Blick v. Ann Arbor Pub. Sch. Dist.

Citation516 F.Supp.3d 711
Decision Date02 February 2021
Docket NumberCase No. 19-12127
CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
Parties Shannon M. BLICK, Plaintiff, v. ANN ARBOR PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT, Ann Arbor Board of Education, Shonta A. Langford, individually and in her official capacity, Dawn Linden, individually and in her official capacity, David A. Comsa, individually and in his official capacity, Jeanice Kerr Smith, individually and in her official capacity, Taneia Giles, individually and in her official capacity, and Mike Madison, individually and in his official capacity, Defendants.

Brooke N. Mathis, Steven Michael Robb, Tishkoff, PLC, William G. Tishkoff, Tishkoff & Assoc., Christopher M. Vukelich, Tishkoff and Associates PLLC, Ann Arbor, MI, for Plaintiff.

Robert M. Vercruysse, Clark Hill, Detroit, MI, for Defendants.


Stephanie Dawkins Davis, United States District Judge


Plaintiff, Shannon Blick, is an elementary school principal who was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into alleged improper payments to a school janitor. She brings several constitutional claims against Defendants—Ann Arbor Public School District ("AAPSD"), the Ann Arbor Board of Education ("AABOE"), Shonta A. Langford, Dawn Linden, David A. Comsa, Jeanice Kerr Smith, Taneia Giles, and Mike Madison. (ECF No. 14). Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, she claims racial discrimination under the Fourteenth Amendment (Count I); violations of her rights to free speech (Count II), free petition (Count III), and free association (Count IV) under the First and Fourteenth Amendments; and violation of her due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment (Count V). She also claims racial discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. , (Count VI) and under Michigan's Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act, Mich. Comp. Laws § 37.2101 et seq ("ELCRA") (Count VII). And she alleges a civil conspiracy in violation of her First, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights (Count VIII).

Blick filed an Amended Complaint on October 22, 2019. Before the court is DefendantsMotion to Dismiss that complaint. (ECF No. 16). Blick filed a response (ECF No. 21), and Defendants filed a reply (ECF No. 22). On April 22, 2020, the court issued a notice to the parties that a hearing on the instant motion was scheduled for June 9, 2020. (ECF No. 24). Two days before the hearing, at 10:54 p.m., Blick filed a motion seeking to supplement her response to the Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 25). In response, Defendants filed a motion to strike. (ECF No. 26). The court held the hearing on the Motion to Dismiss as scheduled on June 9, 2020 and took both the subject motion and Blick's Motion to Supplement under advisement. On September 9, 2020, Blick filed a Second Motion for Supplementation of the Record, (ECF No. 29), and Defendants filed a response. (ECF No. 30). The court finds that no hearing is necessary for the Second Motion and will decide it on the papers. For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART DefendantsMotion to Dismiss (ECF No. 16) and DENIES Blick's motions to supplement (ECF No. 25, 29).


Shannon Blick, a white woman, was hired as the Principal of Lawton Elementary School, a part of the AAPSD, on September 16, 2013. (ECF No. 14, PageID.92). Throughout her six years of employment with AAPSD and AABOE leading up to this lawsuit, Blick maintained an exemplary employment record. (Id. at ¶ 26). As Lawton's principal, she "was consistently rated Highly Effective," (Id. at ¶ 34), and "had a spotless and pristine employment record with AAPSD, including the complete absence of any warnings, disciplines, suspensions, complaints, write-ups, grievances, charges or negative employment actions of any type," (Id. at ¶ 35). Nonetheless, she was placed involuntarily on paid administrative leave in 2019, a move which she contends was racially motivated. She was also prohibited from discussing matters relating to her leave with others.

Beginning in 2018, Blick's assistant principal was Defendant Taneia Giles. Sometime during that year, Defendant Dawn Linden, the Executive Director of Elementary Education for AAPSD, contacted Blick to inform her that her assistant principal, Dante Watson, an African American, was being promoted to Principal of Haisley Elementary and that Giles, who is also African American, would be taking Watson's place. (Id. at ¶ 36). Before her assignment at Lawton, Giles served as vice principal at King Elementary, which is also in the AAPSD. (Id. at ¶ 37). According to Blick, Linden stated that it was a priority of the AAPSD and AABOE to hire and retain more minority leaders. (Id. at ¶ 39). She asserts that this is only one of many examples of discrimination against non-minority administrators. For example, as to the hiring of Giles, she alleges that AAPSD and AABOE bypassed their standard procedure of conducting rounds of interviews involving parents, teachers, Lawton's principal, and the community before hiring Giles because Giles had reported racism at King, and they feared losing a minority administrator. (Id. at ¶ 40). She also alleges that Defendants subject Caucasians and non-minority administrators to hostility and harassment, accelerate the promotions of minority administrators at the expense of Caucasians and non-minorities, discipline Caucasians and non-minorities harsher, and refuse to educate, investigate, and take remedial action for "reverse discrimination." (Id. at ¶ 33).

As previously noted, even with her positive performance record, Blick was placed on paid administrative leave from her position as principal. It happened on April 26, 2019, when Blick met with Defendants Linden and Shonta Langford, the Executive Director of Human Resources and Employee Relations for AAPSD. (Id. ¶ 53). At the meeting, she was placed involuntarily on paid administrative leave due to an incident involving a Lawton custodian. The custodian allegedly "stole $25,000 over 4 years," and Blick, as principal during the period of the theft, was possibly responsible. (Id. at ¶ 54). Langford gave Blick a letter which stated in pertinent part:

[Y]ou are being placed on an administrative paid leave of absence effective immediately, pending an investigation of allegations of potential fraud and misconduct. In the meantime, you are directed not to contact any students, parents, or staff regarding this matter.
Pursuant to MCL 750.552 you are also directed not to enter onto District buildings or property, with the exception of matters that involve your children (ie. (sic) Transporting to/from school and special events) (sic) You will be notified by Human Resources regarding a date for your due process hearing as part of the investigation.
It is expected that you fill follow the directives outlined in this letter as failure to do so will be treated as insubordination and will lead to discipline up to and including termination.

(Id. at ¶ 53; ECF No. 16-2). Afterward, fellow AAPSD principal Defendant Mike Madison, who is President of the Ann Arbor Administrator's Association ("AAAA"), also told Blick that she was prohibited from contacting anyone at AAPSD "for any reason" while she was on administrative leave. (ECF No. 14, ¶ 59). The school district initiated an internal investigation surrounding the allegedly stolen money which included what, if any role, Blick may have played in the matter. (Id. at ¶ 47, 54).

Once Blick was on leave, Linden sent an email to the "Lawton Community"—including parents of Lawton students—advising that Blick would be on a leave of absence and stating that "she asks that you please respect her privacy." (Id. at ¶ 62). Blick denies having made any such request for privacy. (Id. at ¶ 63). Several days after Linden sent the email to the Lawton Community, she and Langford met with Blick. (Id. at ¶ 66). Linden informed Blick that a group of Lawton parents intended to speak publicly on Blick's behalf at a bi-weekly AABOE Public Meeting scheduled for May 8, 2019. (Id. at ¶ 69). During the meeting, Linden warned Blick of the potential after-effects of a public airing of the parents’ anticipated defense and asked Blick to contact one of the parents believed to be "leading the charge" to request that she not attend the meeting and that she speak with at least one other parent to convey a similar message. (Id. at ¶ 71). Linden also requested that Blick contact fourteen other parents of students to advise them that speaking on Blick's behalf would not be helpful. (Id. at ¶ 71–73). Blick complied, and none of the parents spoke. (Id. ¶ 75–76).

A little over a month later, on June 18, 2019 and July 24, 201[9] respectively, MLive/The Ann Arbor News ("MLive") submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the AAPSD for records from Blick's personnel file. (Id. at ¶ 94). The records produced pursuant to the FOIA request contained no information about facts leading to Blick's paid administrative leave. (Id. at ¶ 95). Following its June record requests from MLive, the School District denied a separate MLive FOIA request for records evidencing the existence of a criminal investigation on the grounds that doing so might interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation. (Id. at ¶ 96). But MLive reported separately that, as of June 20, 2019, the Ann Arbor Police Department denied having any record of a theft investigation at Lawton or law enforcement proceedings regarding Blick. (Id. at ¶ 97).

Blick filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") against "Ann Arbor Public Schools" on July 15, 2019. (Id. at ¶ 110). In her Charge, she asserted that she was "discriminated against, subjected to disciplinary action and placed on administrative leave" based on her race. (...

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