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Ryan v. Mesa Unified School District

United States District Court, D. Arizona

July 19, 2016

Sidney Ryan, Plaintiffs,
v.
Mesa Unified School District and Joseph Goodman, in his individual capacity, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION [RE: MOTIONS AT DOCKETS 77 AND 80]

          JOHN W. SEDWICK SENIOR JUDGE.

         I. MOTIONS PRESENTED

         Before the court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment filed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. The plaintiffs, Sidney Ryan, Jodi Ryan, and Jeffrey Hills, move for summary judgment at docket 77, supported by a statement of facts at docket 78. The remaining defendant, Joseph Goodman ("Goodman"), opposes the motion at docket 86, supported by a controverting statement of facts at docket 87. The plaintiffs reply at docket 88.

         Goodman moves for summary judgment at docket 80, supported by a statement of facts at docket 81. The plaintiffs oppose at docket 84, supported by a controverting statement of facts at docket 85. Goodman replies at docket 89, supported by a "response to plaintiffs' additional facts" at docket 90. The plaintiffs object to this latter filing at docket 91.[1]

         Oral argument was not requested and would not assist the court.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Sidney Ryan, K.R., and B.H. (collectively, "Plaintiffs"[2]) were members of the Mountain View High School ("Mountain View High") varsity girls softball team, coached by Goodman. Goodman states that he dismissed Plaintiffs from the team "because of a pattern of divisive, disrespectful conduct towards other team members."[3] Plaintiffs dispute this explanation, alleging that they were dismissed in retaliation for not conducting the pre-game team prayers that Goodman sanctioned and for First-Amendment-protected speech.[4] This court's order at docket 21 dismissed several of Plaintiffs' claims, including all claims against the Mesa Unified School District.

         The two claims that remain allege that Goodman violated Plaintiffs' rights under the Establishment Clause (Count I) and Free Speech Clause (Count III) of the First Amendment.[5] On Count I Plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages and declaratory and injunctive relief.[6] On Count III, Plaintiffs seek only declaratory relief.[7]The court held at docket 21 that Sidney Ryan ("Ryan") lacks standing to obtain declaratory or injunctive relief because she has already graduated.[8]

         A. Pre-Game Team Prayers

         Goodman is a member of the LDS Church, [9] as are some players of the Mountain View High softball team.[10] Former player Erin Manuel ("Manuel") states that before each game of the 2012 season another former player, Katie Sanders ("Sanders"), led a team prayer and Goodman was "well aware" of these prayers.[11] Manuel states that the prayers made her and some of her teammates uncomfortable, and she objected to them on at least one occasion. According to her, Goodman "was made aware of the objection to the team prayer, but did nothing."[12] For his part, Goodman testified that he does not recall whether his players prayed in 2012[13] and denies that any player voiced an objection to team prayer that year.[14]

         It is undisputed, however, that Sanders led team prayers before every game of the 2013 season.[15] B.H. testified that these prayers took place in the outfield before games when the whole team was assembled.[16] The parties dispute Goodman's involvement in these prayers. Goodman states that he knew about them[17] but did not discuss them with the players "one way or the other."[18] He states that he had a hands-off approach to the prayers: "if students want to have a prayer, " he testified, "I'm not going to stop them."[19] Sidney Ryan ("Ryan") and Jami Wickerman ("Wickerman") tell a different story. They state that Goodman appointed certain players as "prayer leaders."[20] Ryan testified that Sanders was the appointed prayer leader in 2013.[21]

         Ryan was the captain of the 2014 team.[22] She testified that Goodman asked Wickerman and another player, "K.J., " to be the prayer leaders for the 2014 season.[23]Wickerman states that Goodman approached her at practice and told her, "I feel you are a really religious person. You would be good to be the prayer leader."[24] Wickerman states that Assistant Coach Dave Tellef ("Tellef") observed this comment, and Tellef "indicated that he agreed with Coach Goodman about that."[25] Goodman disputes these accounts, testifying that he "never discussed team prayer" in 2014.[26] Yet, he admitted that before the first scrimmage of the 2014 season he "invited" Wickerman and K.J. "to get the team together to give them the opportunity to pray" before games.[27] When asked what he meant by "invite, " Goodman stated, "I asked if [they] would be willing to."[28]

         Ryan testified that Wickerman approached her right after Goodman asked her to be a 2014 prayer leader "because she didn't know how to pray and asked [Ryan] how."[29] Ryan testified that she responded to Wickerman, "We're not praying this year."[30] Ryan testified that just before the scrimmage game began Goodman asked her if she needed time before the game to have a prayer. She states that she responded to Goodman, "We're not going to pray this year, " and Goodman said nothing in response.[31] Goodman denies that this conversation took place.[32]

         Mountain View High began the 2014 softball season by traveling from Mesa to Tucson by school van for a three-day tournament.[33] Ryan testified that Wickerman approached her before the first game of the tournament and told her that "‘Goodman asked [her] to pray again, ' and she didn't know how."[34] Ryan states that she responded to Wickerman, "We're not praying" and then went to the outfield and told the team, "We're not praying this year. Goodman wants a change, so that's going to be the change."[35]

         B. The Van Ride to Tucson

         K.R. made a CD for the road trip to Tucson[36] that included the following songs: "Ride" by SoMo; "I Just Had Sex" by The Lonely Island; and "Hate Being Sober" by Chief Keef.[37] The lyrics to "I Just Had Sex" include: "I just had sex and it felt so good / A woman let me put my penis inside of her."[38] And the lyrics to "Ride" include: "My body on your body, baby, sticking like some glue / Naughty / Let's get naughty / Girl, it's only one or two / The fever's fucking running / Feel the heat between us two."[39]Goodman, who was driving the van in which Plaintiffs were passengers, testified that he had to skip some songs on the CD because of their inappropriate lyrics.[40] As Sidney Ryan stated in a tweet, "We made a CD for our van on our way up to Tucson and coach and his wife skipped 3 songs already #toodirty."[41] Another player, "S.S., " states that she saw B.H. take a photograph of another teammate, "C.R., " as she "bent over and put her hands over her ears and looked very uncomfortable with the music."[42]

         C. The Note

         Goodman testified that on the Friday night of the Tucson tournament Mountain View High player "B.L." informed him that a note with a lewd message had been slid under her hotel room door. Goodman stated that he never saw the note, but B.L. told him that the note included the phrase, "suck a dick."[43] According to Goodman, B.L.stated that she believed the note came from Plaintiffs and Wickerman. Goodman stated that after the note was not produced, the team had room checks and he told the players to go to bed.[44]

         Although Goodman testified that the note was one of the reasons why he dismissed Plaintiffs from the team, [45] he did not discuss the note with Plaintiffs, could not explain why he concluded that Plaintiffs wrote the note (and Wickerman did not), and could not rule out the possibility that the note was written by a player from one of the other teams staying at the hotel at that time.[46] Goodman admitted in his deposition that he did not know that Plaintiffs actually wrote the note and that he relied on B.L.'s speculation without soliciting Plaintiffs' side of the story.[47]

         D. The Tweet

         On that same Friday night B.H. tweeted "ITS WAR BITCHES" [sic] to the 254 followers of her Twitter account, including most members of the softball team.[48] The parties dispute the meaning of this tweet. When asked to explain it, B.H. testified, "[A]s we were walking through the hallway after we got Starbucks, [K.R.] hit [Ryan's] Starbucks out of her hand and then they started arguing. So [Ryan] tried knocking [K.R.'s] out. And I was pretty much narrating pretty much."[49] Some of B.H.'s teammates and coaches, however, interpreted B.H.'s tweet as a threat. S.S., for instance, stated that she thinks the tweet was directed toward herself and the rest of the softball team because they were playing a game without Plaintiffs that night.[50]Assistant coaches Tellef and Michael Kaff ("Kaff") also think the tweet was threatening and directed at B.H.'s teammates.[51]

         E. The Post-Tournament Meeting

         Kelly Roberts ("Roberts") is the father of two girls who played on the 2014 team. He testified that he sent Goodman a text message on Saturday afternoon requesting a meeting with all four of the coaches.[52] Goodman responded by scheduling such a meeting at Assistant Coach Giles Mead's ("Mead's") house.[53] At the meeting Roberts showed the coaches B.H.'s tweet.[54] Goodman testified that, in the context of what the coaching staff had observed in practice and in Tucson, they believed that "bitches" referred to other members of the team.[55] Roberts said that he also told the coaches that B.H. said something negative about C.R. on Twitter during the Tucson tournament, [56] and Ryan made a negative comment about another player from the dugout.[57] Roberts testified that he also told the coaches that one of his daughters had mentioned that during the van ride to Tucson "there was music, that [C.R.] was in the back of the van, and that [S.S.] had observed this and . . . if they wanted to speak with someone directly with direct knowledge, they needed to contact" S.S. and her parents.[58]

         Goodman testified that after Roberts left Coach Mead's house he asked S.S. and her parents to come over so that he could ask her about the photographs of C.R. that B.H. may have posted on Snapchat.[59] According to Goodman, S.S. confirmed that B.H. had taken pictures of C.R. and posted them to Snapchat.[60] Goodman testified that S.S. "discussed how she felt like there were almost two teams, " and that it "felt so divisive and how she had a lot of fun with her ten other teammates but felt like there . . . was a [clique] that was dividing the team."[61]

         The meeting culminated with the coaches dismissing Ryan, B.H., and K.R. from the team.[62] According to Assistant Coach Kaff, the coaches called the three players and notified them of their dismissal.[63] B.H. states that Goodman dismissed her from the team for "cyber bullying" (based on her tweet) and for "not respecting religious views of others."[64] Ryan and K.R. allege that they were dismissed for similar reasons.[65] Goodman denies these allegations, [66] stating instead that the players were dismissed for "divisiveness, " which he describes as "poor teammate behavior."[67]

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is appropriate where "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."[68] The materiality requirement ensures that "only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment."[69] Ultimately, "summary judgment will not lie if the . . . evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party."[70] However, summary judgment is mandated under Rule 56 "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial."[71]

         The moving party has the burden of showing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact.[72] Where the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, the moving party need not present evidence to show that summary judgment is warranted; it need only point out the lack of a genuine dispute as to any material fact.[73] Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must set forth evidence of specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial.[74] All evidence presented by the non-movant must be believed for purposes of summary judgment, and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-movant.[75] However, the non-moving party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials, but must show that there is sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute to require a fact-finder to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial.[76]

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Plaintiffs' Claims for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief are Moot

         At docket 92 the court, sua sponte, asked Plaintiffs' counsel to provide a notice indicating whether any of the plaintiffs remain at Mountain View High. Plaintiffs' counsel informed the court that they have all graduated[77] and conceded that this moots their claims for declaratory and injunctive relief.[78]

         As Plaintiffs observe, however, their graduation does not moot their claims for monetary damages.[79] The complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages under Count I for alleged violations of the Establishment Clause.[80] Plaintiffs also assert that they are seeking monetary damages under Count III for alleged Free Speech Clause violations, [81] despite the fact that no such request is found in the complaint.

         Goodman argues that Plaintiffs' failure to plead a request for monetary damages under Count III means that the count should be dismissed in its entirety.[82] He relies on Doe v. Madison, where the Ninth Circuit dismissed the plaintiffs' complaint because their claims for declaratory and injunctive relief became moot upon their graduation and they did not request monetary damages.[83] Doe does not control here because Plaintiffs are requesting monetary damages, [84] albeit in their briefing and not their complaint. Rule 54(c) allows the court to award monetary damages to Plaintiffs on Count III if they prove facts entitling them to such relief, even though they failed to plead such a request in their complaint.[85] Because Goodman does not contend that it will be prejudiced by Plaintiffs' failure to demand monetary damages under Count III, Plaintiffs are not foreclosed from pursuing that relief.[86]

         B. Establishment Clause Claims

         The First Amendment's Establishment Clause prohibits the government from supporting or becoming actively involved in religious activity.[87] In Lee v. Weisman, the Supreme Court considered an Establishment Clause challenge to prayers that were delivered as part of graduation ceremonies for public middle and high school students.[88]Lee adopted what has become known as "the coercion test" for determining whether school prayer violates the Establishment Clause. Under this test, a government action violates the Establishment Clause if it attempts to "persuade or compel a student to participate in a religious exercise."[89] Applying this test, the court struck down the prayers, even though attendance at the graduation ceremonies was optional. Noting that adolescents are particularly susceptible to public and peer pressure, the Court held that "subtle coercive pressures" rendered the students' attendance obligatory "in a fair and real sense."[90] The Court stated that "[i]t is a tenet of the First Amendment that the State cannot require one of its citizens to forfeit his or her rights and benefits as the price of resisting conformance to state-sponsored religious practice."[91]

         The Supreme Court applied the coercion test most recently in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe.[92] Santa Fe involved student "invocations" that were broadcast before football games. The school district authorized the invocations, allowed only one student to give them, limited their content to "only those messages deemed ‘appropriate'" under the school district's policy, [93] and broadcast them over the school's public address system "as part of a regularly scheduled, school-sponsored function conducted on school property."[94] Under the circumstances the Court concluded that the prayers were public speech, not private, because an objective student would perceive them "as stamped with her school's seal of approval."[95] Further, the Court held that even though attendance at the football games was optional, the prayers were coercive because high school students either feel "immense social pressure" or have "a truly genuine desire" to be involved in high school football games.[96]For many students, the Court reasoned, "the choice between attending these games and avoiding personally offensive religious rituals is in no practical sense an easy one. The Constitution . . . demands that the school may not force this difficult choice upon these students . . . ."[97]

         Plaintiffs argue that they are entitled to summary judgment on their Establishment Clause claim because Goodman dismissed them from the team, in part because they did not engage in team prayer. This argument lacks merit because the reason for Plaintiffs' dismissal is a disputed question of fact.

         Goodman argues that he is entitled to summary judgment for two reasons. First, he argues that the prayers that Ryan prevented would have been private speech because they would have been conducted by students. Goodman contends that "he was not involved with the players' pre-game meetings and did not know what occurred during that time."[98] This contention falls flat because Goodman testified that he asked Wickerman and K.J. if they would be willing to get the 2014 team together so that they could pray before games. An objective student would perceive this request as Goodman stamping team prayer with the school's approval, making the prayers public speech.[99]

         Second, Goodman argues that Plaintiffs cannot establish they were harmed because there is no evidence showing that Goodman knew that Plaintiffs had ended the prayers or that he used that as a reason for dismissing Plaintiffs from the team.[100]This argument lacks merit as well. As noted above, whether "not respecting religious views" was one of the reasons for Plaintiffs' dismissal is a disputed question. Although Goodman denies it, [101] Plaintiffs have submitted evidence to the contrary.[102] Plaintiffs argue that "not respecting religious views" was a veiled reference to Plaintiffs' decision to end the team prayers, and establishes that Plaintiffs were retaliated against for asserting their First Amendment rights.[103] If the jury believes Plaintiffs' evidence, it could reasonably infer that "not respecting religious views" was a reference to Plaintiffs' role in ending the prayers.[104]

         Whether Goodman had reason to connect Plaintiffs to the end of the team prayers is another disputed question. With regard to Ryan, the dispute is clear: Ryan testified that she told Goodman that the team was not going to pray before games in 2014, and Goodman denies that this conversation occurred. With regard to K.R. and B.H., Plaintiffs have not submitted evidence showing a direct connection between them and the end of the prayers. But, if the jury believes Ryan's testimony, it could reasonably find that Goodman connected K.R. and B.H. to that decision indirectly based on their close friendship with and support of Ryan.[105] In sum, a jury could reasonably find that Goodman had reason to connect all three plaintiffs to the end of the team prayers and punished them for doing so.

         Finally, Goodman argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiffs' Establishment Clause claims.[106] This argument lacks merit because it relies on the court resolving in his favor the disputed questions of fact mentioned above.

         C. Free Speech

         Public school students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."[107] At the same time, because of the important need for school officials to control school activities, [108] students' free speech rights are "not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings."[109]School officials "need not tolerate student speech that is inconsistent with its basic educational mission, even though the government could not censor similar speech outside the school."[110]

         Tinker, the seminal student speech case, held that school officials may not suppress speech unless it "materially and substantially interfere[s] with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school."[111] Since Tinker, however, the Supreme Court has allowed schools to impose certain content-based restrictions on student speech, including speech that is "vulgar, " "lewd, " and "plainly offensive"[112] and speech that encourages illegal drug use.[113]

         Plaintiffs allege that Goodman punished them for two forms of protected speech: the music on K.R.'s CD and B.H.'s tweet.[114] Goodman counters that the music is not protected because the lyrics are vulgar and promote illegal drug use, [115] and the tweet is not protected because he reasonably determined that the tweet was disruptive to school activities.[116]

         1. K.R.'s music is not protected speech

         In Fraser, the Supreme Court rejected a high school student's argument that his sexual-innuendo-laden campaign speech was protected speech.[117] The Court held that the "substantial disruption" analysis prescribed by Tinker does not apply where the speech is vulgar, lewd, and plainly offensive.[118] When confronted with speech of that nature, the Court ruled, schools are within their authority to "make the point to the pupils that vulgar speech and lewd conduct is wholly inconsistent with the fundamental values of public school education."[119]

         Goodman argues that the court should analyze K.R.'s music under Fraser, not Tinker, because several songs contain vulgar, sexually explicit lyrics.[120] To support this argument, he points to K.R.'s testimony that the lyrics to "I Just Had Sex" would be inappropriate in a school setting, [121] B.H.'s admission that some of the CD's songs "talk graphically in terms of sexual acts, "[122] and Ryan's admission that the lyrics to "I Just Had Sex" and "Ride" are inappropriate for school-related activities because they are "vulgar."[123]

         Plaintiffs' correctly note that this court, not Goodman or the plaintiffs themselves, must determine whether the songs can be reasonably construed as vulgar and offensive.[124] Plaintiffs argue that the court should take into account the fact that the listeners were high school students who "are well familiar with the concept of love and sex."[125] In this context, Plaintiffs contend, the songs cannot reasonably be considered lewd or vulgar because they "exist in American pop culture" and high school students listen to them and similar songs on a daily basis.[126]

         Plaintiffs' arguments confuse the rights that students enjoy at home and the rights they enjoy in a school setting. As the Supreme Court observed in Fraser, public schools bear a responsibility to "inculcate the habits and manners of civility" and teach students "the boundaries of socially appropriate behavior."[127] Given these responsibilities, "offensive speech that would receive full constitutional protection if used by an adult in public discourse may, consistent with the First Amendment, give rise to disciplinary action by a school."[128]

         For instance, in R.O. ex rel. Ochshorn v. Ithaca City School Dist., the plaintiffs argued that their First Amendment rights were violated when their school prohibited them from publishing a cartoon that contained drawings of stick figures in sexual positions.[129] The Second Circuit had little difficultly rejecting this argument, noting that under Fraser a school may categorically prohibit lewd, vulgar, or profane speech.[130] The court held that the drawings "clearly qualify as ‘lewd'" because they "‘incit[ed] to sensual desire or imagination.'"[131]

         Because it is undisputed that the songs at issue in this case were played in a school environment, and those songs contain plainly lewd lyrics, under the standards set out in Fraser, they are not entitled to First Amendment protection. Goodman will be granted summary judgment on Plaintiffs' First Amendment claims based on the songs.

         2. Goodman is entitled to qualified immunity regarding B.H.'s tweet

         The parties agree that the test set out in Tinker applies to B.H.'s tweet, [132] but differ as to whether the tweet was so disruptive to the school environment that it lost its First Amendment protection. Goodman interprets the tweet as a threat directed toward other players on the team that disrupted team morale and created a hostile environment.[133] Plaintiffs view it differently, arguing that the tweet was so generic that it is impossible to discern its target-it could have been about anything, "two professional sports players, two celebrities, [or] two politicians."[134] Further, Plaintiffs submit evidence that the tweet concerned a spilled coffee and argue that the meaning of the tweet presents a question of fact that precludes summary judgment. But because Goodman is entitled to qualified immunity, there is no need to determine the actual meaning of the tweet or whether any discipline that Goodman meted out on its account violates the First Amendment.[135]

         "The defense of ‘qualified immunity' requires courts to enter judgment in favor of a government employee unless the employee's conduct violates ‘clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.'"[136] It is designed to protect "all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law."[137] In determining whether a government official is entitled to qualified immunity the court must consider "(1) whether, taking the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the government official's conduct violated a constitutional right, and (2) whether the right was clearly established at the time of the alleged misconduct."[138]"If the answer to either is ‘no, ' the official cannot be held liable for damages."[139]

         Goodman cites Doninger v. Niehoff, where a student was disciplined after publishing a message on her blog that stated that a school concert had been cancelled and encouraged other students to contact a school official about it to "piss her off."[140]An en banc Second Circuit panel held that the school official was entitled to qualified immunity because the post's First Amendment protection was not clearly established. Despite the presence of various factual disputes, the court held that summary judgment was warranted because the second prong of the qualified immunity doctrine asks whether school officials were "objectively unreasonable" in portending significant disruption from the blog post, [141] and the officials' decision was not objectively unreasonable.[142]

         Goodman also relies on Lowery v. Euverard, where four high school football players challenged their dismissal from the team after they circulated a petition to replace the head coach.[143] The district court denied the defendants' summary judgment motion on qualified immunity grounds, holding that whether the petition disrupted the team was an issue of disputed material fact under Tinker. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that the question was not whether the petition actually disrupted the team, but rather, whether it was reasonable for the coach to have forecasted a disruption.[144]Further, the court held that a fear that the petition would harm "team unity, by dividing the team into groups who support the coach and groups who don't, " was sufficient under Tinker to justify regulation of the speech.[145]

         Plaintiffs rely primarily on Pinard v. Clatskanie Sch. Dist. 6J[146] and J.S. ex rel. Snyder v. Blue Mountain Sch. Dist.[147] In Pinard, high school basketball players brought an action challenging their suspension from the team for speaking out against their coach. The coach had told the players "that if they wanted him to quit, they should say so, and he would resign."[148] After the players responded by typing up a petition seeking the coach's ouster, they were suspended. The Ninth Circuit held that the players' petition was protected speech under Tinker "because it could not reasonably have led school officials to forecast substantial disruption of or material interference with a school activity."[149] Pinard is not on all fours with the case at bar, however, because the coach there did not submit any evidence that he suspended the players out of concern that the speech would disrupt school activities or impinge on the rights of other students.[150]

         In Blue Mountain, a student was suspended for creating a mock MySpace profile that used foul language and sexually explicit content to make fun of her middle school principal.[151] Although the profile contained the principal's photograph, it did not mention him by name. "The profile was presented as a self-portrayal of a bisexual Alabama middle school principal named ‘M-Hoe.' The profile contained crude content and vulgar language, ranging from nonsense and juvenile humor to profanity and shameful personal attacks aimed at the principal and his family."[152] The Third Circuit rejected the school officials' argument that the profile was not protected because they reasonably feared that it would cause a substantial disruption. This case is also differentiable from the case at bar because Blue Mountain based its holding on the fact that the profile "was so outrageous that no one could have taken it seriously."[153] Here, B.H.'s tweet might have been cryptic, but it was not so outrageous that a reasonable viewer could not have interpreted it as serious.

         The message behind B.H.'s tweet is difficult to discern. A reasonable coach in Goodman's position might have brushed the tweet off as nonsense, or a harmless message directed at a friend or no one in particular. Goodman thought the tweet was directed toward other players-in other words, that B.H. was declaring war on some of her teammates-and feared that it would cause a substantial disruption to team unity or harm the individual players who believed they were targeted. (These disruptions would be sufficient under Tinker to justify discipline.[154]) In the context of qualified immunity, the court's role is not to agree or disagree with Goodman's interpretation of the tweet, but rather to determine whether his interpretation was objectively unreasonable. Given the timing of the tweet and the evidence that shows that a clique had developed on the team, the court cannot conclude that Goodman's interpretation of the tweet was objectively unreasonable.[155] Qualified immunity shields him from liability.

         V. CONCLUSION

         Based on the preceding discussion, Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment at docket 77 is DENIED, and Goodman's motion for summary judgment at docket 80 is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part as follows: Goodman's motion for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claim for monetary damages under Count I is DENIED. In all other respects, Goodman's motion is GRANTED.

---------

Notes:

[1]Because the court does not rely in any way on Goodman's filing at docket 90, the plaintiffs' objection ...


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