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Palmer v. Penfield Cent. School Dist.

United States District Court, W.D. New York

January 22, 2013

Karen PALMER, Plaintiff,
v.
PENFIELD CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, District Superintendent John Carlevatti, Defendants.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Christina A. Agola, Brighton, NY, for Plaintiff.

Michael P. McClaren, Webster Szanyi, LLP, Buffalo, NY, for Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER

DAVID G. LARIMER, District Judge.

Plaintiff Karen Palmer brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that she was retaliated against by defendants, the Penfield (New York) Central School District (" District" ) and Penfield superintendent John Carlevatti. Plaintiff alleges that in 2009, she was denied tenure and was compelled to resign fro her teaching position within the District, because of her advocacy on behalf of an African-American student whom plaintiff had recommended for admittance to the District's Kindergarten Extending Education Program (" KEEP" ).

Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Dkt. # 9). Plaintiff, who has amended the complaint once as of right (Dkt. # 8), has cross-moved for leave to " amend/correct her [amended] complaint" pursuant to Federal Rule 15 (Dkt. # 12). The proposed second amended complaint would add a claim for retaliation under Title VI, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.

BACKGROUND

The first amended complaint (" FAC" ) (Dkt. # 8) alleges, and it is assumed to be true, that Palmer was hired by the district as a kindergarten teacher in September 2006. During the 2008-09 school year, the District implemented KEEP, which provided an extended day program to the lowest-performing students in literacy development.

In the fall of 2008, some disagreement arose between plaintiff and school officials over plaintiff's recommendation that a particular student, " JK," be admitted to KEEP. Plaintiff believed that JK would be a good candidate for the program, but he was denied admission, purportedly due to concerns over his " resistant behaviors" and his " strong knowledge of alphabetic

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principal [sic] (knowledge of letter names and associated sounds)." FAC ¶¶ 19, 22.

Plaintiff first recommended JK for KEEP in October 2008, FAC ¶ 18, and apparently this continued to be a source of friction between her and school officials throughout that academic year. At a meeting on April 1, 2009, plaintiff allegedly voiced her concerns over the perceived " disparate treatment of an African American student [JK] in a predominantly Caucasian school district." FAC ¶ 46. The very next day, plaintiff was informed by school principal Terri Connell that plaintiff, who was in the third year of her " probationary" period, would not be recommended for tenure. FAC ¶¶ 15, 43. Connell allegedly told plaintiff that her decision was based on Connell's belief that plaintiff was " not providing developmentally appropriate activities for [her] students." FAC ¶ 45.

In a letter to superintendent Carlevatti, plaintiff expressed her belief that the timing of Connell's announcement of her decision concerning plaintiff's tenure, coming just one day after plaintiff had spoken up about the alleged disparate treatment of an African-American student, was suspect, and that it appeared that she was being retaliated against for her remarks at the April 1 meeting. FAC ¶ 46. Carlevatti apparently upheld Connell's decision, however, and plaintiff " was compelled to resign effective June 30, 2009 ...." FAC ¶ 47.

The amended complaint alleges that plaintiff's forced resignation was " in retaliation for objecting to the disparate treatment of an African American student in a predominantly Caucasian school district," and that the District, " by and through the deliberate indifference of its final policy maker, John Carlevatti, both created and maintained " a policy or practice of unconstitutional retaliation. FAC ¶¶ 47, 48 (italics in original). Plaintiff also ...


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