United States District Court, D. Kansas
S.E.S., as Next Friend and Mother of J.M.S., a Minor, Plaintiff,
GALENA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT No. 499, Defendant.,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
D. Crabtree Unites States District Judge
matter comes before the court on plaintiff's Motion for
Leave To File Complaint and Proceed Using Initials (Doc. 6)
filed January 24, 2018. Plaintiff, as next friend and mother
of J.M.S., seeks leave to proceed in this case with herself
and family members-her husband and her minor
sons-identified only by their initials. For the
reasons explained below, the court grants plaintiff's
following facts come from plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 1).
Plaintiff alleges that, while he was a student at Galena
Middle School from 2014 to 2017, J.M.S. endured sex and
gender discrimination in violation of Title IX of the
Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”), 20
U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq. The alleged
harassment began in response to J.M.S.'s gender or
refusal to conform to stereotypical male characteristics at
Galena Middle School. The perpetrators were schoolmates under
the disciplinary authority of U.S.D. No. 499.
Complaint alleges verbal harassment, physical threats, and
physical contact. Due to his diagnosis of Idiopathic
Thrombocytopenic Purpura (“ITP”)-a bleeding
disorder in which the immune system destroys platelets-J.M.S.
asserts he has greater risk of physical harm. Also, he
asserts, students and teachers knew about his diagnosis and
enhanced risk to harm. The plaintiff saw that her son was
subjected to the harassment and physical conduct. Plaintiff
claims she repeatedly reported the behavior to U.S.D. No. 499
employees but they did nothing to alleviate it.
Complaint contends the harassment was “so severe,
pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively
deprived [J.M.S.] of access to educational benefits or
opportunities provided by the school district.” Doc. 1
at 20 (Compl. ¶ 73). Both J.M.S. and G.L.S. (his younger
brother) have enrolled at school in Joplin for the 2017-2018
school year to avoid instances of “bullying, harassing,
and gay-bashing” at Galena Middle School. Doc. 1 at
20-21 (Compl. ¶ 71-72). The incidents allegedly have
caused actual damages in the form of extreme embarrassment,
humiliation, anxiety, depression, and emotional pain. J.M.S.
has been diagnosed as the victim of psychological abuse
causing adjustment disorder with anxiety. J.M.S. has sought
treatment from neuropsychologists and continues to
participate in individual psychotherapy.
and his brother, G.L.S., are minors, and thus, appropriately
identified by initials. Fed.R.Civ.P. 5.2(a)(3). Allowing an
adult party to proceed under a pseudonym in federal court is,
by all accounts, an unusual procedure. Doe v. USD No. 237
Smith Ctr. Sch. Dist., No. 16-CV-2801-JWL-TJJ, 2017 WL
3839416, at *10 (D. Kan. Sept. 1, 2017). Courts recognize a
general right for the public to inspect and copy public
records and documents, including judicial records and
documents. Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc., 435
U.S. 589, 598 (1978). The court should exercise
“informed discretion” and weigh the interests of
the public, which are presumptively paramount, against those
advanced by parties. Crystal Grower's Corp. v.
Dobbins, 616 F.2d 458, 461 (10th Cir. 1980). When a
court grants a party permission to proceed under a pseudonym,
it often couples that permission with the requirement that
the party disclose its real name to the defendant and the
court. W.N.J. v. Yocom, 257 F.3d 1171, 1172 (10th
are, however, narrowly defined permissible exceptions to this
rule. They exist when the requesting party demonstrates that
the need for anonymity outweighs the presumption in favor of
open court proceedings. Exceptional circumstances exist if
the case involves: (1) matters of a highly sensitive and
personal nature, (2) real danger of physical harm, or (3)
where the disclosure would cause the party to sustain the
injury that the litigation seeks to avert. Raiser v.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 182
Fed.Appx. 810, 811 (10th Cir. 2006).
court evaluates the current claim of exceptional
circumstances by examining to the factors enumerated in
this case presents a highly sensitive and personal issue. The
Complaint seeks damages for sex and gender discrimination
against a minor in violation of Title IX. Courts grant
heightened protection to child victims and have concluded
that complaints involving minors are matters of a highly
sensitive and personal nature. See U.S.D. No. 237,
2017 WL 3839416, at *11; see also J.B. v. Liberal Sch.
Dist., USD No. 480, No. 06-2359-MLB, 2006 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 67622, at *5 (D. Kan. Sept. 20, 2006).
J.M.S.'s parents exceed the age of majority, and thus,
have more limited privacy interests. Doe v. Cabrera,
307 F.R.D. 1, 6 (D.D.C. 2014). However, J.M.S. and his
parents share common privacy interests based on their
inseparable relationship to one another. J.W. v. District
of Columbia, 318 F.R.D. 196, 201 (D.D.C. 2016). Ordering
disclosure of the parent's identities would place-in
effect-personally identifiable and confidential information
about the alleged sex and gender harassment of a minor in the
public record. Disclosing the parent's identities would
affect J.M.S. the most. The request by ...