We had to wait until AFTER Mother’s Day to tell you about this one…

The Dawg hopes that all you mothers and grandmothers had a splendid day yesterday. We hope you were honored and celebrated for your many virtues.  We just want to go on record—the Dawg LOVES mothers, and respects all the efforts that moms make to keep their kids safe.  It’s just that sometimes, those efforts run into the law. That’s what happened to Judith Moreno.

Ms. Moreno alleged that her son was sexually violated by a teacher in McAllen ISD.  She sued the district, alleging that she told district officials what happened, but they failed to respond appropriately. Moreover, she alleged that the district ignored the “endemic problem on campus” concerning improper relationships between educators and students.

Ms. Moreno’s procedural problem was that she filed the suit on her own behalf—not as “next friend” on behalf of her child.  So she had to prove that the district violated her rights—not her son’s.  This turned out to be a problem.  The court noted the parent-child relationship is constitutionally protected, but not as broadly as Ms. Moreno would like. The court noted that the “case law is narrow and largely addresses the right of parents to make critical child-rearing decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of minors.”  The court summed it up like this:

Ms. Moreno is arguing that McAllen ISD’s actions allegedly caused her child harm, and as a result, she was deprived of her constitutionally protected rights.  The Court cannot find any case law in the 5th Circuit to support this argument, and Plaintiffs have not provided any relevant authority.

What about the fact that the boy was allegedly raped? The court:

While a student has a right to be free from state-occasioned damage to his bodily integrity, it is the student, or the parent as next friend, that must bring forth a claim that this right was violated.

The suit also alleged that the parent had suffered the loss of “consortium” due to the injury to her child. The court dismissed this, noting that “Texas law is clear and it does not authorize a parent to recover consortium damages for non-fatal injuries to a child, whether due to negligent or intentional conduct.”  Similarly, the claims for intentional torts, such as assault and battery, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress ran smack into the Texas law of governmental immunity.

All of Ms. Moreno’s claims were dismissed.  The court’s opinion did not address what the lawyers call “the merits.”  Was the boy sexually assaulted by his teacher?  Did the district ignore the mother’s complaint?  Was there an “endemic problem” on campus? This case answers none of those questions.  Instead, the case reminds us that the law requires judges to apply a cold blooded analysis, even when the case is brought by a hurting mother.

The case of Moreno v. McAllen ISD was decided by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on April 18, 2016.  We found it at 2016 WL 1258410.