DiStiso v. Wolcott, No. 10-4304 (2d Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
Defendants, an elementary school principal and two teachers, appealed from a denial of summary judgment by the district court on defendants' claims that qualified immunity shielded them from suit for alleged deliberate indifference to kindergarten and first-grade students' racial harassment of a classmate in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. The court affirmed the denial of summary judgment as to claims that the kindergarten teacher and the principal were deliberately indifferent to racial name-calling by kindergarten students because there were questions of disputed fact for which the district court identified sufficient record evidence to support a verdict in favor of plaintiff. The court reversed the denial, however, as to claims that defendants were deliberately indifferent to all other allegedly racially motivated physical misbehavior by kindergarten and first-grade students because no clearly established law permitted a finding that defendants had actual knowledge that commonplace physical misbehavior by children of this age was racially motivated in the absence of some objective evidence connecting the physical misbehavior to the earlier racial name-calling. Further, the first-grade teacher was entitled to qualified immunity on this claim because her transmittal of parental complaints of physical misbehavior to the principal for investigation could not be deemed "clearly unreasonable" as a matter of law.