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Atkins v. Rochester City School District

United States District Court, W.D. New York

March 30, 2018

BONNIE M. ATKINS, Plaintiff,




         Plaintiff Bonnie M. Atkins ("Plaintiff) commenced this action against Defendant Rochester City School District ("the District") on August 20, 2015, asserting violations of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2OOOe et seq. ("Title VII") and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("ADEA"). (Dkt. 1). Plaintiff alleges disparate treatment as compared to younger and Caucasian employees, resulting in deprivation of equal employment opportunities. (Id.). Presently before the Court is the District's motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. 19). Because the Court concludes that Plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination under Title VII or the ADEA, the District's motion is granted.


         I. Proceedings in this Court

         Plaintiff filed her complaint in this Court on August 20, 2015. (Dkt. 1). Before filing in federal court, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging discrimination by the District on the basis of Plaintiff s age and race. (Dkt. 1 at ¶ 9; see Dkt. 1 (Exhibit A)). Plaintiff filed the instant action within 90 days of receiving a Right to Sue Letter from the EEOC. (Dkt. 1 at ¶4; Dkt. 1 (Exhibit A)). The District filed an answer to Plaintiffs complaint on September 4, 2015. (Dkt. 4). On November 7, 2016, the District moved for summary judgment. (Dkt. 19). Plaintiff filed papers in opposition to the motion on March 2, 2017. (Dkt. 27). The District replied in support of its motion on March 20, 2017. (Dkt. 28).

         II. Factual Background

         A. Plaintiffs Complaint

         In her complaint, Plaintiff alleges that the District has engaged in unlawful employment practices in violation of Title VII and the ADEA. (Dkt. 1 at ¶¶ 31, 34). Plaintiff states that she was assigned to work as Principal of Freddie Thomas High School during the 2012-2013 school year. (Id. at ¶ 14). That school was one often in the District targeted for phase-out and closure. (Id. at ¶ 15). At Freddie Thomas High School, Plaintiff had about 181 students in 8th grade, and the balance of her students- approximately 340-attended the All City High School Program during the school year, along with students from other phase-out high schools. (Id. at ¶ 16).

         On September 7, 2013, Plaintiff received her Annual Professional Performance Review ("APPR"). (Id. at ¶ 17). She received a rating of "developing." (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that upon inquiring into the reasons for her poor rating, she discovered that she had been scored based on incorrect data, causing her to receive a lower rating than her colleagues. (Id. at ¶ 19). Plaintiff alleges that she learned that the data for "failures" at the All City High School Program were all attributed to Freddie Thomas High School instead of to their home phase-out schools. (Id. at ¶ 20). Only the successful students from the All City High School Program were attributed to their home phase-out schools; thus, a disproportionately large number of failing students was attributed to Plaintiff in calculating her APPR score. (Id. at ¶ 21). Furthermore, Plaintiff alleges that she was not given credit for the generally successful "accelerated" 8th graders who largely performed well on the Regents Exam. (Id. at ¶ 22).

         Plaintiff appealed her APPR rating, but her appeal was denied. (Id. at ¶ 23). By contrast, Plaintiff alleges that a similarly situated administrator/Principal, Sandra Jordan ("Ms. Jordan"), appealed her rating of "developing, " and her evaluation was subsequently changed to reflect satisfactory performance. (Id. at ¶ 24).

         Plaintiff alleges that she was subjected to different terms and conditions of employment based on her age and race, in violation of the ADEA and Title VII, because the APPR ratings of similarly situated individuals who are significantly younger than Plaintiff and who are not African American were not based on their home school failures from the All City High School Program, as were Plaintiffs. (Id. at ¶¶ 25-26). According to Plaintiff, the District engaged in unlawful employment practices intentionally and with malice or reckless indifference to Plaintiffs rights. (Id. at ¶¶ 27-28). Plaintiff contends that as a result of the discrimination, she suffered materially adverse employment conditions, including a reduced likelihood of promotion or desired transfers within the District, as well as discipline that could threaten her career of more than 40 years. (Id. at ¶¶ 31-35).

         B. Summary Judgment Evidence

         The following facts are taken from the District's Rule 56 statement of material facts (Dkt. 19-3), Plaintiffs affidavit in response (Dkt. 27-2), [1] and the exhibits submitted by the parties (Dkt. 19-2; Dkt. 19-5; Dkt. 27-3; Dkt. 27-4; Dkt. 27-5; Dkt. 27-6; Dkt. 27-7; Dkt. 27-8; Dkt. 27-9; Dkt. 27-10; Dkt. 27-11; Dkt. 27-12). The facts set forth below are undisputed, unless otherwise noted.

         Plaintiff, an African American female who was 64 years old at the time of the events giving rise to this action, has been employed by the District since 1972 and currently holds the position of School Principal. (Dkt. 1 at ¶ 6; Dkt. 19-3 at ¶ 1; Dkt. 27-6 at 2). During the 2012-2013 school year, the District implemented the new APPR evaluation system. (Dkt. 19-3 at ¶ 3). Employees were given an APPR composite score that corresponds to a rating of highly effective, effective, developing, or ineffective. (Dkt. 19-3 at ¶ 5; Dkt. 19-5 at 38 (Exhibit B (APPR Agreement))). As provided by the APPR agreement, a three-member panel reviewed and decided appeals arising from APPR ratings for the 2012-2013 school year. (Dkt. 19-3 at ¶ 4). The District contends that Plaintiffs APPR score was calculated ...

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