N.C., a minor, filed a personal injury action against her physical education teacher, her school principal, and the Tallapoosa County Board of Education. N.C. alleged that, following her 7th grade physical education class, she was pulled into the boys’ locker room and raped by A.H, a 12th grade student who her teacher, Mr. Caldwell, had allegedly appointed as a teacher’s aide. N.C.’s complaint alleged that Mr. Caldwell had actual knowledge that A.H. was sexually harassing students and negligently or wantonly supervised N.C. and the other students in her class. Mr. Caldwell, the principal, and the Board filed motions for summary judgment, arguing that N.C.’s claims were barred by the doctrine of State-agent immunity. N.C. opposed entry of summary judgment only against Mr. Caldwell. The trial court found that the doctrine of immunity is strong and the Supreme Court “has been particularly reluctant to hold an educator responsible for sexual misconduct by another.” On that ground, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Mr. Caldwell on the basis of Stage-agent immunity. On appeal, the court considered an exception to the law of State-agent immunity, which provides that “a State agent shall not be immune from civil liability in his or her personal capacity . . . when the State acts willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, beyond his or her authority, or under a mistaken interpretation of the law.” N.C. argued that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Mr. Caldwell acted beyond his authority: (1) when he allegedly failed to properly supervise A.H.; (2) when he allegedly allowed A.H. to act as a teacher’s aide; and (3) when he ignored and failed to report previous claims by other female students. The appellate court held that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Mr. Caldwell actually appointed A.H. as a student aide, and, if he did, whether he acted beyond his authority in doing so. The court also found that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Mr. Caldwell was actually aware that A.H. was sexually harassing other female students and, if he was, whether he failed to respond to the allegations. Thus, the appellate court concluded that the trial court erred in entering summary judgment for Mr. Caldwell.
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