Failure to Train?

It’s Friday, and after today, Jennifer takes back over.  So, I’m going to wrap up our discussion of this Boggs v. Krum ISD case, protracted as it has been, with a peek at Ms. Boggs’ claims that Krum ISD failed to properly train or supervise their employees, the superintendent and principal.  This failure, she alleged, resulted in an infringement of her constitutional rights.  If you tuned in yesterday or the day before, you saw that Ms. Boggs’ pleadings with regard to her ADA, 504, and vicarious liability claims survived the District’s motion to dismiss.  Not so today.  Her failure to train and supervise claims were facially insufficient and dismissed.

Why these and not the others?  For starters, her pleadings on these issues were themselves a little “half-hearted” and she offered no specific facts to support them.  On top of that, failure to train or failure to supervise claims can only provide a basis for Section 1983 liability in limited circumstances.  In order to make a case for failure to train or supervise, Ms. Boggs would have had to show: (1) the training procedures or supervision of employees was inadequate; and (2) there was a causal link between the failure and the violation of her constitutional rights; and (3) the failure amounts to deliberate indifference.

In order to show deliberate indifference, Ms. Boggs would have had to show that the Krum ISD Board was on notice that some gap in their training program caused their employees to violate her constitutional rights and didn’t do anything about it.  For a case like this, that is generally going to require her to show a pattern.

So that’s what she needed to at least plead in order to survive a motion to dismiss.  What she did plead was that Krum ISD has a group of policies and procedures regarding concerns about bullying and harassment of students, but that the Board failed to train and supervise employees regarding these procedures.  What she failed to plead, per the Court, was

  • specifically how the District’s training program or supervision were defective or insufficient;
  • any facts at all to show deliberate indifference – that the Board was on notice of inadequate training or supervision; and
  • any pattern of behavior by the District.

Those claims went out the door.  What about her suit against the principal?  Does he have liability individually?

Remember when we talked about how none of us is going to strip search a student because that would be a violation of a clearly established constitutional right that would subject us to Section 1983 liability?  Well we did have that talk.  The principal in this case was not accused of strip-searching the student, but he was accused of violating her constitutional rights (by bullying her).  In response, he asserted a qualified immunity defense, which generally works unless you’ve violated a clearly established constitutional right.  The Court here declined to dismiss Ms. Boggs’ claims against the principal, and instead required her to file a reply specific to the principal’s defense of qualified immunity.  She gets another bite at the apple and he has to wait.