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McLaughlin v. New York City Board of Education

January 23, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Frank Maas, United States Magistrate Judge


I. Introduction

Plaintiff Don Alan McLaughlin ("McLaughlin") brings this pro se employment discrimination action against his former employer, the New York City Board of Education ("BOE"), and Joy Daley ("Daley"), the principal of the school where he taught (together, the "Defendants"). McLaughlin alleges discrimination on the basis of his race, color, sex, national origin, and religion in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). He also contends that the Defendants failed to accommodate his religious practices and beliefs.

Following the close of discovery, the Defendants moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Docket No. 34). Subsequently, on August 3, 2007, the parties consented to my exercise of jurisdiction over this case for all purposes in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Docket No. 38).

Pursuant to that authority, the Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted for the reasons set forth below.

II. Facts

The Defendants have served and filed the statement of undisputed facts required by Local Civil Rule 56.1 ("Rule 56.1") and the notice to pro se litigants required by Local Civil Rule 56.2. (Docket Nos. 21, 34). Further, Chief Judge Kimba Wood, to whom the case then was assigned, provided McLaughlin with an Order detailing what his response to a Rule 56.1 statement must contain. (Docket No. 19). Despite what appears to have been a good-faith effort, McLaughlin has not properly complied with Rule 56.1 and Judge Wood's Order. For example, McLaughlin has failed to admit or deny facts in a "correspondingly numbered paragraph responding to each numbered paragraph" of the Defendants' statement and repeatedly makes assertions that lack citations to admissible evidence. (See Docket No. 42) (Pl.'s Local R. 56.1 Stmt. of Undisputed Material Facts ("Pl.'s Stmt.")).*fn1 Thus, to the extent that McLaughlin's statement does not dispute the Defendants' factual assertions or relies on inadmissible evidence, the facts set forth in the Defendants' Rule 56.1 Statement must be deemed admitted.*fn2 See, e.g., Giannullo v. City of N.Y., 322 F.3d 139, 140 (2d Cir. 2003).

As the Second Circuit has cautioned, however, a movant may not be granted summary judgment simply because its motion is not properly opposed. Vt. Teddy Bear Co. v. 1-800 Beargram Co., 373 F.3d 241, 244 (2d Cir. 2004). Thus, the "Court may not rely solely on the statement of undisputed facts contained in the moving party's Rule 56.1 Statement; it also must be satisfied that the moving party's assertions are supported by the record." Allen v. City of N.Y., 480 F. Supp. 2d 689, 703 (S.D.N.Y. 2007). Viewed in the light most favorable to McLaughlin, that record establishes as follows:

A. McLaughlin's Protected Status

McLaughlin is a male of Native-American, African-American, and European extraction. He considers himself a Native-American and practices the religion of Islam. (Ex. A ("Dep.") at 10-11, 16).*fn3 He identifies his color as "dark brown" and his national origin as American. (Id. at 15-16).

B. McLaughlin's Employment with the BOE

1. Hiring

Daley is an African-American woman of Jamaican national origin. At all times relevant to this case, she was the Principal of the Lorraine Hansberry Academy, a New York City public school in the Bronx. The school was part of the "Chancellor's District" which consists of "lower achieving schools." (See Dep. at 35; Exs. B, C, CC at 5). Daley interviewed McLaughlin in October 2000 and recommended to the District that he be hired as an Additional Teacher Reserve ("ATR"). An ATR is similar to a substitute teacher and may be assigned to "to teach any subject according to the needs of the school."*fn4 (Dep. at 34-37; Exs. B, CC at 5).

2. 2000 to 2001 School Year

As an ATR, McLaughlin taught seventh-grade English during the 2000 to 2001 school year. (Dep. at 37). On April 24, 2001, Assistant Principal Maria Matos ("Matos") informally observed his class. (Ex. D ). On May 7, 2001, Matos sent McLaughlin an evaluation letter. (Id.). That letter critiqued McLaughlin's classroom performance and concluded that he "would have received an Unsatisfactory rating" had the observation been "formal." (Id. at 3). Matos also provided constructive criticism intended to improve the quality of McLaughlin's teaching, such as encouraging him to plan collaborative activities, post standards for his lessons, and have a lesson plan. (Id. at 2). McLaughlin initially refused to countersign this letter to acknowledge that he had received it. He later relented and signed the letter on June 5, 2001. (Ex. D at 3).*fn5

On May 9, 2001, Daley observed McLaughlin's class. (Ex. E). In a letter to McLaughlin dated May 15, 2001, Daley complained that he had "not [been] involved with any form of instruction" during her visit and that "[n]othing was taught." (Id. at 1). She also noted that she asked for McLaughlin's lesson plan, which he did not timely produce. (Id.). Daley cautioned McLaughlin that her letter constituted an "official warning . . . to plan and prepare" for all his classes. (Id.). Daley offered to assist McLaughlin if he needed any further help. (Id. at 2).

On June 6, 2001, after a second visit to McLaughlin's classroom, Daley rated him "Satisfactory" in an observation report.*fn6 (Ex. F at 1). In the report, Daley explained that McLaughlin's lesson was "satisfactory because [he] engaged the students in several elements of a successful lesson." (Id. at 3). The report contained numerous recommendations for improvement, including suggestions that McLaughlin encourage students to raise their hands, write larger on chart paper so students could read his writing, and provide enough copies of practice work for the students. (Id.).

Two days later, on June 8, 2001, Assistant Principal William Williams ("Williams"), an African-American male, observed McLaughlin. (Ex. G; Pl.'s Proposed Local R. 56.1 Counter-Stmt. of Undisputed Facts ("Pl.'s Counter-Stmt.") ¶ 8). In his subsequent letter to McLaughlin, dated June 13, 2001, Williams was critical of McLaughlin's teaching performance. (Ex. G). He noted that McLaughlin "made no attempt to improve on [the] classroom environment," that McLaughlin's lesson plan was undated, that the "objective on the board did not follow the lesson plan," and that students had "too much unfinished work." (Id.). Williams noted that he was "very concerned with the level of instruction and learning" in McLaughlin's class, and he urged McLaughlin to seek his assistance. (Id.).

Despite three negative reviews during the 2000 to 2001 school year, McLaughlin earned a "satisfactory" annual performance rating. (Ex. H). His annual evaluation further indicated, however, that McLaughlin had been late ten times and absent another eleven days during the school year. (Id.). According to Daley, the only reason McLaughlin did not receive an "unsatisfactory" rating was the lack of two "formal" observations in his file. (Ex. CC at 6-7).

3. 2001 to 2002 School Year

The day before class assignments were to be made for the 2001 to 2002 school year, McLaughlin was reassigned to teach third grade as a language arts enrichment teacher.*fn7 (Dep. at 57-58). Daley observed him for the first time that year on November 20, 2001, and wrote a letter to McLaughlin one week later. (Ex. K). In her letter, Daley stated that McLaughlin's classroom was disorganized and chaotic and that there "was no evidence of teaching and learning." (Id. at 1). Daley further noted that McLaughlin was not supporting what the home room teacher was teaching, as enrichment teachers were required to do. (Id.). Based on her observations, Daley concluded that McLaughlin had failed to "establish and maintain the order and discipline . . . necessary to instruct students effectively." (Id. at 2). She directed McLaughlin to meet with her and another teacher to discuss effective management techniques and cautioned him that a continued failure "to maintain order and discipline in [his] classroom may be grounds for further disciplinary action, including an unsatisfactory rating."*fn8 (Id.).

Two days later, on November 30, 2001, Daley again observed McLaughlin. (Ex. L). In a letter dated February 1, 2002, which followed a meeting with McLaughlin and his union representative, Daley noted that McLaughlin had been teaching a topic that had nothing to do with his written lesson plan. (Id.). She warned McLaughlin "to plan and prepare for [his] classes by writing current lesson plans" for each class he taught. (Id.). She also reminded him that, as an enrichment teacher, he was required to confer with the home room teachers to determine what topics should be covered. (Id.). In a subsequent letter dated January 31, 2002, Daley reprimanded McLaughlin for his poor attendance and punctuality record. (Ex. M). The letter, which again followed a meeting with McLaughlin and his union representative, noted that between August and November 2001, McLaughlin had been late twelve times and absent five times. Between December 2001 and January 2002, McLaughlin was late an additional eleven times and absent an additional eight times. (Id.). McLaughlin contended that each lateness and absence was due to illness, but Daley nonetheless warned him that he was in danger of receiving an "unsatisfactory" rating if he did not improve his attendance record. (Id.).

On February 5, 2002, Daley observed McLaughlin together with a curriculum facilitator. In a letter dated the same day, Daley mandated five specific corrective steps that McLaughlin had to pursue. (Ex. N). She stated that she would "be visiting [McLaughlin's] class on an ongoing basis to ensure that [he] receive[d] the professional development" needed to improve. (Id. at 2).

On April 15, 2002, Gloria Buckery ("Buckery"), an African-American woman who was the Brooklyn/Bronx Regional Superintendent, observed McLaughlin's classroom. (Ex. O; Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 4). In an observation report dated April 24, 2002, Buckery noted three "commendable features" of McLaughlin's lesson, but then itemized more than ten major concerns. (Ex. O at 1-2). Buckery concluded that the lesson she observed was "unsatisfactory" and directed a regional instructional specialist to work with McLaughlin to improve his performance.

On June 5, 2002, Daley again observed McLaughlin; she rated him "Unsatisfactory" in an observation report dated the same day. (Ex. P at 1). Daley complained that there were "no commendable features to the lesson" and that there was "no established routine or consistent pattern of instruction" in McLaughlin's class. (Id. at 2). Daley noted that McLaughlin still was not conferring with the home room teacher to support the topics she was teaching, and directed him to do so. (Id. at 3). After another observation the following day, Daley again found that McLaughlin's performance was unsatisfactory and that it had not ...

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