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Shalom v. Hunter College of The City University

United States District Court, S.D. New York

August 13, 2014

HOLLY SHALOM, Plaintiff,
v.
HUNTER COLLEGE OF THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, Defendant.

Thomas A. Ricotta, Esq., White, Ricotta & Marks, P.C., Jackson Heights, NY, for Plaintiff.

Steven L. Banks, Michael R. Klekman, Assistant Attorneys General, New York, NY, for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Holly Shalom, a student at Hunter College's Speech-Language Pathology Program ("SLP Program"), brings this action against Hunter College of the City University of New York ("CUNY") alleging sexual harassment, hostile educational environment, and retaliation by CUNY.[1] Defendant now moves for summary judgment on all claims.

Plaintiff commenced this action in state court, pursuant to Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code ("Section 1983"), against three CUNY employees in their individual capacities for violation of her Fourteenth Amendment rights concerning accommodation for her disabilities, and against CUNY for discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 1681 of Title 20 of the United States Code ("Title IX").[2] Defendant removed the action to this Court.[3] On April 23, 2014, plaintiff withdrew her Section 1983 claim.[4] Defendant now moves for summary judgment on the Title IX claims. For the reasons stated below, defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

II. BACKGROUND[5]

A. Speech-Language Pathology Program

In Fall 2009, Shalom enrolled in the SLP Program to become a speech language pathologist.[6] Approximately ninety percent of the students in the SLP Program are women.[7] Students in the SLP Program are required to complete a variety of courses and clinics under the supervision of licensed and certified speech-language pathologists.[8] Students must comply with the professional standards of a speech-language pathologist, preserve client confidentiality in accordance with national standards, maintain a professional demeanor, and dress professionally when in the Hunter College Center for Communication Disorders (the "Center") or any other clinical setting.[9]

Supervisors evaluate the students using a Knowledge and Skills Assessment form ("KASA form") on a scale from zero through four.[10] To be successful, students should receive grades above 3.0.[11] At the end of each clinical practicum, the Clinic Director gives each student a final score between zero and 100, based on the KASA forms, other evaluations from supervisors, and the Clinic Director's own observation of the student's adherence to privacy rules and clinical responsibilities.[12] A score above 82.5 will result in a passing grade for the course ("Credit").[13] A score below 82.5 will result in "No Credit, " which requires the student to retake the practicum before continuing with the SLP Program.[14] If the student receives No Credit twice, the student will be dismissed from the SLP Program.[15]

B. Shalom's Spring 2010 Semester

Shalom enrolled in COMSC 728, a clinical practicum, under the supervision of Clara Blinder.[16] During the Spring 2010 and Fall 2010 semesters, Donald Vogel was the SLP Program's Clinic Director.[17] In April 2010, Vogel offered Shalom an opportunity to work with a client but Shalom declined because of upcoming final examinations.[18] Shalom was the only student in COMSC 728 to decline an offer to work individually with a client.[19] In addition, Shalom was the last student to be offered a client.[20]

Shalom claims that Vogel made comments concerning her hair, attire, or appearance throughout the semester.[21] According to defendant, part of Vogel's job is to enforce the Center's dress code.[22] Shalom claims that Vogel's comments and actions fell outside the guidelines and were unlike those he made to other students.[23] For example, Shalom asserts that Vogel demanded that Shalom come to his office for daily individual physical appearance inspections.[24] However, Shalom admitted that she does not remember if Vogel asked for an inspection more than once.[25]

Blinder assigned Shalom a 3.04, 3.27, and 3.41 for "Evaluations, " "Writing Skills, " and "Professional-Personal" on her KASA form.[26] According to plaintiff, her clinical work grades were at a passing level.[27] Nonetheless, Shalom received 70 points and thus received No Credit for COMSC 728.[28]

C. Shalom's Spring 2010 Grade Appeal

Shalom appealed her COMSC 728 grade to Marilyn Auerbach, the Acting Senior Associate Dean of the School of Health Sciences.[29] Shalom also informed CUNY of Vogel's comments and her belief that she failed because she did not respond to him.[30] The School of Health Sciences grade appeals committee reversed Shalom's failing grade for COMSC 728.[31]

D. Shalom's Fall 2010 Semester

In Fall 2010, Shalom registered for COMSC 729 under the supervision of Diana Bousel and Robin Westle.[32] In mid-November 2010, Vogel sent Shalom emails concerning incidents when Shalom misplaced items, including client charts and papers containing sensitive information.[33] Shalom claims that Vogel's emails were based on false reports.[34] According to defendant, these emails were similar to those Vogel sent to other students.[35] Vogel also spoke to Westle regarding such incidents.[36] Bousel and Westle each gave Shalom below a 3.0 on three of ...


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