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Rodriguez v. International Leadership Charter School

March 30, 2009

AIXA RODRIGUEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INTERNATIONAL LEADERSHIP CHARTER SCHOOL AND ELAINE RUIZ-LOPEZ, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Paul A. Crotty, United States District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff Aixa Rodriguez ("Rodriguez") claims that she was fired from her teaching job because she complained about sub-par educational services provided to "special needs students," i.e., students with disabilities and students who required English as a Second Language ("ESL") instruction. Her Complaint alleges seven causes of action: one for a violation of her First Amendment free speech rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and six for retaliation on the basis of race, national origin, and disability pursuant to several federal and state statutes.

Defendants International Leadership Charter School ("ILCS"), Rodriguez's former employer, and Dr. Elaine Ruiz-Lopez ("Ruiz-Lopez"), ILCS's Chief Executive Officer, move to dismiss Rodriguez's claims pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion to dismiss Rodriguez's Complaint is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

BACKGROUND

I. Facts*fn1

Defendant ILCS is a tuition-free high school operating under a charter granted by the State University of New York Board of Trustees, pursuant to the New York State Education Law. At all times relevant to the present matter, Defendant Ruiz-Lopez served as ILCS's Chief Executive Officer.

Plaintiff Rodriguez was hired to teach at ILCS in July 2006. Some of the students for whom she was responsible were either disabled or required ESL instruction. According to Rodriguez, ILCS failed to provide these special needs students with certain educational services to which they were legally entitled. Rodriguez complained about these failures, but Defendants did not take any corrective action.

On November 9, 2006, Rodriguez wrote a letter to the New York Department of Education detailing her concerns. On November 27, 2006, Department of Education representatives visited ILCS to investigate Rodriguez's complaints.

Defendants subsequently learned that Rodriguez was the source of the complaints, and they fired her on December 15, 2006. On January 19, 2007, the Department of Education substantiated the complaints contained in Rodriguez's November 9, 2006 letter and directed Defendants to take corrective action with respect to the educational services provided to special needs students.

On March 3, 2007, Rodriguez filed a complaint of discrimination with the New York State Division of Human Rights ("NYSDHR"), which in turn forwarded her complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Decl. of Aixa Rodriguez ("Rodriguez Decl.") Ex. 1.) On March 6, 2007, the EEOC issued a Notice of Charge of Discrimination, which it served on ILCS, indicating that Rodriguez charged ILCS with employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). (Id. Ex. 2.)

II. Plaintiff's Complaint and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

Rodriguez's Complaint alleges seven causes of action. Her 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim alleges a violation of her First Amendment free speech rights. The remaining six causes of action amount to claims of retaliation pursuant to various federal statutes-Title VII; the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"); the Rehabilitation Act; and 42 U.S.C. § 1981-as well as the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL") and New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL").*fn2 Rodriguez's Title VII, ADA, and Rehabilitation Act claims are brought against ILCS only; the remaining claims are brought against both ILCS and Ruiz-Lopez.

Defendants move to dismiss Rodriguez's Complaint on four grounds. First, with respect to her First Amendment claim under Section 1983, Defendants argue that Rodriguez has failed to demonstrate either that ILCS was a state actor for the purposes of a First Amendment claim or that her complaints constituted protected speech. Second, they argue that Rodriguez's ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) because, prior to commencing the present action, Rodriguez did not exhaust her administrative remedies by raising these alleged violations with the EEOC. Third, Defendants contend that the NYSHRL and NYCHRL claims must be dismissed because Rodriguez did not comply with the New York State Education Law's notice of claim requirements, which require service of a written notice of a claim on the school and its officials within 90 days of the incident that allegedly caused the complainant's injury. Finally, Defendants argue that Rodriguez's Title VII and Section 1981 claims must be dismissed because Rodriguez has failed to allege that she engaged in the types of activities these statutes are meant to protect.

DISCUSSION

III. Legal Standard for a Motion ...


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