Summary Judgment Ruling Sidelines Football Player’s Discrimination Claim

Apr 24, 2009

A federal judge from the District of Hawaii has granted summary judgment to a several defendants in a case where student athlete, who was kicked off a football team, claimed that he was discriminated against on the basis of his race and his disabilities.
In so ruling, the court found that the complaint of plaintiff Dontae Scott “does not clearly articulate the factual and legal bases of Scott’s claims.”
The plaintiff was allegedly attacked in the school cafeteria by other students on October 18, 2007. Although Scott said that he did not start the fight, he did not allow the dispute to die, acting belligerently even after school staff had removed him from the area. Scott even attempted to return to the area to continue fighting. School officials determined that Scott had committed “disorderly conduct,” a “Class B” offense under applicable administrative rules, and suspended him from school for five days. He was permanently kicked off the football team.
On November 20, 2007, Scott filed a lawsuit, claiming that, even after his suspension ended, he was prevented from returning to school. The complaint alleged that Scott’s suspension from school and termination from the football team constituted race-based discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000(d) and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1981a, and 1983. Scott said that his suspension and termination from the football team also violated the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act and § 504 for the Rehabilitation Act. Scott asserted that the defendants intentionally caused him emotional distress. Scott sought $5 million in damages and an injunction to prevent the defendants “from the illegal practice of racial discrimination and harassment in denying Dontae Scott his usual position and play time on the Leilehua High School football team.”
In granting summary judgment for the defendants, the court held:
1) that the injunctive relief claim, which seeks an order allowing Scott to play football for Leilehua High School, is moot, as Scott has already graduated from high school;
2) that the State of Hawaii, Department of Education, and the individual Defendants in their official capacities have Eleventh Amendment immunity with respect to Scott’s §§ 1981 and 1983 money damage claims;
3) that, with respect to Scott’s racial discrimination claims under Title VI and against the defendants in their individual capacities under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, Scott does not present evidence that the defendants suspended Scott from school and kicked him off the football team because of race-based discrimination;
4) that having withdrawn his race discrimination claim under § 1981a at the hearing, Scott cannot recover under that statute;
5) that, with respect to Scott’s claims under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-1487 [*4] (“IDEA”), Scott failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and has not, in any event, demonstrated a viable claim;
6) that, with respect to Scott’s Rehabilitation Act claim under 29 U.S.C. § 794, Scott fails to raise a genuine issue of fact as to whether he was discriminated against because of his disability; and
7) that, with respect to Scott’s state-law intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, Scott does not raise a triable issue of fact as to whether the defendants acted with the requisite malice and cannot establish the elements of such a claim given the lack of a genuine issue of fact as to whether the defendants discriminated against Scott at all.
Dontae Scott v. State of Hawaii Department of Education; Aloha Coleman, principal of Leilehua High School; Robert Davis, Vice Principal of Leilehua High School; Mr. Tokuda, football coach; D. Haw,; CIVIL NO. 07-00575 SOM/BMK, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16884; 3/5/09
Attorneys of Record: (for plaintiff) Andre S. Wooten, LEAD ATTORNEY, Honolulu, HI. (for defendants) Kendall J. Moser, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of the Attorney General-State of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI.


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