her speech did pertain to a matter of public concern, that she was in any way retaliated against on account of it. Finally, it should be noted that the hearing officers and the School Board, rather than any of the individual defendants, were responsible for the disciplinary actions ultimately taken against plaintiff.
Plaintiff's June 1994 termination, as previously discussed, was the result of a personnel action that also impacted two other employees. This action occurred a year after the grade change incident, during which time no one had mentioned the incident to plaintiff. Plaintiff's claim that the District took that personnel action in retaliation for her conduct in connection with the June 1993 grade change incident is pure speculation that lacks evidentiary support.
There is evidence, however, of ample reasons, unrelated to Gomez' speech or other protected conducted, that justified the employment and disciplinary decisions of the District. Gomez concedes that she was regularly late to work. Gomez offers no evidence of other employees who were late as regularly as she yet not disciplined for their tardiness.
Ultimately, plaintiff's retaliation claims are premised on the notion that the individual defendants, as well as other school personnel perhaps, had entered a conspiracy whose ultimate purpose was to terminate plaintiff. Otherwise, Gomez' retaliation claim is not plausible. Yet, plaintiff has offered absolutely no admissible evidence that might create a triable issue of fact regarding the existence of a conspiracy on the part of the individual defendants, much less a conspiracy that would involve the other school officials who either noted plaintiff's various forms of misconduct, complained to one of the defendants about it, or testified at one of the two disciplinary hearings. In sum, plaintiff has failed to set forth facts sufficient to establish a prima facie case of unlawful retaliation. As with her discrimination claims, even if plaintiff had established a prima facie case, she has not come forward with sufficient evidence to rebut the defendant's legitimate, nondiscriminatory justifications for the challenged employment actions.
Plaintiff also contends that the defendants infringed her right to petition government for redress of grievances. This claim has no merit. Gomez discussed the District's procedures for changing students' grades with both Pellicone and the guidance counselors. It is not disputed that Pellicone allowed Gomez and the guidance counselors to express their concerns. The fact that Pellicone changed the student's transcript anyway, or that he may not have changed any District policy as a result of Gomez' action does not burden her right to petition government for redress of grievances. The First Amendment provides that one may petition government, not that the government must accede to one's demands.
For the reasons stated above, defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted. Because the Court declines to exercise jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims, those claims are dismissed without prejudice. See United Mine Workers of America v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726, 16 L. Ed. 2d 218, 86 S. Ct. 1130 (1966).
Barrington D. Parker, Jr.
Dated: White Plains, New York
November 20, 1997