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K.W.P. v. Kansas City Public Schools

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 1, 2019

K.W.P., By His Parent and Next Friend Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
Kansas City Public Schools; Brandon Craddock, In His Individual Capacity; Anne Wallace, In Her Individual Capacity Defendants - Appellants

          Submitted: February 13, 2019

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri - Kansas City

          Before SMITH, Chief Judge, BENTON and STRAS, Circuit Judges.

          SMITH, CHIEF JUDGE.

         K.W.P., an elementary student, sued Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS), Officer Brandon Craddock, and Principal Anne Wallace for violations of K.W.P.'s rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. K.W.P. alleged that Officer Craddock unreasonably seized him and used excessive force by handcuffing him and failing to remove the handcuffs. He alleged that Principal Wallace approved Officer Craddock's seizure by failing to instruct Officer Craddock to remove the handcuffs despite K.W.P. posing no imminent threat to anyone and complying with instructions. K.W.P. sued KCPS for municipal liability and failure to train and supervise Officer Craddock on the use of handcuffs on elementary-age children. Officer Craddock and Principal Wallace moved for summary judgment based on qualified immunity on the claim of unreasonable seizure and excessive force, and KCPS moved for summary judgment on the municipal liability claim. The district court determined that disputed material facts precluded dismissal of K.W.P.'s claims against Officer Craddock and Principal Wallace. The court also denied summary judgment to KCPS. KCPS, Officer Craddock, and Principal Wallace appeal the denial of summary judgment.

         Construing the facts in the light most favorable to K.W.P., we conclude that neither Officer Craddock nor Principal Wallace violated K.W.P.'s constitutional rights; thus, they are entitled to qualified immunity on K.W.P.'s claim of unreasonable seizure and excessive force. As a result, we necessarily hold that K.W.P.'s municipal liability claim also fails. Therefore, we reverse the district court's denial of summary judgment to Officer Craddock, Principal Wallace, and KCPS and remand for entry of summary judgment in their favor on K.W.P.'s claims.

         I. Background

         a. Underlying Facts

         "We recite the facts in the light most favorable to [K.W.P.], as the nonmoving part[y]." O'Brien v. Dep't of Agric., 532 F.3d 805, 808 (8th Cir. 2008).

         K.W.P., a seven-year-old boy in the second grade, attended George Melcher Elementary School within the KCPS system. On April 30, 2014, while in Ms. Beverly Cole's class, a classmate teased K.W.P. incessantly, distracting him from his school work. The classmate's actions antagonized him to the point of frustration. In response, K.W.P. yelled at the classmate and desired to physically confront him, stating that he "didn't get to push [the student], but [he] wanted to." Defs.' Suggestions in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 2, K.W.P. Dep., at 14, K.W.P. v. Kan. City Pub. Schs. (W.D. Mo. Aug. 30, 2017), ECF No. 70-2. As tensions escalated, a second adult school employee entered the classroom. According to K.W.P., she was "yelling" at him to "sit down" and telling him "you better sit down, you are about to get in trouble, the security guard [is] coming." Id. at 14-15. According to K.W.P., that woman made him "even madder." Id. at 15. K.W.P. did not pay any attention to what she was saying. K.W.P. admitted that he was "hollering" at the other student things such as "leave me alone, I'm not paying attention to you." Id. at 14.

         At this point, Officer Craddock, who was in the school at the time, was asked by a staff member to step inside Ms. Cole's classroom to assist with an "out of control" student. Pl.'s Suggestions in Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. at 20, ¶ 27, K.W.P. v. Kan. City Pub. Schs. (W.D. Mo. Sept. 20, 2017), ECF No. 86.[1] Officer Craddock is employed by KCPS as a patrol officer. Officer Craddock did not know K.W.P. or have any previous dealings with him. K.W.P. testified that by the time he noticed Officer Craddock, he was "sitting in [his] seat." Defs.' Suggestions in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 2, K.W.P. Dep., at 15. K.W.P. believed he had "stopped" "hollering" when he noticed Officer Craddock. Id. K.W.P. clarified:

I remember, [Officer Craddock]-like at first I was yelling, because I didn't know he was there, I said [omitted], I just heard somebody shout . . . "if you don't get up in three seconds, I'm going to come and get you." And then-like it was a very deep voice. And then as soon as I heard that, like I just had turned around and then I looked back at [omitted] and then I just started to be still.
And then that's when he was counting down to three. And as soon as he said 1[, ] I had pushed like, pushed out my chair like that and then got up and walked towards him.

Id. at 17.

         Officer Craddock asked K.W.P. to accompany him into the hallway. After the second request, K.W.P. complied and went into the hallway. K.W.P. admitted that he did not want to go with Officer Craddock. K.W.P. testified that he responded to Officer Craddock's request to accompany him by "push[ing] [his] chair out in a negative way" because he was "angry," "emotional," and "didn't want to go with [Officer Craddock]." Id.

         Once in the hallway, Officer Craddock told K.W.P. that he was not in trouble. Officer Craddock wanted K.W.P. to follow him and would not allow K.W.P. back into the classroom. K.W.P. admitted that he "didn't want to go with the officer" and that he was "attempting to not go with the police officer." Id. at 17-18. He also admitted he was "trying to get away" and "wanted to stand up for [himself]." Id. at 18. Officer Craddock bent down to K.W.P.'s level and said, "Son, I need you to calm down." Pl.'s Suggestions in Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. at 25, ¶ 38. K.W.P. told Officer Craddock that he "didn't want to go with [him]." Defs.' Suggestions in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 2, K.W.P. Dep., at 18. K.W.P. admitted that he was "resisting going with him" and "didn't want to cooperate with the officer." Id. According to K.W.P. he "tried to calm down, . . . but [he] couldn't." Id.

         K.W.P. recalled Officer Craddock telling him "several times to stop walking away." Id. Officer Craddock put his hand on K.W.P.'s back to guide him in the direction that Officer Craddock was walking. Eventually, Officer Craddock "grabbed [K.W.P.'s] [left] wrist." Id. During this time, K.W.P. admitted he was "crying real loud" and "screaming." Id. K.W.P. recalled "jerking [his] body away" because he has "a problem with people just grabbing [his] wrists and like trying to make [him] go somewhere." Id. K.W.P. admitted that during the encounter, Officer Craddock told him that he "wasn't in trouble." Id. Yet, K.W.P. testified that when Officer Craddock tried to grab his left wrist, K.W.P. "tr[ied] even more to get away from him." Id. K.W.P. agreed that he "could have got[ten] hurt" when he was "trying to go in the opposite direction and [Officer Craddock] [was] trying to pull [K.W.P.] towards the front office." Id. at 19. K.W.P. admitted that he was "aggressively trying to pull away." Id. When Officer Craddock reached out his arm to block K.W.P. from getting away, K.W.P. tried to push past him. K.W.P. continued to forcefully pull away from Officer Craddock's grasp. K.W.P. began crying. Officer Craddock told K.W.P., "Son, if you don't calm down, I'm going to have to put the cuffs on." Pl.'s Suggestions in Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. at 28, ¶ 49. K.W.P. saw a handrail on the side of the hallway and grabbed it.

         Officer Craddock handcuffed K.W.P. with his hands behind him.[2] K.W.P. admitted getting "more upset after [Officer Craddock] put the handcuffs on" him and that he was "still trying to get away." Defs.' Suggestions in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 2, K.W.P. Dep., at 19. Officer Craddock double-locked the handcuffs so they would not tighten on K.W.P.'s wrists. K.W.P. finally "got tired and stopped trying to resist what was happening to him." Pl.'s Suggestions in Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. at 31, ¶ 58. According to K.W.P., once in the front office, he obeyed Officer Craddock's directions, sat in a chair, and did not attempt to leave.

         Principal Wallace first saw K.W.P. while he was seated in the front office and in handcuffs. Principal Wallace did not advise Officer Craddock to remove the handcuffs. Principal Wallace had a prior history with K.W.P., having restrained him a couple of months prior.[3] Principal Wallace left to go to an adjoining office to complete unrelated paperwork. Officer Craddock also left the front office. When K.W.P.'s father arrived, only the secretary was present in the front office. K.W.P.'s father then left the office to retrieve Officer Craddock. K.W.P.'s father asked Officer Craddock why he had handcuffed K.W.P. Officer Craddock responded that he did it for "safety." Defs.' Suggestions in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 8, Wiley Dep., at 3, K.W.P. v. Kan. City Pub. Schs. (W.D. Mo. Aug. 30, 2017), ECF No. Doc. 70-8. According to K.W.P.'s father, Officer Craddock told him that "he made a split decision of what he thought was right and [took K.W.P.] . . . out of the classroom . . . and [took] him out into the hallway and tr[ied] to calm him down or resolve . . . what he thought was the problem in the situation." Id. When Officer Craddock and K.W.P.'s father returned to the front office, Officer Craddock removed the handcuffs from K.W.P.

          K.W.P. was handcuffed for a total of 20 minutes. For 15 of those 20 minutes, K.W.P. was seated in the front office. The handcuffs made K.W.P.'s wrists tender and red. He also alleged that he suffered mental and emotional distress.

         b. Procedural History

         K.W.P. sued KCPS, Officer Craddock, and Principal Wallace for violations of K.W.P.'s rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The complaint alleged that Officer Craddock unreasonably seized K.W.P. and used excessive force by handcuffing him and failing to promptly remove the handcuffs. He alleged that Principal Wallace approved Officer Craddock's seizure by failing to instruct Officer Craddock to remove the handcuffs despite K.W.P. posing no imminent threat to anyone and complying with instructions. KCPS was sued for failure to train and supervise Officer Craddock on the use of handcuffs on elementary-age children. Officer Craddock and Principal ...


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