Ahmad v. White Plains City Sch. Dist.

Decision Date24 September 2020
Docket NumberNo. 18-CV-3416 (KMK),18-CV-3416 (KMK)
PartiesMUSHTAQ AHMAD, Plaintiff, v. WHITE PLAINS CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of New York


Mushtaq Ahmad

New City, NY

Pro se Plaintiff

Gerald S. Smith, Jr., Esq.

Silverman and Associates

White Plains, NY

Counsel for Defendants

KENNETH M. KARAS, United States District Judge:

Pro se Plaintiff Mushtaq Ahmad ("Plaintiff") brings this Action against White Plains City School District ("WPCSD"); Howard Smith, Superintendent of WPCSD ("Smith"); and Ellen Doherty, Principal of White Plains High School ("Doherty"; collectively, "Defendants"), under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq.; 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985; and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, along with common law claims. (Third Am. Compl. ("TAC") (Dkt. No. 66).) Before the Court is Defendants' Motion To Dismiss the Third Amended Complaint ("TAC"), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (the "Motion"). (See Defs.' Not. of Mot. (Dkt. No. 69).) For the reasons to follow, Defendants' Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background
A. Factual Background

The following facts are drawn from Plaintiff's TAC and are assumed to be true for the purpose of resolving the instant Motion.

Plaintiff is a 62-year old male. (TAC ¶ 4.) He is a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Pakistan, and a practicing Muslim. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 8.) On August 25, 2016, WPCSD interviewed Plaintiff for a position as a chemistry teacher. (Id. ¶ 9.) WPCSD ultimately hired Plaintiff as a "leave replacement chemistry teacher against a permanent vacancy" at White Plains High School ("WPHS"), which had an opening due to the death of the prior chemistry teacher. (Id. ¶¶ 9-10.) Plaintiff did not receive new teacher orientation from WPCSD or WPHS. (Id. ¶ 11.)

After Plaintiff was hired, John Orcutt ("Orcutt"), the Assistant Principal of WPHS and a former colleague of Plaintiff's at Ramapo High School, told other WPHS science teachers that Plaintiff had been terminated from Ramapo High School, and that he had an ongoing discrimination lawsuit against East Ramapo Central School District ("ERCSD"). (Id. ¶ 12.)1 In retaliation for Plaintiff's lawsuit against ERCSD, "the Jewish employees of WPCSD" began to remove laboratory equipment from Plaintiff's classroom to "intentionally create a hardship on Plaintiff and to make Plaintiff fail due to unequal access to the lab equipment." (Id. ¶ 13.) When Plaintiff asked about the missing equipment, he was told by Dougherty, a chemistry teacher, that "Mr. Braswell (an African American chemistry teacher) stole it[,] and I don't speak to him." (Id.(quotation marks omitted).) Several days later, Dougherty told Plaintiff, while in the presence of "Mr. Chen," another chemistry teacher, that Friedman, "a Caucasian chemistry teacher," had removed the equipment from Plaintiff's classroom. (Id.) Plaintiff also alleges that Dougherty made fun of Plaintiff's clothes, shoes, tie, sweaters, shirts, coats, and lab coat on numerous occasions, and "called him a hotel waiter based on his facial features, race, skin color[,] and national origin," stating that "when he goes to [a] hotel[,] he sees so many people from [the] Indian Subcontinent working as hotel waiters." (Id. ¶ 18.)

Plaintiff also asserts, "upon information and belief," that "the Jewish employees of WPCSD . . . coached and manipulated students on the basis of race, religion[,] and national origin[] against Plaintiff and encouraged them to create problems for Plaintiff." (Id. ¶ 17.)2 Plaintiff specifically alleges that Hirsch, a guidance counselor of a student identified as "S.R.," held "numerous meetings" with S.R. to "coach her against Plaintiff." (Id. ¶ 20.) According to Plaintiff, Hirsch admitted to having meetings with this student at which they discussed Plaintiff. (Id.) Thereafter, "[u]nder the advice of . . . Hirsch and . . . Dougherty," and in retaliation for Plaintiff's lawsuit against ERCSD, S.R. "made numerous false allegation[s] to Plaintiff's supervisor[,] Dr. Doty." (Id. ¶ 21.) Specifically, S.R. alleged that (1) Plaintiff was not teaching chemistry to her class, and that she was learning chemistry on her own from a textbook; (2) Plaintiff did not issue textbooks to her class; (3) Plaintiff had failed to explain "chemistry concepts" to her class, and she had instead explained those concepts to the class on the board; and (4) her class would not be prepared for the Regents Exam in June. (Id.) Plaintiff asserts thathe "did see S.R. talking to . . . Dougherty, and, thereafter, advising Plaintiff to visit . . . Dougherty's classroom." (Id. ¶ 22.)

On an unspecified date, Wolstencroft, who "work[ed] under the Principal," asked Plaintiff about the status of his lawsuit against ERCSD. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 16.) When Plaintiff informed him that it was on appeal before the Second Circuit, Wolstencroft stated that "he knew about it and knows everything about [Plaintiff's] lawsuit against East Ramapo." (Id.) Wolstencroft also told Plaintiff on an unspecified date, "Mush, you are a dumb ass; you did not do your homework." (Id. ¶ 15 (quotation marks omitted).) Plaintiff asked Wolstencroft what homework he was referencing, to which Wolstencroft replied that Plaintiff would find out later in the year. (Id.) By the end of the year, Plaintiff had been "removed from his classroom, detained in isolation against his will, paraded through the hallways like a criminal[,] and barred from going on to the property owned by WPCSD." (Id.) Wolstencroft also said to Plaintiff at an unspecified time, "[W]e don't like colored people in the department," and once admitted that Wolstencroft had been the subject of an investigation due to "racism charges" against him, and that the entirety of the school staff was required to undergo "some type of training" because of Wolstencroft's actions, but also that no one took action against Wolstencroft "due to his [w]hite race" and "connections with higher-up administrators." (Id. ¶ 16 (quotation marks omitted).)

One day, Wolstencroft told Plaintiff to paste WPCSD's "Discipline Guidelines" on each lab station in his classroom, "and enforce them in their totality or get fired (terminated) by an Irish Jewish principal (. . . Doherty)." (Id. ¶ 23.) In December 2016, Plaintiff complied with this directive, posting the Discipline Guidelines on each lab station and informing his students that the rules would be enforced. (Id. ¶ 24.) The Guidelines included a rule indicating that use of electronic devices was an infraction, and that "possible consequences" included confiscation ofthe electronic device. (Id. ¶ 26 (quotation marks omitted).) On December 20, 2016, Plaintiff attempted to confiscate a cell phone from a student who was violating this policy. (Id. ¶ 25.) However, the student, identified as "O.A.," failed to comply. (Id. ¶¶ 27, 50.) The following day, Doherty met with Plaintiff and told him that he would be re-assigned to the "science teachers' work area" and that he was no longer allowed to interact with O.A. (Id. ¶ 28.) Doherty did not provide Plaintiff with any reasons for his reassignment and, according to Plaintiff, acted in violation of Article X, Section A2 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (the "CBA"), which requires that "[c]hanges in assignments after notification shall be made only as required by the best interests of the [s]chool [d]istrict. In such an event, the teacher affected shall be notified of the change in writing and[] shall be given an explanation of the reason for the change." (Id. ¶ 29 (quotation marks omitted).) According to Plaintiff, no disciplinary action was taken against O.A. (Id. ¶ 50.)

On the same day, Smith met with Doherty and Broderick, where he allegedly "conspired, colluded[,] and planned Plaintiff's termination[,] and delegated [related] tasks to [Doherty] and . . . Broderick." (Id. ¶ 30.) On December 22, 2016, Friedman informed Plaintiff that he was being fired and would not be allowed to come back to WPHS. (Id. ¶ 19.) Also on December 22, 2016, "under . . . Doherty's order," Doty brought Plaintiff to "a small room inside the main office," and ordered him to "sit in isolation" "without providing any reason or explanation." (Id. ¶ 31.) Doty told Plaintiff that he could not leave the room, where Plaintiff was "detained in isolation against his will." (Id. ¶ 33.) The room was guarded by a police officer "on the basis of Plaintiff's race and religion," who was directed "not to let Plaintiff go out of the room wherein he was detained against his will." (Id. ¶ 34.) Plaintiff alleges that these actions caused "emotional distress and psychological harm," including "anxiety, stress, and distress." (Id.¶¶ 31, 33-34.) Eventually, Broderick and John Hughes ("Hughes"), the "Grievance Chairperson of WPTA," arrived and, "according to the task delegated to them by the superintendent [presumably Smith] . . . tried to force Plaintiff to sign a waiver . . . not to sue WPCSD in any court for their unlawful actions." (Id. ¶ 35.) When Plaintiff refused to sign, Broderick and Hughes "demanded the school keys back from Plaintiff" and "told him that the Superintendent of schools had told . . . Broderick the previous night that he was going to terminate Plaintiff," and that Plaintiff would not be allowed to enter the WPHS building. (Id. ¶ 36.) When Plaintiff informed Broderick and Hughes that his personal belongings were in his classroom, Broderick and Hughes, acting "on behalf of the school administration," "paraded Plaintiff," accompanied by a police officer, through the hallways, in the presence of students and other school staff, forced Plaintiff to remove his belongings from his classroom, and took the keys away from Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 37-38.)

According to Plaintiff, Doherty, Smith, and "Dr. Reynolds," the "Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources," failed to show "any written complaint...

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