United States District Court, D. New Jersey
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.
Y.W., a resident of New Milford, New Jersey, brings this
action against two employees of the New Jersey Division of
Child Protection and Permanency (“DCPP”),
Defendants Kimberly Roberts and Veronica Zeron, alleging
violations of his substantive and procedural due process
rights under the 14th Amendment, in connection with the
DCPP's investigation of him for child abuse. This matter
comes before the Court on the parties' competing motions
for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56. There was no oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b).
For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is
DENIED. Defendants' motion is
GRANTED in part and DENIED in
Court assumes the parties' familiarity with the facts and
procedural history of the instant case and writes solely for
their benefit. Unless otherwise noted, the following facts
The Undisputed Facts
The Events of February 1, 2013
February 1, 2013, DCPP received an anonymous call from an
individual at the Berkley Street School in New Milford, New
Jersey. The caller reported the following details about
Plaintiff's son, Y.Y., who was a student at the school.
• In response to seeing a picture of an American Indian
with children sitting in his lap, Y.Y. spontaneously stated
that the children were “touching their dad, ”
that he too touches his dad, that touching him is “a
secret, ” and that he gets “a special
surprise” from doing it. Pl.'s Statement of
Uncontested Facts (“Pl.'s Stmt.”), Ex. CC
(“Tr.”) 3:20-25, ECF No. 109-31.
• Y.Y. was a student with autism. Tr. 5:10.
• Y.Y. had been complaining of an “itchy”
bottom that week. Tr. 5:3-5.
• In the past, staff redirected Y.Y. when he
“humped things.” Tr. 8:24-9:7.
• Y.Y. told school staff that he lives in a one-bedroom
apartment and shares a room with his mom, his dad, and his
mom's boyfriend. Tr. 6:22-23.
DCPP employee who received the call created a
“screening summary, ” summarizing the content of
the call, identifying Plaintiff as the alleged perpetrator
and coding the report “CPS IMMEDIATE for Sexual
Molestation.” Pl.'s Stmt., Ex. B 1-2, ECF No.
receiving the screening summary, Defendant Roberts, then a
DCPP intake investigator, traveled to the Berkley Street
School with a New Milford police officer. Pl.'s Stmt.,
Ex. D (“Roberts Dep.”) 10:16-19, ECF No. 109-6;
id., Ex. F (“Invest. Summ.”) 3, ECF No.
109-8. There, Roberts interviewed the school principal, Pat
Aufiero, and Y.Y.'s teacher, Kelly Mayer. Aufiero told
Roberts that Y.Y.'s teacher came to her and reported the
statement he made about his father. She also said that Y.Y.
was classified as autistic, that he had a good attendance
record, came to school clean and appeared to be healthy.
Aufiero stated that there had never been a concern about Y.Y.
in the past and that his mother was always in contact with
the school when conferences or issues arose. She further
indicated that Y.Y. lives with Plaintiff, Y.Y.'s mother
(“Mother”) and her boyfriend
(“Boyfriend”). See Invest. Summ. at 3.
next spoke with Mayer, who corroborated the events described
on the anonymous call, including Y.Y.'s statements about
touching his father and history of humping objects. Mayer
also stated that she never had concerns about abuse or
neglect with Y.Y. prior to that day. Id.
then interviewed Y.Y., who confirmed that he lives in a
one-bedroom apartment with Plaintiff, Mother and Boyfriend,
but also added that he sleeps in his own bed. He said that
everyone sleeps with clothes on and he has never seen any of
the adults naked. He said that his parents reward him with
special prizes for good behavior, such as being a good
listener. He was able to identify various parts of his body,
but when Roberts pointed to his penis, Y.Y. called it
“pants” and “underwear.” Roberts
asked if Y.Y. knew what his private area was, to which he
responded no. Upon further explanation, Y.Y. responded that
Mother and Plaintiff had explained what his private area was
before but that he had forgotten. Y.Y. also denied ever being
touched in his private area by Plaintiff, Mother, Boyfriend
or anyone else. He further explained that Mother and
Plaintiff touch him on his back and give him hugs and kisses.
He denied that anyone ever touched his bottom area and
reported that he occasionally has trouble cleaning himself
after going to the bathroom. He also denied stating to anyone
that Plaintiff, Mother or Boyfriend keeps secrets. He further
denied that Plaintiff gives him special gifts. See
id. at 3-4.
that day, Roberts traveled to Y.Y.'s residence to
interview his parents.Plaintiff was home with Y.Y. when Roberts
arrived. Plaintiff explained that he lived there with Mother
and Boyfriend, but that he also often stayed with his family
in Brooklyn. Plaintiff confirmed that Y.Y. had autism,
specifically Asperger's Syndrome, and that he and Mother
rewarded Y.Y. for good behavior, which they referred to as a
special gift. Plaintiff denied giving Y.Y. special gifts in
exchange for keeping secrets and further denied ever sleeping
in the same bed with him. A few weeks prior, Plaintiff and
Mother explained to Y.Y. what private areas were and the
importance of not exposing himself after an incident where
Y.Y. emerged from the bathroom with his pants pulled down.
Plaintiff said that it was sometimes difficult to explain
things to Y.Y. because he often repeats what is said to him
multiple times. See id. at 4.
observed the bedroom and noted that it had a twin bed where
Plaintiff slept, a toddler bed for Y.Y. and a queen-sized bed
for Mother and Boyfriend. Plaintiff advised that Y.Y. bathes
himself under Mother's supervision and confirmed that he
has trouble cleaning himself after going to the bathroom.
Plaintiff stated that he never saw Y.Y. humping objects or
otherwise acting out in a sexual manner. Plaintiff denied any
inappropriate touching between Y.Y. and himself. See
id. at 5.
subsequently left the apartment and called her supervisor,
Defendant Zeron. Roberts conveyed to Zeron her findings to
that point. Zeron instructed Roberts to implement a Safety
Protection Plan (the “Safety Plan”), which would
restrain all unsupervised contact between Y.Y., Plaintiff and
Boyfriend. Under the Safety Plan, Mother would provide all
necessary supervision. See id.
waited outside of the apartment until Mother and Boyfriend
returned home later that night, at which time Roberts
approached and explained the situation. Mother was shocked to
learn of the events and stated that she never saw any signs
that Y.Y. had been molested. She further corroborated much of
what Plaintiff previously said, including their sleeping
arrangements, Y.Y.'s trouble with cleaning himself,
giving Y.Y. special gifts for good behavior and explaining to
him the importance of not exposing himself. She also said
that she never saw Plaintiff acting ...