(CN) - A Texas school district is not liable after a bizarre Holocaust role-playing lesson ended with students playing Jews suffering injuries while taking orders from ersatz Nazis, the 5th Circuit ruled.
Andrew Yara, of Ochiltree County, sued
the Perryton Independent School District in May 2012. Perryton is approximately 120 miles northeast of Amarillo.
Yara claimed that students wearing red ribbons "must do everything school faculty or other students tell them to, including picking up other students' trash, being taken outside and sprayed with water hoses, bear-crawling across the hot track, carrying other students' books, and even carrying other students," the complaint alleged.
"Engaging in this exercise was compulsory, with it constituting 60% of a major test grade for students in their World History Class, and any student who did not do everything they were told were receive a failing grade."
Yara said he was seriously injured when a classmate jumped onto his back while he was carrying another student. He said the school showed "deliberate indifference" to his constitutional right to human dignity by "subjecting him to a process that was designed to expose him to unwarranted shame, indignity, and virtually certain injury."
"That this was supposed to be an educational experience does not excuse the cruelty, inhumanity, or injury that occurred," the lawsuit alleged.
A federal judge later granted the school district summary judgment, however, finding no evidence that the school had adopted a policy that was the "moving force" behind the alleged violations.
The court refused to rule on whether Yara had alleged valid constitutional violations.
A three-judge panel with the 5th Circuit affirmed Monday, shooting down Yara's claim that the school board failed to train or supervise school staff.
Ultimately, there is a lack of evidence showing that the board was even aware of Red Ribbon Day, according to the ruling.
"Further, the board could not have made a deliberate choice to disregard constitutional violations stemming from its failure to train or supervise because no violation had occurred in the first two years of the program," the unsigned opinion states. "There was no pattern of constitutional violations such that the Board would have been more than grossly negligent for failing to train or supervise the high school staff."
The New Orleans-based panel agreed that the two-day per year program was neither common nor well-settled enough of a custom to fairly represented district policy.
It would not have been reasonable for the board to predict Yara's injuries based on the nature of the activity, the court found.
"Even if knowledge of Red Ribbon Day could be imputed to the [Perryton ISD] board, we agree with the district court that Perryton could not have acted with deliberate indifference to constitutional violations because there is no evidence that the type of constitutional violations alleged by the Yaras had ever occurred," the judges wrote. "Despite the Yaras' attempts to explain the potentially harmful effects of what they call an unsound pedagogy, it is undisputed that no Perryton High School student ever previously suffered physical harm as a result of Red Ribbon Day events."