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Carter v. City of Albany

March 22, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David N. Hurd United States District Judge



Plaintiff Aaron Carter ("plaintiff" or "Carter") brings this action against defendants City of Albany ("City"), City School District of Albany ("School District"), Board of Education of the City School District of Albany ("Board"), Alison Gurreri ("Gurreri"), Michael Cioffi ("Cioffi"), John Bounds ("Bounds"), and Janet Parker ("Parker") (collectively "defendants") asserting various federal and state law causes of action. Specifically, plaintiff brings claims of malicious prosecution and abuse of process pursuant to state law (First through Fifth causes of action); municipal liability for the deprivation of his federal constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983") (Sixth cause of action); conspiracy to deprive him of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C § 1985 ("§ 1985") (Seventh cause of action); and neglect to prevent wrongs mentioned in § 1985, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1986 ("§ 1986") (Eighth cause of action).


Plaintiff, an African-American male, worked as a teacher's assistant at Albany High School in defendant School District. He worked in the special education classroom of defendant Gurreri, a Caucasian female.

On November 29, 2004, Gurreri taught a lesson about Kwanza from a book she had purchased and brought to school. Plaintiff subsequently used the book to engage students in further lessons about Kwanza during their free time. At some point, Gurreri removed the book from the classroom. When plaintiff inquired about the book, she told him it was on loan to someone else. Carter asked where she purchased the book so that he could purchase an additional copy. Gurreri told him that she purchased it at the Christmas Tree Shop but that "she hoped there were no more." (Compl. ¶ 18.)

Upset by Gurreri's actions, plaintiff recounted the incident to Gurreri's supervisor and asked him to intervene in the matter. Plaintiff believes that Gurreri's supervisor spoke to her about the incident.

A week later, Gurreri had the students color Santa Claus figures. She allowed a Jewish student to color a menorah. However, when the plaintiff attempted to allow an African-American student to color a kinara, a candle holder used in Kwanza celebrations, Gurreri took it out of their hands and demanded that the student color a Santa Claus.

Following the close of school that day, plaintiff approached Gurreri to discuss the incident. Gurreri expressed her feeling that Kwanza was not "culturally relevant." Further, she stated that because the high school was only forty-percent African-American, it would not be taught in her classroom. Plaintiff disagreed with her estimate of the number of African-American students in the high school and suggested that the number was closer to seventy-percent of the student body. He discussed his belief that Kwanza could be a motivational tool for African-American students. Gurreri dismissed plaintiff's assessment and told him that she was "the boss" in the classroom. (Compl. ¶ 28.)

After this conversation, Gurreri assigned additional tasks to plaintiff that were not assigned to either of her other teacher's assistants. In particular, she tasked him with making copies of workbook pages after school for use in the next days' class. The number of workbook pages Gurreri ordered plaintiff to copy steadily rose. One night she assigned him five full workbooks to copy. Each workbook was approximately 80-100 pages. After school that day, plaintiff went to the copy room to complete his assignment. However, he noticed that a sign was posted above the copier stating that users of the machine were limited to only thirty copies at a time. This meant that plaintiff could copy no more than about half of one of the five workbooks. Plaintiff exceeded the thirty page limit and copied one entire workbook. He returned the books to Gurreri's desk, and attached a note stating that because of the new copy policy he was unable to complete all the work defendant had assigned.

The next day, Gurreri asked to speak with Carter privately in an empty classroom near her own. Once inside the room, defendant upbraided plaintiff for failing to complete his assignment. Plaintiff attempted to explain why he had not completed the copies, but Gurreri cut him off exclaiming that she was "the boss of [plaintiff]." (Compl. ¶ 38.) Plaintiff disagreed with Gurreri's statement that he was her direct report, and asked that they go speak to a school administrator to clarify the issue.

Gurreri then left to return to her classroom, and plaintiff followed. Their discussion continued even as they entered the classroom full of students. Gurreri demanded that plaintiff leave. He refused, and told Gurreri that she was a "young immature white girl." (Compl. ¶ 42.) Gurreri continued to demand that plaintiff leave, and again he refused declaring to Gurreri that she could not tell him what to do. Gurreri then used the classroom phone to request assistance. Shortly thereafter, administrators arrived at the classroom and Gurreri claimed that plaintiff assaulted her. When confronted by defendant Cioffi, the school's principal, plaintiff denied that he had assaulted Gurreri. Cioffi told plaintiff that because he was accused of assaulting a co-worker he must leave school grounds.

Cioffi did not investigate Gurreri's allegation further. Cioffi then met with Gurreri and defendant Bounds, the school's security administrator. Bounds and Cioffi recommended to Gurreri that she contact defendant Parker, an Albany city police officer assigned to Albany High School. Gurreri contacted Parker and subsequently signed a criminal complaint against plaintiff alleging misdemeanor assault in the third degree. Cioffi directed plaintiff's union representative to contact plaintiff and ask him to return to the school to make a statement about the incident. Plaintiff refused to return to the school but offered to meet his union representative at another public location.

Upon his arrival at the designated location, plaintiff was met by police who arrested him and took him to the police station. Plaintiff was photographed, fingerprinted, and shackled to a bench for several hours. He was released later that day but ordered to appear in court the next day. The School District placed plaintiff ...

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