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Wilson v. City of Southlake

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

August 28, 2019

CHAD WILSON, Individually and as next friend of S.W.; MARTHA WILSON, Individually and as next friend of S.W., Plaintiffs - Appellants

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas

          Before HAYNES, GRAVES, and HO, Circuit Judges.


         This is an appeal of the district court's grant of the defendants' motion to dismiss or alternatively for summary judgment regarding plaintiffs' disability-related claims under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or the Americans With Disabilities Act. Because the district court erred in granting summary judgment, we VACATE and REMAND.


         The City of Southlake, Texas, and the Carroll Independent School District (ISD) had a Memorandum of Understanding whereby the Southlake Police Department (SPD) would provide services to the district in the form of

          School Resource Officers (SROs). Under the agreement, the City would provide law enforcement training and certification, SRO training, including crisis prevention training, a police vehicle, and other necessary equipment. The agreement also provided that, before the district would request assistance in regard to any special-needs child, the district would provide detailed instructions and access to the child's Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP), their Admissions, Review & Dismissal (ARD) paperwork, and Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) to the designated SRO. The purpose of the SROs is to enforce violations of the law, not to enforce school rules.

         S.W. was an eight-year-old child with significant emotional and behavioral disabilities who was in second grade at Carroll Elementary during the relevant time period. S.W. was diagnosed with autism, oppositional defiant disorder, and separation anxiety disorder. S.W., who weighed approximately 87 pounds and was about 58 inches tall at the time, also received Special Education services.

         On October 8, 2013, Carroll Elementary School Principal Stacy Wagnon made a report to Child Protective Services (CPS) that S.W. had made a statement that he "wanted to suicide himself." Wagnon also contacted SPD. This led to various meetings and discussions between officials from the school, SPD, CPS and S.W.'s parents.

         On January 7, 2014, S.W. was serving in-school suspension in Wagnon's office when he had an incident that resulted in Jennifer Bailey, school counselor, requesting Slusser's assistance. During this incident, S.W. screamed obscenities at Wagnon and Assistant Principal Angie George, overturned chairs, punched and kicked Wagnon, threw a jar of beans, said he was going to kill someone, and eventually dropped his pants and exposed himself. Wagnon and Slusser gave S.W. space and were able to calm him down. His parents arrived shortly thereafter to take him home. Slusser also reported this incident to Baker.

         On January 23, 2014, S.W. was serving in-school suspension in Wagnon's office and became visibly upset, using obscenities, crumpling papers and throwing items on the floor. S.W. referenced a weapon in his backpack and produced what he referred to as "home-built nunchucks." The "nunchucks" consisted of a jump rope provided by the school as part of a "Jump Rope for Heart" program. S.W. twirled the jump rope and attempted to hit Wagnon. He also threw a cup of coffee and hit the wall. Wagnon called for Slusser and he observed while she tried to calm S.W. who then ran into the hallway with his jump rope.

         Shortly after S.W. entered the hallway, SRO Sgt. Randy Baker, who had been called by Slusser, arrived. Slusser told Baker, "stand and watch right here, say nothing."[1] Seconds later, as S.W. was twirling his jump rope, Baker handcuffed S.W. and took him to Wagnon's office. Baker sat face-to-face with S.W., screamed at him, called him names, including "punk" and "brat," mocked S.W., and laughed at him. While screaming, Baker indicated that he was reacting the way he was because of how S.W. had acted during a previous incident.

         Baker continued antagonizing S.W. and aggravating the situation until S.W.'s parents arrived. When S.W.'s mother asked Baker if he realized handcuffing a child with autism would traumatize him, Baker replied: "You know what? You're right, I don't know that. I'm not a psychologist." With regard to S.W. having autism, Baker said, "You know what, he has no sign on his head that says, 'I have autism, I hit people.' You can't do that in a free society." Baker then continued to laugh and make comments like "Great parenting!" S.W.'s mother yelled at Baker for laughing and asked for his information. Baker then demanded that they leave the school. S.W. was being carried by his father as they left the school. As a result of this incident, Baker filed various criminal charges against S.W.

         Both Wagnon and Slusser indicated that Baker appeared to have lost his temper. Baker likewise conceded that he did sound like he had lost his temper. An internal affairs investigation found that Baker's interaction with S.W. was "unprofessional and unreasonable." Further, Baker's conduct was "demeaning, berating and antagonizing" toward S.W. Baker was terminated by the City as a result.

         S.W.'s parents, individually and as next friend for S.W., (collectively S.W.) filed suit against the City of Southlake, the Southlake Police Department, and Randy Baker, alleging violations of the Americans with Disability Act of 1990, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment. The district court subsequently granted the motion. Now S.W. appeals the dismissal of the disability discrimination claims pursuant to a summary judgment standard.


         This Court reviews de novo a district court's grant of summary judgment, viewing all evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and drawing all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Dediol v. Best Chevrolet, 655 F.3d 435, 439 (5th Cir. 2011). Summary judgment is proper when "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). A genuine issue of material fact exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Crawford v. Formosa ...

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