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Published by David Oscar Markus

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Published by: David Oscar Markus on Feb 15, 2010
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTSOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDACASE NO. 08-61952-CIV-GARBER KATHERINE EVANS,Plaintiff,v.PETER BAYER, in his individualcapacity,Defendant. ____________________________/
ORDER 
THIS CAUSE is before the Court on defendant Peter Bayer’s Motion to Dismiss [DE 6]. TheCourt has received plaintiff Katherine Evans’s Response in Opposition [DE 8], and Peter Bayer’sReply [DE 13].
Background
Katherine Evans (“Evans”) was a senior at Pembroke Pines Charter High School in November 2007. Peter Bayer (“Bayer”) was principal at that time. During the evening of November 9, 2007,Evans created a group on Facebook, a social networking website, entitled, “Ms. Sarah Phelps is theworst teacher I’ve ever met.” The group’s purpose was for students to voice their dislike of the Ms.Phelps. Evans posted the following:Ms. Sarah Phelps is the worst teacher I’ve ever met! To those select students whohave had the displeasure of having Ms. Sarah Phelps, or simply knowing her and her insane antics: Here is the place to express your feelings of hatred.Three postings appeared on the page from other students supporting Ms. Phelps and debasing Evansfor creating the group. The page included Ms. Phelp’s photograph. The posting did not contain
Case 0:08-cv-61952-BLG Document 30 Entered on FLSD Docket 02/12/2010 Page 1 of 17
 
threats of violence. This posting was made after school hours and from Evans’s home computer.Ms. Phelps never saw the posting and it did not disrupt school activities. Evans removed the postingafter two days. After its removal, the posting came to the attention of Bayer.Bayer, as principal, suspended Evans from school for three days and forced her to move fromher advanced placement (“AP”) classes into lesser weighted honors courses. Evans’s “Notice oSuspension” states that she was suspended for, “Bullying/Cyber Bullying/Harassment towards a staff member” and “Disruptive behavior.” See DE 1 at Exh. B. Evans alleges that she engaged in an off-campus activity in a non-violent and non-threatening public forum and that her punishment resultedin an unjustified stain on her academic reputation and good standing.Evans argues that Bayer’s actions violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights andthat her rights may be redressed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. She seeks an injunction enjoiningBayer from maintaining records relating to the suspension on her permanent school record andrevoking,
nunc pro tunc
, the three-day suspension. Evans is also seeking nominal damages for thedeprivation of her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs.
Standard
In considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule 12(b)(6), all factual allegationsmust be taken as true and in the light most favorable to plaintiff.
See Erickson v. Pardus
, 551 U.S.89 (2007). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 allows for a liberal pleading requirement. It does notrequire a plaintiff to plead with particularity every element of a cause of action.
 Roe v. Aware WomanCtr. for Choice, Inc
., 253 F.3d 678, 683 (11th Cir.2001). However, “[w]hile a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligationto provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitlement to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions, anda formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do."
 Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Case 0:08-cv-61952-BLG Document 30 Entered on FLSD Docket 02/12/2010 Page 2 of 17
 
Twombly
, 550 US 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted).
Analysis
Bayer’s primary argument is that qualified immunity shields him from litigation. Second,Bayer claims that even if he is not immune, he was acting pursuant to a school’s right to disciplinestudents for potentially disruptive behavior. Last, Bayer claims that even if he acted inappropriately by his actions, the relief sought against Bayer can only be granted in his official capacity, not hisindividual. The Court will discuss Bayer’s arguments as they apply to each request for relief.I. InjunctionThe law is clear: Qualified immunity does not shield Bayer from an action for injunctive relief.
 D’Aguanno v. Gallagher 
, 50 F.3d 877, 879 (11th Cir. 1995). This has been categorical. Bayer,however, argues that the Eleventh Circuit and other courts have been too blinkered in their view.Bayer cites the following language describing qualified immunity from the Supreme Court in support:“the consequences with which we were concerned in
 Harlow
are not limited to money damages; theyalso include the general costs of subjecting officials to the risks of trial – distraction of officials fromtheir government duties, inhibition of discretionary action, and deterrence of able people from publicservice.”
 Mitchell v. Forsyth
, 472 U.S. 511, 524–25 (1985). Thus, Bayer argues, because a suit for injunctive relief also subjects officials to trial, qualified immunity should be available. Bayer’sargument fails for two reasons. First, the Supreme Court was not examining the issue of injunctiverelief when it chose its language; it was deciding that a determination on the question of qualifiedimmunity should be immediately appealable. The Supreme Court reasoned that as qualified immunityis the right from suit, it would be lost if a rejection was not appealable until disposition of the action.Second, regardless of the interpretation someone may make of such language in isolation, theEleventh Circuit has ruled to the contrary.
Case 0:08-cv-61952-BLG Document 30 Entered on FLSD Docket 02/12/2010 Page 3 of 17

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