Appeals Court Affirms that Punishment Was Appropriate for Athlete

Nov 7, 2008

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court’s ruling that a school district did not violate the rights of a student athlete, who struck two of his football coaches after he was removed from a game, when it expelled him from the school.
Greg Davis sued the Houston County, Alabama Board of Education, on behalf of his son, Joshua Davis, claiming that the defendant was liable to his son under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating his son’s right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. He claimed specifically that the defendant did not expel two similarly situated students and, therefore, violated his son’s right under the equal protection clause to be free from intentional discrimination at the hands of government officials. See Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564, 120 S. Ct. 1073, 145 L. Ed. 2d 1060 (2000) (per curiam); Campbell v. Rainbow City, 434 F.3d 1306, 1313-14 (11th Cir. 2006).
The district court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, spawning the appeal.
The appeals court wrote that in order for another student to be similarly situated to Joshua Davis, the plaintiff had “to show that the students were ‘prima facie identical in all relevant respects’ Campbell, 434 F.3d at 1314. Two individuals are ‘similarly situated’ if the quantity and quality of the comparator’s misconduct is ‘nearly identical’ to the individual raising the discrimination claim. Maniccia v. Brown, 171 F.3d 1364, 1368 (11th Cir. 1999).
“The first student, however, was involved in ‘horseplay’ by the sole victim’s own testimony, who urged that he be ‘talked to’ but not disciplined. The second proposed comparator was a sixth grade student who did not strike anyone. We conclude that neither of these proposed comparators is similarly situated to Joshua Davis under the law of this circuit. See Maniccia, 171 F.3d at 1368 (comparators who did not do what the plaintiff did are not similar); Hammock ex rel. Hammock v. Keys, 93 F. Supp. 2d 1222, 1232 (S.D. Ala. 2000) (equal protection does not require that elementary and high school students be treated identically in school discipline cases). Accordingly, plaintiff has not established a prima facie case of intentional discrimination against his son under the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Greg Davis v. Houston County, Alabama Board of Education; 11th Cir.;
No. 08-11172 Non-Argument Calendar, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 18619; 8/27/08
Attorneys of Record: (for appellant) Malcolm R. Newman. (for appellee) James Kevin Walding and Jere C. Segrest of Hardwick, Hause, Segrest & Walding.


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