United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
F. ATLAS SENIOR UNITEJ2 STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
civil rights case is before the Court on the Motion for
Summary Judgment (“Motion”) [Doc. # 48] filed by
Defendant Houston Independent School District
(“HISD”) as to the Title IX claim against it, and
by Individual Defendants Harrison Peters, Justin Fuentes and
Robert Scott Allen as to the equal protection claim against
them. Plaintiffs Hector Ayala and Itza Ayala, As
Representatives of I.L., a Minor, filed a Response [Doc. #
49], and Defendants filed a Reply [Doc. # 50]. Having
considered the full record and the applicable legal
authorities, the Court grants the Motion.
was a student at the High School of the Performing and Visual
Arts (“HSPVA”), an HISD school. I.L. was on the
HSPVA campus on the morning of August 15, 2014, for a program
for incoming students. I.L., a rising tenth grader at the
time, claims that a rising-senior male HSPVA student
(“S.S.”) asked her to help him look for an
amplifier. I.L. claims that S.S. placed his hand inside her
pants when the two students were alone in a practice room.
S.S. and I.L. were part of the same group of friends at
school, and they had been exchanging text messages over the
summer, with I.L. initially expressing an interest in
becoming S.S.'s girlfriend. I.L. later sent a text
message to S.S. stating that she did not want anyone in her
life at that time, and S.S. responded “fine.”
on August 15, 2014, another HSPVA student informed HSPVA
school counselor Travis Springfield that I.L. was crying in a
restroom. After speaking with I.L., Springfield informed
HSPVA Principal Allen and HSPVA Assistant Principal Mercy
Alonso-Rodriguez of the incident involving I.L. and S.S.
Allen instructed Springfield to obtain a written statement
from I.L. After I.L. completed her handwritten statement,
Springfield asked I.L. if she and S.S. had any history
together. I.L. informed Springfield that the two students had
exchanged text messages over the summer, and Springfield
reviewed the messages. Springfield telephoned I.L.'s
parents and left a voicemail message for each of them. Both
parents arrived at the school, where they spoke with HISD
Rodriguez questioned S.S. in Allen's presence until HISD
police officers arrived and began questioning S.S. Rodriguez
telephoned S.S.'s mother and asked her to come to the
school. Rodriguez then spoke with I.L., who was in the
nurse's office at the school.
Rodriguez, and Springfield conferred and exchanged
information. The text messages between I.L. and S.S., and a
security video of the hallways outside the practice room
where the encounter occurred, caused some uncertainty
regarding whether the encounter had been consensual. As a
result, it was decided to wait for the HISD police officers
to complete their investigation before finalizing an
appropriate disciplinary response.
they were undecided regarding the appropriate discipline, the
HSPVA officials believed there had been an encounter between
the students and, therefore, wanted to keep I.L and S.S.
apart during the investigation. Allen and Rodriguez met with
Assistant Principal Larry Trout on Monday, August 18, 2014,
and asked him to ensure that S.S. had no contact with I.L.
Trout spoke with S.S. that same day and instructed him to
have no contact whatsoever with I.L. Trout instructed S.S.
that if he saw I.L. in the hallway, he should turn and go in
the opposite direction. Trout instructed S.S. that he was not
to be alone at any time with I.L. and that if he was in a
room and I.L. entered, he was to leave the room immediately.
Trout also explained these instructions to S.S.'s mother.
the first semester of the 2014-15 school year, Trout would
seek out S.S. at lunch, in the hallway, or after school to
verify that he was following HSPVA's rule that S.S. avoid
all contact with I.L. Trout also met with S.S. approximately
once per month to question him about any contact with I.L.
Trout did not observe or hear about any contact between the
during the fall semester, Rodriguez informed I.L. that she
was available any time I.L. wanted or needed to talk.
Whenever Rodriguez saw I.L. in the school hallway, she would
ask I.L. how she was doing and I.L. always responded that she
worked with I.L.'s parents during the fall semester
regarding I.L.'s academic and attendance issues. At one
point, I.L. informed Springfield that she had seen S.S. in
the hallway and found it upsetting. She stated that there had
been no contact, only that she had seen him. Springfield told
I.L. that she could come to him any time that she felt upset.
continued to suffer depression, anxiety, and epileptic
seizures throughout the 2014-15 school year. On March 2,
2015, I.L.'s request for a transfer was granted, and I.L.
began attending classes at Lamar High School.
filed this lawsuit on August 15, 2016. After Plaintiffs filed
multiple amended complaints and the Court ruled on two
motions to dismiss, the only remaining claims are a Title IX
discrimination claim against HISD and an equal protection
claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Individual
Defendants. Plaintiffs complain that HISD failed to conduct a
proper investigation, and that no action was taken by HSPVA
or HISD to “eliminate the hostile environment in which
I.L. [then] found herself, to prevent its recurrence, or to
address its effects.” Plaintiffs complain specifically
that HSPVA failed to remove S.S. from the school or, at
least, to preclude him from eating lunch or changing classes
with any other students and failed to provide an escort for
I.L. during the school day. Plaintiffs allege HISD violated
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 29 U.S.C.
§ 1681, et seq., and that the Individual
Defendants violated I.L.'s equal protection rights.
the close of discovery, Defendants filed their Motion for
Summary Judgment. The Motion has been fully ...