John and Jane Doe 1--12 v. Palm Beach County School Board and John Roe
The twelve plaintiffs in this action include four African-American students in a public high school in Palm Beach County, Florida, along with their parents (two plaintiff parents for each student). The Complaint alleges that the students were physically and emotionally abused by a substitute teacher at the high school over a period of two weeks from November 2 to November 15, 2014. The abuse included striking the students during and outside class with his fist and with a paddle, locking them inside an overheated classroom for detention, and repeatedly taunting them and daring them to complaint about his behavior, challenging that no one would believe the word of a group of “delinquents” over him.
The Complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida on October 28, 2016 and served ten days later. It named as defendants the Palm Beach County School Board (“Board”) and the substitute teacher (sued pseudonymously as John Roe). It raised the following six claims:
1) Assault and battery (Students against Roe)
2) Intentional infliction of emotional distress (Students against Board and Roe)
3) Negligent supervision (Students against Board)
4) Negligent retention (Students against Board)
5) Intentional infliction of emotional distress (Students against Board and Roe)
6) Negligent infliction of emotional distress (Parents against Board and Roe)
On December 27, 2016 (pursuant to a party stipulation for additional time to respond), defendants filed and served an Answer to the Complaint.
Since the Answer was filed and served, the parties had preliminary telephone and email discussions about discovery and settlement, but no documents have been exchanged and no discovery requests have been served by any party. The parties also have been preparing for the initial pretrial conference with the court, which was scheduled for February 27, 2017. No trial date or discovery schedule has been established. Both parties have been consulting with counsel and identifying evidence in their possession that supports or opposes the six claims. This is typical of the first weeks after the close of pleading, prior to that judicial conference and before discovery commences in earnest.
On February 24, 2017, plaintiffs move for leave to file an Amended Complaint, to add a seventh claim—by the four students against the Board for violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI prohibits recipients of federal funds (such as the Board) from discriminating because of race; an entity receiving federal funds is liable for any racially discriminatory conduct or acts committed by its employees and other workers. The new claim alleges that the teacher mistreated the students (in the ways described in the original Complaint) because they were African-American. Title VI has a two-year statute of limitations that begins running on the date of the last discriminatory act. Plaintiffs’ counsel realized the Title VI claim might be available upon further research and discussions about the facts with school officials.
A copy of the proposed Amended Complaint was attached to the motion, as required by Eleventh Circuit precedent and local rule; both parties believe it contains sufficient facts to state a plausible Title VI claim. Nevertheless, the Board opposes the motion for leave to amend and the filing of the amended pleading.
As the district judge, rule on the motion for leave to amend.