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Shuman v. Penn Manor School District

September 7, 2005

JOSHUA SHUMAN, A MINOR BY AND THROUGH HIS MOTHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, TERESA SHERTZER; TERESA SHERTZER, APPELLANTS
v.
PENN MANOR SCHOOL DISTRICT; PENN MANOR SCHOOL BOARD; DONALD STEWART, INDIVIDUALLY; JANICE M. MINDISH, INDIVIDUALLY BRIAN D. BADDICK, INDIVIDUALLY; PHILIP B. GALE, INDIVIDUALLY; CAROLE FAY, INDIVIDUALLY, (AMENDED SEE CLERK'S ORDER OF 8/11/04)



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (D.C. No. 02-cv-03594). District Judge: Honorable James K. Gardner.

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

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued June 29, 2005

Before: NYGAARD*fn1 , SMITH, and FISHER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is an appeal from the District Court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants Penn Manor School District, Penn Manor School Board, and several administrators of Penn Manor High School and against plaintiff Joshua Shuman ("Shuman"), a student at the Penn Manor High School. Shuman alleges that the defendants violated his due process rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and his right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment during the course of an investigation into an incident of sexual misconduct between Shuman and a female classmate. We find no violation of Shuman's constitutional rights and will affirm the judgment of the District Court.

I. FACTS

On December 7, 2001, an incident of sexual misconduct took place between Shuman and Olivia Becker ("Becker"), a female student at the Penn Manor High School, during their agricultural science class. The nature of the sexual misconduct -- whether consensual or not -- is firmly disputed by both students; however, because the details of the underlying incident are not relevant for our purposes, we turn to the school's investigation of the incident, which is said by Shuman to have deprived him of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

On December 10, 2001, Becker spoke with Assistant Principal Phillip B. Gale ("Gale") and relayed her version of events, reporting that Shuman had touched her in a sexual manner without her consent three days earlier. Gale then called Shuman to his office at approximately 10:15 a.m. where he was questioned for ten to fifteen minutes regarding the incident. Shuman denied forcibly touching Becker and instead claimed that the incident was consensual. Shuman also named students sitting in close proximity to Shuman and Becker during their class as potential witnesses. When asked to describe the conversation between himself and Gale, Shuman testified in his deposition:

He asked me if I knew why I was there and asked ---he had asked about a situation that had occurred on the 7th. And I said what situation and he said the one concerning you and Olivia Becker. And I said, yeah, I know that there was something there but I didn't figure it was a situation there. And he said that she was claiming that I physically forced my hand upon her, and that she was very upset about it. And then I told him what I just went through and told you during the whole story and he said the stories weren't matching and asked me if I knew about what she was talking about. I said I had no idea and he said, well, I'd have to wait there while he called some witnesses down, to see if he could find a witness.

A. 161-62 (Dep. Shuman).

Following this meeting, Gale instructed Shuman to sit in a small conference room across the hallway from Gale's office. Shuman stayed in the conference room and did schoolwork for the next several hours. During that time, Gale claims that he re- interviewed Becker, informing her that Shuman had denied her version of the events and characterized the incident between them as consensual. According to Gale, Becker adamantly denied that the incident was consensual and encouraged Gale to speak with three friends with whom she confided after the incident. Gale claims he interviewed these students after his second meeting with Becker. Shuman disputes that Gale spoke with Becker a second time or that he spoke to these additional witnesses at all.*fn2

At approximately 11:30 a.m., Gale escorted Shuman to the cafeteria, where Shuman ate alone and apart from Gale and the other faculty members. After lunch, Gale escorted Shuman back to the conference room where Shuman stayed for the remainder of the day. Shuman left the room only one other time, before lunch, to get a drink of water.

Gale later returned to the conference room with Assistant Principal Brian D. Baddick ("Baddick"). Together, Gale and Baddick questioned Shuman again about the incident with Becker. This meeting lasted about ten minutes. Gale returned to the conference room again around 1:15 p.m. and informed Shuman that he was going to ...


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