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Bostic v. Smyrna School District

August 10, 2005

JAMES BOSTIC; CHERIE BOSTIC, AS NEXT FRIENDS OF MINOR PLAINTIFF JENNIFER BOSTIC; JENNIFER BOSTIC, APPELLANTS
v.
SMYRNA SCHOOL DISTRICT; SMYRNA BOARD OF EDUCATION; SMYRNA HIGH SCHOOL; CLARENCE E. LLOYD, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES; ANTHONY E. SOLIGO, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES; JOHN SMITH, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES; EVELYN SMITH



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Delaware (D.C. No. 01-0261) District Judge: The Honorable Kent A. Jordan.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tashima, Circuit Judge

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued June 9, 2005

BEFORE: AMBRO, VAN ANTWERPEN and TASHIMA*fn1, Circuit Judges

OPINION OF THE COURT

James, Cherie, and Jennifer Bostic (collectively, "Appellants")*fn2 appeal a jury verdict in favor of Smyrna School District, the Smyrna Board of Education, Smyrna High School (collectively, "Appellees" or "Smyrna Defendants"), and various individual defendants. Bostic filed suit against Defendants under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as amended, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, et. seq., based upon their alleged deliberate indifference to a sexual relationship between Bostic and her track coach John Smith, also named as a defendant, while she was a high school student. The jury returned a verdict in favor of all defendants, except Smith, on all claims against them, finding only Smith liable. The District Court subsequently denied Bostic's motion for a new trial. On appeal, Appellants contend that the district court erred in instructing the jury on who is an "appropriate official" and what constitutes "actual notice" for purposes of Title IX liability.

I. JURISDICTION

The District Court had federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and exercised supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1291.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

In the spring of 1999, Bostic was fifteen years old, a sophomore at Smyrna High School, and a member of the school's track team, which was coached by Smith. A sexual relationship developed between Bostic and Smith. The relationship included numerous sexual encounters during and after the school day, both on and off campus, and continued for approximately one year.

The relationship became a topic of discussion among students and generated reports that reached Principal Clarence Lloyd and Associate Principal Anthony Soligo. Bostic's parents became concerned about the close relationship that they observed between Bostic and Smith, including an incident when Bostic and Smith were found alone together in a car at night.

In September 1999, Mr. Bostic met with Lloyd and expressed his concerns. Lloyd told Mr. Bostic that he would speak with Smith and get back to him. Lloyd subsequently called Smith into his office and, in the presence of Soligo and James Kiger, the school's athletic director, discussed with Smith the allegations made by Mr. Bostic. At the meeting, Smith stated that he was sitting in the car discussing his marital problems with Bostic.Lloyd warned Smith that being alone with a student at night in a parked car was inappropriate and told Smith to avoid improper conduct. Soligo also told Smith that he should "minimize contact" with Bostic. Smith responded that he had "it covered." Lloyd subsequently called Mr. Bostic and left a message describing what he had done and asking Mr. Bostic to call him back if he had any further concerns. Mr. Bostic did not call back.

Michael Feldman, a teacher at the school, subsequently saw Smith and Bostic standing together in the hallway on two occasions. Feldman stated that they were so close together that they appeared to be two students, rather than a teacher and a student. Feldman discussed the ...


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