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Rhonda Turner v. Nazareth College

January 28, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge



Plaintiff, Rhonda Turner ("Plaintiff"), a former graduate student at Nazareth College ("Defendant" or "Nazareth"), brings this action pursuant 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("§ 1981"), alleging intentional discrimination and retaliation based on her race, African American, and breach of an implied contract under New York State law. See Compl. ¶¶ 1, 4. Plaintiff specifically claims that Defendant breached an implied contract to grant her a degree and to recommend her for New York State teacher certification, subjected her to a racially hostile environment, and retaliated against her after she complained of problems during her student teaching placement. Id. at ¶¶ 10, 17-18, 26-28, 31, 40.

Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Rules 8(a) and 12(b)(6) ("Rule 12(b)(6)") of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that Plaintiff has failed to state a plausible claim for relief for either discrimination or retaliation and that this court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claim. See Def. Mem. of Law at 1. Plaintiff opposes Defendant's motion, contending that she has stated a plausible claim for both discrimination and retaliation pursuant to § 1981. For the reasons set forth below, this Court grants Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's intentional discrimination and retaliation claims and declines to exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claim for breach of implied contract. Accordingly, Plaintiff's Complaint is hereby dismissed.


In connection with a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court generally may only consider "facts stated in the complaint or documents attached to the complaint as exhibits or incorporated by reference." See Nechis v. Oxford Health Plans, Inc., 421 F.3d 96, 100 (2d Cir.2005). It is permissible to consider a document not appended to the complaint if the document is "incorporated in [the complaint] by reference" or is a document "upon which [the complaint] solely relies integral to the complaint." See Roth v. Jennings, 489 F.3d 499, 509 (2d Cir.2007) (quoting Cortec Indus., Inc. v. Sum Holding L.P., 949 F.2d 42, 47 (2d Cir.1991)). "The court need not accept as true an allegation that is contradicted by documents on which the complaint relies." See In re Bristol-Myers Squibb Sec. Litig., 312 F.Supp.2d 549, 555 (S.D.N.Y.2004); see also Rapoport v. Asia Elecs. Holding Co., 88 F.Supp.2d 179, 184 (S.D.N.Y.2000) ("If these documents contradict the allegations of the amended complaint, the documents control."); Matusovsky v. Merrill Lynch, 186 F.Supp.2d 397, 400 (S.D.N.Y.2002) ("If a plaintiff's allegations are contradicted by [a document attached to the complaint as an exhibit], those allegations are insufficient to defeat a [Rule 12(b)(6)] motion to dismiss."). Accordingly, this Court will consider the following facts set forth in the Complaint and Plaintiff's written correspondence with Defendant regarding her student teaching placement, as they are incorporated by reference in the Complaint and integral to her claims of intentional discrimination and retaliation.

Plaintiff enrolled at Nazareth in 2005 in the inclusive education program, seeking a Masters Degree in education and a recommendation for New York State certification to teach biology. Plaintiff passed the requisite New York State teacher certification examinations.

In December 2006, Nazareth placed Plaintiff as a student teacher at Freddie Thomas High School with coordinating teacher, Logan Newman ("Newman")*fn1 . The placement began on January 15, 2007. Nazareth also assigned David Borland ("Borland") to supervise and observe Plaintiff during this placement. Newman and Borland observed and evaluated Plaintiff on several occasions.

On March 1, 2007, Plaintiff wrote a memo to Borland and Newman expressing concern about their expectations of her in the placement. Specifically, Plaintiff stated that she had communication problems with Newman regarding lunch and other breaks. Plaintiff stated that she was "more than willing to cooperate," but that "[i]n order for [her] to be successful, [she would] need to take a lunch break." Plaintiff also recounted a specific mis-communication with Newman when she asked to take a ten minute break and Newman appeared to her to be upset that she had not returned sooner. She stated that after this incident she was required to explain how long she would be gone prior to taking a break. Plaintiff further stated that despite these issues, she received positive feedback and was in the process of incorporating Newman and Borland's suggestions into her teaching style.

Plaintiff further alleges that on March 13, 2007, Borland came to observe her in Newman's classroom. While she was teaching, Newman "mocked" her and later took over the class entirely. Later, after Borland and the students had left the room, Newman yelled at Plaintiff, "[w]ho do you think you are? I want you to get your things and leave. If you do not come back you will fail tomorrow." Plaintiff spoke to Borland about the incident, and Borland instructed Plaintiff to return and observe Newman for the final three days of her placement, which was scheduled to end on March 16, 2007.

Plaintiff return the next day, and Newman informed her that her placement in his classroom had been summarily terminated. Plaintiff states that Newman did not explain why the placement ended. Plaintiff further alleges that prior to her early termination, she had completed four successful observations.

On March 19, 2007, Plaintiff sent a letter to Dr. Craig Hill in the Department of Education relating what happened on March 13 and complaining that her "placement was ended on March 14, without a clear explanation as to what went wrong or an opportunity to discuss the matter." She expressed to Dr. Hill that she "did what [she] could to work with Mr. Newman to have a successful placement."

Plaintiff again wrote to Dr. Hill on March 21, 2007, and stated, "the overall process I have been subjected between Nazareth College and the [placement] schools has been unfair. It was my intention to succeed." Plaintiff further related that following her first student teaching placement in 2006, she reflected on the feedback she received from her supervisors and attempted to make changes to implement in Newman's classroom. Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Hill responded by letter on April 11, 2007, and encouraged her to withdraw from her current program and seek a General Education Master's Degree, which would not lead to certification as a teacher.

Plaintiff next wrote an e-mail to Dr. Glander in the Department of Education requesting an explanation for the termination of her placement. In the e-mail, Plaintiff references a letter she received from Dr. Glander, which stated that Nazareth had reviewed the records relating to her placement and had decided to deny her request for teacher certification. Plaintiff contends that the letter did not adequately explain the reason she was not permitted to complete the placement and obtain certification. In the e-mail she states, "If you fail to tell what I ...

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