Judge Lindsay Tosses High School Student’s Lawsuit Over Bringing “Clock” to School

On May 18, 2017, Judge Lindsay entered an Order (available here) that dismissed a lawsuit brought on behalf of a high-school student who was arrested and suspended in 2015 from his high school in the Irving Independent School District “after he brought to school a homemade contraption containing wires and batteries that made a beeping sound.” At the time, the student was a 14-year-old freshman. When his English teacher heard a beeping sound coming from the device, she asked whether it was a bomb. The student stated that it was an alarm clock.

Subsequently, the student’s father filed a federal lawsuit on his behalf, asserting claims premised on racial and religious discrimination and seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Judge Lindsay found that the complaint failed to state a claim due to, e.g., “wholesale conclusory and speculative statements.”

The Court also found that the school’s principal was entitled to qualified immunity:

Public officials are entitled to qualified immunity unless it is shown that their actions are objectively unreasonable. One may consider a three-day suspension imposed on [the student] to be harsh and unreasonable, but the court is not prepared to conclude that Principal Cummings’s actions were objectively unreasonable based on the allegations of the Complaint. A principal’s fate is not so hapless that, on the one hand, by not taking action he is faced with the gruesome prospect of death or serious injury of persons had the device actually been a bomb and exploded; and, on the other hand, he is faced with a federal lawsuit for denial of a student’s constitutional rights because the device turned out not to be a bomb. Woe unto the principal who fails to act on a potential threat that later becomes a reality! To hold Principal Cummings, or any other administrator, to this standard places him between the dreaded Scylla and Charybdis.

(emphasis in original).

With respect to those claims dismissed without prejudice, Judge Lindsay gave the plaintiff an opportunity to amend the complaint.

p.s. Judge Lindsay quoted one of his prior decision’s discussions of Scylla and Charybdis (for which those of us who have forgotten our Greek mythology are thankful):

According to Greek mythology, Scylla was originally a beautiful nymph who was later turned into a monster by Circe, an enchantress. Glaucus, a sea god, fell in love with Scylla; however, she wanted no part of him. When Scylla rebuffed Glaucus’s efforts to spark her, he enlisted the aid of Circe to persuade Scylla that she should love him. Circe, however, had ideas of her own and tried to convince Glaucus to love her instead of Scylla. When Glaucus spurned Circe’s amorous efforts, she became enraged and turned Scylla into a monster to spite Glaucus.

After being turned into a monster, Scylla lived in a cave overlooking the Strait of Messina, which separates the island of Sicily from Italy. Immediately opposite the cave where Scylla lived was the whirlpool Charybdis. When mariners navigated the Strait of Messina, they were faced with the . . . repugnant alternatives of either (1) being devoured by Scylla, or (2) being sucked into and drowned by the deadly waters of the whirlpool Charybdis.

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