Hill vs Madison County School Board

Hill vs Madison County School Board

January 22, 2010:  A 14-year-old girl was raped in the boys’ bathroom at Sparkman Middle school by an older boy with a history of sexual and violent misconduct. Prior to the rape, June Simpson, a teacher’s assistant, had reported to the Principal, Ronnie Blair, that the boy was asking girls to meet him for sex in the boys’ bathroom. Blair’s response was that nothing could be done to the boy unless he was “caught in the act.” Simpson told the girl to agree to meet with the boy so teachers could come in and catch him. The teacher’s assistant told the Assistant Principal, Jeanne Dunaway about the plan, but she did nothing to stop it. Teachers did not come, and the girl was raped.

April 30, 2010:  Attorney for the girl sent a letter to Principal Blair asking that all records relating to the incident be preserved.

May 2010:  All of the boy’s disciplinary records were destroyed except the information that had been entered into a computer database.

September 23, 2010:  Sparkman Middle School father of the girl filed lawsuit against the Madison County School Board and administrators alleging that administrators allowed his daughter to be raped in the bathroom. The lawsuit named administrators Ronnie Blair (Principal), Jeanne Dunaway (Assistant Principal), Teresa Terrell (Assistant Principal) and June Simpson (Teachers’ Aid). The lawsuit included federal claims under Title IX of the of the Education Amendments of 1972, violation of federal constitutional rights, and claims based on state law.

July 19, 2012:  Defendants School Board, Blair, Terrell, and Dunaway filed a Motion for Summary Judgment to dismiss all claims against them on the grounds that there was not enough evidence for a jury to decide a law had been violated.

July 12, 2013:  The District Court threw out the federal claims, including those against the Madison County School Board.

October 24, 2013:  The District Court dismissed all of the other claims, keeping some state law claims that could be re-filed in Alabama state court.

December 30, 2013:   The girl’s attorneys filed a Motion asking the Court to change its ruling and allow the case to proceed to a jury trial.

May 19, 2014:  The District Court denied the girl’s motion to change its decision.

June 3, 2014:  The girl appealed the District Court’s decision that she was not entitled to a jury trial to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Dunaway had already appealed the District Court’s decision that allowed her to be sued in state court for the state law claims. Now, both sides have appeals pending.

September 10, 2014:  The National Women’s Law Center, a-nonprofit women’s rights group, that had joined the girl’s attorneys as counsel for the girl, working with the girls’ attorneys, filed a brief on the girl’s behalf in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

September 17, 2014:  The United States Department of Justice and the United States Department of Education filed an independent (“friend of the court”) brief arguing on the girl’s behalf. According to the Department of Justice, the actions of the School Board violated federal law, and the girl’s case should be heard by a jury.

September 17, 2014:  The Women’s Law Project, along with 32 other non-profit groups, filed another independent (“friend of the court”) brief lending their collective voices that the School Board violated federal law, and the lower court was wrong.

September 23, 2014:  Madison County School Board holds press conference.

September 23, 2014: Plaintiff and her attorneys submit press release:
Initial Reaction to School Board Press Conference of September 23, 2014.

September 29, 2014: Jeanne Dunaway and her attorney, Clay Carr, held a meeting at Madison County Elementary to address parent questions related to the Hill lawsuit. Ms. Dunaway was promoted from Vice Principal at Sparkman Middle School to Principal at Madison County Elementary School after the lawsuit was filed. Media coverage detailing the meeting can be found here: “Parents spar with attorney for school administrators during meeting on Sparkman Middle rape ‘bait’ case”

October 16, 2014:  Parents hold protest outside the Madison County School Board meeting to demand greater accountability.   News sources covering the protest also report that an online petition calling for the investigation (and firing) of school administrators who handled the incident has amassed over 100,000 signatures.  See AL.com, WAFF News, and WHNT News .

October 21, 2014:  Plaintiff’s attorneys submit Response Brief to Defendant Jeanne Dunaway’s Brief on state law claims of negligence, wantonness and state law immunity.

October 21, 2014: Madison County School Board’s attorneys submit Response Brief.

October 23, 2014: Madison County School Board requests permission to respond to the Department of Justice brief.

November 8, 2014: A round of reply briefs filed in the Eleventh Circuit by all of the parties.

February 5, 2015: The parties were notified that the case will be set for oral argument before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. No date has yet been set. All sides will be given an opportunity to present oral argument in support of their case to a three-judge panel, and will answer any questions the judges might have.

February 9, 2015:   Defendants School Board, Principal Blair, Assistant Principals Dunaway and Terrell oppose plaintiff’s request to remain anonymous during the court proceedings, urging the court to rule that the plaintiff “should be required to appear using her own name rather than a pseudonym.”  According to the defendants, “basic fairness requires that [the plaintiff], who is now an adult, should be required to state her public accusations against the defendants under her own real name.” See AL.com’s coverage of Associated Press story, “Madison County school system wants Sparkman Middle ‘rape bait’ victim to reveal name.”

March 4, 2015:  The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals sets oral argument to take place during the week of May 18th in Atlanta. (Previously, the oral argument was tentatively set for April in Montgomery, Alabama.)

April 28, 2015:  The Department of Justice requested permission from the court to participate in the oral argument. The defendants School Board and the administration objected to DOJ’s request.

May 19, 2015:  Oral argument before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals was held in Atlanta.  The parties presented arguments and responded to questions from the judges concerning why the parties believe that the decision of the federal trial court should be reversed or upheld.

July 14, 2015: Federal court case filed against the young man who raped the girl in 2010.

August 12, 2015:  A 3-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit reversed the lower court’s October 24, 2013 ruling and reinstated the girl’s claims against the School Board, Principal Blair and Assistant Principal Dunaway under federal law. The Eleventh Circuit also permitted the girl to pursue her lawsuit anonymously despite the opposition of the School Board.

September 2, 2015:  The Madison County School Board and Principal Blair filed a Petition for Rehearing en banc requesting that all of the judges in the Eleventh Circuit review the decision by the 3-judge panel who held that the lawsuit could go forward against the Madison County School Board under Title IX and Principal Blair for violation of the girl’s constitutional rights under section 1983.   The petition asks that the entire court to overrule the panel’s decision and to uphold the lower court’s summary judgment decision in favor of both the Madison County School Board and Blair and to dismiss them from the case.

October 15, 2015:  The Eleventh Circuit denied the defendants’ request to review the August 12th decision of the 3-judge panel that reversed the lower court.

Possible Future for Doe** v. Madison County School Board

January 13 2016:  The defendants’ deadline to petition the United States Supreme Court to overturn the Eleventh Circuit’s decision.

Date To Be Determined:    Jury trial.


*This timeline will be updated regularly.

**The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals permitted the girl to pursue her lawsuit anonymously despite the opposition of the School Board.


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