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Klemme v. West Irondequoit Central School District

United States District Court, W.D. New York

November 24, 2014

LAURA KLEMME, Plaintiff,

Laura Klemme, Plaintiff, Pro se, Webster, NY.

For West Irondequoit Central School District, Defendant: Michael P. McClaren, LEAD ATTORNEY, Ryan G. Smith, Webster Szanyi, LLP, Buffalo, NY.

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Michael A. Telesca, United States District Judge.


Plaintiff Laura Klemme, (" plaintiff" or " Klemme" ), a former teacher employed by the defendant West Irondequoit Central School District (" defendant" or " WICSD" ), brings this action pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the " ADA" ) claiming that the defendant discriminated against her on the basis of a disability by denying her tenure and forcing her to resign her position. Specifically, plaintiff claims that she was forced to resign after she was denied reasonable accommodations for her known disability in violation of the ADA.

Defendant denies plaintiff's claims and moves pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for summary judgment against the plaintiff. Defendant contends that because it had no knowledge of her disability, and did not perceive her as disabled, she cannot establish a prima facie case of discrimination under the ADA. Defendant also contends that even if

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plaintiff had made a prima facie case of disability discrimination, plaintiff was denied tenure for non-pretextual, performance-related reasons.

For the reasons set forth below, I grant defendant's motion for summary judgment and dismiss the complaint.


The following facts are taken from the plaintiff's complaint, the deposition testimony of plaintiff and relevant WICSD personnel, defendant's Local Rule 56(a) Statement of Facts, and the Court's review of the entire record.

Plaintiff, an WICSD English teacher at Dake Junior High School (" Dake" ) from 2008 to 2011, suffers from " trigeminal neuralgia" (" TN" ), a condition which she alleges significantly impairs her ability to work and to care for herself. Although plaintiff was absent from work several times during her three-year employment with WICSD, it is undisputed that she was not diagnosed with TN until late spring 2011.

During plaintiff's first year at Dake, 2008-2009, her supervisors were pleased with her performance, and Dake principal Tim Terranova (" Terranova" ) issued a letter in which he commended her communication skills. By plaintiff's second year however, several issues with her performance began to develop. Plaintiff was absent from work several days in December 2009 and May 2010 for unspecified medical reasons, or " due to illness." Her supervisors were concerned about, among other things, her failure to adequately communicate with the school and her colleagues regarding these absences. On at least one occasion, plaintiff did not provide an emergency lesson plan for an unexpected absence, a procedure which was required to be followed by all teachers. She also had difficulty completing assignments and being prepared.

In May 2010, Terranova rebuked plaintiff for failing to complete assignments during a December 2009 hospitalization for unspecified reasons, and she was forced to complete several hours of missed work. During her May 2010 evaluation conference, Terranova questioned plaintiff's teaching skills and advised her that " her tenure was in question." Plaintiff's performance-related issues continued into her third year at Dake Junior High School. Throughout the 2010-2011 year, Terranova and plaintiff's curriculum supervisor Vicki Derue (" Derue" ) were critical of her classroom performance and communication skills, and they conducted several announced and unannounced classroom observations. Plaintiff was also required to forward all of her lesson plans and handouts to a colleague for oversight.

Plaintiff injured her shoulder in December 2010 and requested an extension of her deadline to report test scores to accommodate her daily physical therapy sessions. The request was denied, and plaintiff did not ultimately attend physical therapy. On another occasion, when required to report data collected from students performing a specific task, plaintiff falsely stated that two students had been absent from school on the day she conducted the assignment. In December 2010, plaintiff began requesting periodic classroom breaks for taking pain medication and using the bathroom. Her requests were granted, but no one relieved her in the classroom.

That year, plaintiff frequently criticized for: being " disorganized and dependent" ; lacking emotional maturity and adequate decision making skills, inappropriately communicating with teachers and students; being reactive to feedback; and having pacing problems in the classroom. She received a negative performance review

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and negative performance critiques throughout the year. In January 2011, plaintiff's supervisors felt that a recommendation for tenure was " in jeopardy," and they placed her on " an improvement plan."

The improvement plan ended when plaintiff's supervisors, Vicki Derue and Matt Schrage, and Tim Terranova decided, based on her inadequate performance, that she would not be recommended for tenure. Plaintiff was first advised of this decision on March 29, 2011 at 3:00 P.M., and she was formally notified on March 31, 2011.

Plaintiff claims that her discriminatory treatment started with the onset of her TN symptoms in January 2011, when she went to an emergency room for an ear infection. A diagnosis of TN was not made, however, until later that spring in 2011. Plaintiff testified that she informed Vicki Derue about her condition, but she admitted that neither she nor WICSD was aware that she suffered from TN during the period in which the alleged discrimination had occurred:

" Q. When were you first diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia?
A. I don't know...Well, it started exactly on January 10[, 2011], when I was in the emergency room and it took quite a long time for them to figure out what it was. The actual ...

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