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Tina M. andersen v. Rochester City School District

April 15, 2011

TINA M. ANDERSEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROCHESTER CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, DEFENDANT.



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

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Tina M. Andersen ("Plaintiff"), brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"), N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290 et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging gender discrimination, retaliation for engaging in a protected activity, and violations of the Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment. Plaintiff specifically claims that the Defendant, the Rochester City School District ("Defendant" or the "District"), discriminated against her on the basis of her gender by failing to take remedial action following several incidents between the Plaintiff and a student, and with respect to rumors that were circulated within the school about the Plaintiff. Plaintiff also claims that she was constructively discharged because of the District's failure to remedy this allegedly hostile work environment.

Defendant moves for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule 56"), arguing that the evidence is insufficient to support Plaintiff's claims. Plaintiff opposes Defendant's motion, arguing that she has established a prima facie case on all of her claims and that there are material issues of fact. For the reasons set forth below, this Court grants Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment in its entirety. Accordingly, Plaintiff's Complaint is hereby dismissed with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the record and the parties submissions pursuant to Local Rule 56.1. See Docket Nos. 11, 15 and 17. The District hired plaintiff in 2000 as a general music and choir teacher. During the relevant time period, Plaintiff worked at the Wilson Foundation Academy ("Wilson"), teaching general music and choir to middle and high school students.

In December 2006 and January 2007, an eighth-grade student at Wilson, Malcolm Reid ("Reid"), who lived in Plaintiff's neighborhood, broke into Plaintiff's home and vandalized her property. Reid also stole personal property from Plaintiff's home, including her cell phone, during the second break-in. Plaintiff attempted to call the cell phone from her home phone, but no one answered. Later, a male caller (later identified as Reid) called Plaintiff's home phone and made a sexually explicit comment to her, asking her (in vulgar terms) if she was having sex with her boyfriend. Plaintiff immediately hung up the phone. The male caller called Plaintiff's home phone a second time, but a police officer who was at the residence investigating the break-in answered the phone. At this point, neither Plaintiff nor the police knew that Reid was the male caller or the person who broke into her home.

Later, on January 25, 2007, the same male caller called Plaintiff's boyfriend and left a sexually explicit message on his phone. The caller inquired (also in extremely vulgar terms) about the Plaintiff's sexual relationship with her boyfriend. Plaintiff retrieved the incoming phone number, and the police identified the male caller's cell phone, which belonged to Reid. The police then informed the Plaintiff that Reid was a student at Wilson, however, Plaintiff was unaware at that time that Reid attended Wilson and he was not a student in her class. She never had contact with Reid at school, but she knew him from the neighborhood.

In late January, Plaintiff informed the Rochester Teacher's Association ("RTA") and the Lead Principal of Wilson, Barbara Hassler, that Reid, a student at Wilson, was suspected of breaking into her home and making sexually explicit calls to her and her boyfriend. Hassler asked Plaintiff what she wanted the school to do about the situation, and Plaintiff responded that she would follow up with the school after Reid was arrested. Plaintiff, accompanied by an RTA representative, again went to speak to Hassler about Reid's criminal behavior in early February, but Hassler told Plaintiff to speak with the school resource officer a member of the Rochester Police Department ("RPD"), Officer Corridi, and Walter Larkin, the Assistant Principal for the eighth grade at Wilson. The facts do not indicate that Plaintiff or Hassler spoke with Walter Larkin about the situation.

On February 28, 2007, Plaintiff, accompanied by an RTA representative and Officer Corridi, again went to speak with Hassler, but Hassler was unable to speak with the Plaintiff at that time. Later that day, Plaintiff was instructed by the RPD to take extra precautions at work and at home. Plaintiff felt unsafe at work, so she called the Vice Principal, Barbara Dunn, to tell her that she would not return to work "until this is resolved." Dunn and a representative of the RTA both told the Plaintiff to take time off. Plaintiff did not return to school for the rest of the school year. Plaintiff was paid for the remainder of the school year, but had exhausted all of her leave time by the end of the year.

While plaintiff was out of school, Plaintiff's co-workers and her boyfriend (who also worked at the school) reported to the Plaintiff that a rumor had circulated among several of the teachers and students that the Plaintiff was fired because she had a sexual relationship with a student and that she was a sexual deviant. Plaintiff was informed of four separate occasions during March and April 2007 in which such comments were overheard by her boyfriend and her co-worker friends. Plaintiff testified that she told Dunn that she had heard that rumors were circulating around school about her and the student, but she did not explain the content of the rumors in any detail. Plaintiff further reported the rumors to an RTA representative, who told her to ignore them. Dunn claims that Plaintiff only "vaguely" referred to the rumors and that she had not personally heard the rumors.

Reid was not apprehended until March, when he was spotted "casing" Plaintiff's home. Plaintiff was able to voice identify Reid as the person who made the sexually explicit phone calls. Reid confessed to breaking into her home in December 2006 and January 2007, making the sexually explicit phone calls, "casing" her home and throwing a rock through the window in March 2007. Reid was arrested for the crimes.

Plaintiff called Vice Principal Dunn to report that Reid had been arrested. Plaintiff testified that she informed the District that an Order of Protection was issued in her favor against Reid, but the District claims that it did not receive this information or a copy of the Order. At that time, Reid remained a student at the school. Vice Principal Dunn testified that the District's policy with respect to Orders of Protection is to remove the violating party from the school, if both parties are present. However, Plaintiff did not return to work. Reid, was placed in juvenile detention in late April. Plaintiff again called Vice Principal Dunn to inform her that Reid was incarcerated, but Plaintiff did not return to work.

During the summer, Plaintiff engaged in e-mail conversations with the RTA regarding the upcoming school year, however, Plaintiff had, at that point, already accepted a position in Chicago. Dunn testified that she attempted to contact Plaintiff several times to inquire whether she would be returning to work in September. Plaintiff responded by email that she would not return to work. Later, in ...


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