Impregnated Student's Appeal Stuck in Limbo
(CN) - Before suing the District of Columbia, a woman must first resolve her claims against the teacher who impregnated her at a school for emotionally disturbed students, the D.C. Circuit ruled.
Ayanna Blue was an 18-year-old student at the Transition Academy at Shadd, a special-needs school in the District of Columbia Public School system, when she became involved in a sexual relationship with her teacher, Robert Weismiller.
The relationship lasted from November 2008 until April 2009, by which time Blue was pregnant.
School officials investigated the relationship between the teacher and student after learning of Blue's pregnancy but cited Weismiller's denials and the lack of corroborating evidence in concluded that there was no "definitive proof" Weismiller had engaged in wrongdoing.
Weismiller was let go that October as part of a systemwide reduction in force.
Blue sued Weismiller, D.C., the school district and its former chancellor, alleging that the school district hired Weismiller to teach a vulnerable population despite his history of sexually assaulting students.
A federal judge dismissed her claims against the District of Columbia in 2012, saying Blue failed to "plead a single fact in support of her claim that the district has a custom of 'cultivating an atmosphere where teachers are afraid to report abuse,' making this allegation solely 'upon information and belief.'"
The D.C. Circuit found Blue's appeal premature Friday, noting that the lower court had not issued a final decision on her case as a whole.
"The difficulty for Blue is that she has not appealed her claims against both defendants, but only the order dismissing her claims against the district, while she relies on a voluntary dismissal and tolling agreement to hold her claims against Weismiller for later resolution," Judge Nina Pillard wrote for the three-judge panel.
Blue entered a joint stipulation of dismissal of her claims against Weismiller, subject to a tolling agreement, which allows her to refile her dismissed claims.
To avoid burdening the courts with fragmentary appeals, "our circuit treats voluntary but non-prejudicial dismissals of remaining claims as generally insufficient to render final and appealable a prior order disposing of only part of the case," Pillard said.
Blue may not qualify for appellate review without asking the District Court to certify its judgment dismissing her claims against the district, or to reinstate her claims against Weismiller and litigate them to a final disposition, the court said.