (1985)). The Supreme Court has explained
that “the driving force behind the creation of the
qualified immunity doctrine was a desire to ensure that
insubstantial claims against government officials [will] be
resolved prior to discovery.” Id. at 231-32
(quoting Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640,
n.2, 107 S.Ct. 3034, 97 L.Ed.2d 23 (1987)) (internal
quotations omitted and alteration in original).
are two steps in deciding whether qualified immunity applies.
Id. at 232. “First, a court must decide
whether the facts that a plaintiff has alleged or shown make
out a violation of a constitutional right.”
Id. (citing Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194,
201, 121 S.Ct. 2151, 150 L.Ed.2d 272 (2001)) (internal
citations omitted). If the plaintiff can establish this, then
“the court must decide whether the right at issue was
‘clearly established' at the time of
defendant's alleged misconduct.” Id. If
both steps are satisfied, qualified immunity does not apply.
False Imprisonment/Unreasonable Seizure
succeed on a false imprisonment claim, Plaintiffs must show
that C.R. was arrested without probable cause. Haggerty
v. Texas S. Univ., 391 F.3d 653, 655 (5th Cir. 2004)
(citing Brown v. Lyford, 243 F.3d 185, 189 (5th Cir.
2001)). Because Plaintiffs have conceded that C.R. was
neither arrested nor imprisoned, this claim must be
dismissed with prejudice. (See
Plaintiffs' Memo. in Response ...