United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division
Jeffrey J. Helmick United States District Judge.
time of the incidents alleged, M.T. was a student in
Defendant Russ Exlos-Raber's choir class at Oak Harbor
Middle School. M.T. is a bi-racial student and alleged in his
complaint that the Defendant referred to him as “a
brown dude” in front of the entire class on a day M.T.
was absent. Exlos-Raber also referred to M.T. as “brown
skinned” in an email to the superintendent and the
principal of the school. When M.T. returned to school, he
alleged Exlos-Raber singled him out, asking him to hold out
his hands and say what color they were. Thereafter, M.T. was
taken out of choir class and placed in a different class.
initiated this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging
violations of his civil rights against multiple parties
including Exlos-Raber. (Doc. No. 1). On May 16, 2017, I
granted judgment on the pleadings on all claims for the other
Defendants1 and granted judgment to Exlos-Raber on the §
1983 Due Process Clause, Title VI, and negligent hiring,
training, and supervision claims. (Doc. No. 14). I denied
judgment on the § 1983 equal protection claims against
matter is now before me on Defendant Russ Exlos-Raber's
unopposed motion for summary judgment. This Court has
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. For the
reasons stated below, the Defendant's motion is granted.
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is appropriate if the movant demonstrates there is
no genuine dispute of material fact and that the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
All evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to
the nonmovant, White v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 533
F.3d 381, 390 (6th Cir. 2008), and all reasonable inferences
are drawn in the nonmovant's favor. Rose v. State
Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 766 F.3d 532, 535 (6th Cir.
2014). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury
could resolve the dispute and return a verdict in the
nonmovant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A disputed fact is
material only if its resolution might affect the outcome of
the case under the governing substantive law. Rogers v.
O'Donnell, 737 F.3d 1026, 1030 (6th Cir. 2013).
statement of facts presented by the Defendant (Doc. No. 20-1)
are supported by affidavits. As Plaintiff does not challenge
Defendant's statement of facts, they are adopted and
incorporated by reference for purposes of this opinion.
(Id. at pp. 2-7).
sole remaining claims are for equal protection challenges
under the 14th Amendment. Defendant moves for
summary judgment on the basis that the evidence does not
establish an equal protection violation. Alternatively, even
if an equal protection violation was established, the
Defendant states he is entitled to qualified immunity.
Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment states
that “[n]o State shall . . . deny to any person within
its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. To that end, “[t]he
Equal Protection Clause requires public institutions to
“treat similarly situated individuals in a similar
manner.” Buchanan v. City of Bolivar, Tenn.,
99 F.3d 1352, 1360 (6th Cir. 1996).
establish an equal-protection violation, a plaintiff must
allege that the state made a distinction which
“burden[ed] a fundamental right, target[ed] a suspect
class, or intentionally treat[ed] one differently from others
similarly situated without any rational basis for the
difference.” Doe v. Miami University, 882 F.3d
579, 595 (6th Cir. 2018). “Direct or
circumstantial evidence that a student's race motivated
school officials' actions may establish an Equal
Protection Clause violation.” Heyne v. Metropolitan
Nashville Public Schools, 655 F.3d 556, 571
(6th Cir. 2011).
action, the Plaintiff has not presented evidence to support
his claim the Defendant acted with discriminatory intent. The
Defendant has presented facts which affirm that
Exlos-Raber's conduct did not intend to denigrate M.T.
but rather affirm M.T.'s way of self-identification. The
record reflects that Exlos-Rabler's teaching methods and
philosophy celebrate diversity. Upon M.T.'s return to
class, the Defendant apologized for any perceived slight.
M.T. responded positively to the apology.
summary judgment motion, the moving party bears the initial
responsibility of “informing the district court of the
basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of
‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, ' which it believes demonstrate the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
The movant may meet this burden by demonstrating the absence
of evidence supporting one or more essential elements of the
non-movant's claim. Id. at 323-25. Once the
movant meets this burden, the opposing party “must set
forth specific facts ...