Condiff v. Hart County Sch. Dist.

Decision Date27 January 2011
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 1:09CV–00013–JHM.
Citation268 Ed. Law Rep. 797,111 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 1864,770 F.Supp.2d 876
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Kentucky
PartiesSarah E. CONDIFF, Plaintiffv.HART COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, Hart County Board of Education, and Ricky Line, Individually and in his official capacity as Superintendent of the Hart County Board of Education, Defendants.

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Charles W. Miller, Miller & Falkner, Louisville, KY, for Plaintiff.Michael A. Owsley, W. Cravens Priest, III, English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley LLP, Bowling Green, KY, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOSEPH H. McKINLEY, JR., District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a motion by Defendants, Hart County School District, Hart County Board of Education, and Ricky Line, individually and in his official capacity as Superintendent of the Hart County Board of Education, for summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims for violation of Title IX and the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [DN 21]. Fully briefed, these matters are ripe for decision.

I. FACTS

Plaintiff, Sarah E. Condiff (Condiff), was employed as a sixth and eighth grade language arts teacher by Defendant, Hart County Board of Education (the Board), at Bonnieville Elementary School for the 20072008 school year. Condiff also served as the cheerleading coach during that time period. Condiff was hired under a limited, one-year employment contract. Condiff had a temporary provisional certificate to teach middle grades English for the 20072008 school year. On January 28, 2008, while Condiff was still employed at the Bonnieville Elementary School, her stepdaughter, a senior at Hart County High School, informed her that one of her teachers, Mr. Cary Barrett, had made inappropriate statements of a sexual nature to her. Condiff contacted her husband, Chris Condiff (Chris), who was working out of town and told him about the incident. Condiff then opened up her personal e-mail account at home and instructed her stepdaughter to compose a document describing the conversation she had with the teacher. Condiff sent the e-mail her stepdaughter prepared to her husband. After Chris reviewed the e-mail, he called his daughter to discuss the matter and then called Condiff.

After discussing it with Condiff, Chris contacted Chris Mueller, the principal of Hart County High School, by telephone on January 29, 2008, to report the sexual harassment. Chris related to Mueller the contents of the e-mail prepared by his daughter and then forwarded the e-mail from Condiff's personal e-mail account to Mueller. Chris testified that during the conversation he informed Mueller that Sarah Condiff was a teacher in the Hart County School District. Chris requested a meeting be scheduled with Mueller for the day he returned to town. Principal Mueller contacted Chris the afternoon of January 29, 2008, and informed him that he had talked to Mr. Barrett who admitted that an inappropriate conversation occurred and apologized for the incident. 1 On February 4, 2008, a meeting was held at the high school with Chris Condiff, Principal Mueller, Mr. Barrett, and Christie Wilcoxen, a guidance counselor. It was agreed that Condiff's stepdaughter would be immediately removed from Mr. Barrett's class and Mr. Barrett would no longer greet students at the door of the school as part of his morning supervision duty so that Condiff's stepdaughter would have no further contact with him.

After this meeting, Chris learned that Mr. Barrett had allegedly made sexually inappropriate remarks to another student at Hart County High School and that Mr. Barrett had not been disciplined for that conduct. Chris spoke to Condiff who advised him to contact Superintendent Ricky Line. Chris contacted Line and forwarded a copy of the e-mail his daughter had prepared on Condiff's personal e-mail account. Chris testified that he informed Superintendent Line that Condiff was currently employed by the Hart County School District as a teacher at Bonnieville Elementary School and that he did not want his wife to be retaliated against for these reports of sexually inappropriate conduct by Mr. Barrett. Superintendent Line testified that he met with Chris on February 20, 2008. Chris testified that Superintendent Line informed him that he believed that Principal Mueller had handled the matter appropriately. Superintendent Line provided Chris with the forms necessary to file a formal complaint against Mr. Barrett if he wished to do so. The Condiffs took no further action against Mr. Barrett.

On April 24, 2008, Condiff received a formal notice that her contract would not be renewed for the 20082009 school year. The letter provided in relevant part:

State law requires all non-tenured certified staff to receive notification of employment status annually (KRS 161.750(2)). This letter certifies that your employment contract with Hart County Schools will not be renewed for the 20082009 school year.

As changes in staff occur during the summer and funding sources become more definite, employment opportunities may become available.

(Ricky Line Letter, April 24, 2008.) Superintendent Line testified that letters of non-renewal were routinely sent to all teachers working under a limited contract so as to allow those responsible for hiring teachers for the coming year the flexibility to either rehire teachers from the previous year or hire different teachers. (Declaration of Ricky Line ¶ 4.) Unless such a letter was sent, the Board was required to employ a teacher working under a limited contract on a full time basis for the following year. ( Id. at ¶ 5; see also KRS 161.750(2)). Condiff testified that when she received the letter, the principal of Bonnieville Elementary School informed Condiff that her current language arts teaching position was being eliminated due to a reduction in force at the school. Despite the representation by the principal of Bonnieville Elementary regarding the reduction of staff, two language arts positions at Bonnieville Elementary School were posted and filled. According to Condiff, she applied for the position, but was not placed on the list of qualified candidates by Superintendent Line. Subsequent to the 20072008 school year, Condiff has applied for various jobs at elementary schools within and outside the Hart County School District and at the Hart County High School. 2 She has not been offered employment at any of those schools. At the time of her deposition, Condiff was teaching at the Elizabethtown Community Technical College.

As a result of the non-renewal of her contract and of the failure of the Hart School Board of Education to extend an offer of employment for other positions in the school system, Plaintiff filed this action asserting claims of retaliation and third-party retaliation under Title IX, violation of her First Amendment rights brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and violation of the Equal Protection Clause brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that she was not rehired by the Hart County Board of Education because she and her husband reported to school officials that her stepdaughter had been subject to sexual harassment by a teacher at the high school.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Before the Court may grant a motion for summary judgment, it must find that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of specifying the basis for its motion and of identifying that portion of the record which demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies this burden, the non-moving party thereafter must produce specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247–48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

Although the Court must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the non-moving party is required to do more than simply show there is some “metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). The rule requires the non-moving party to present specific facts showing that a genuine factual issue exists by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record” or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence ... of a genuine dispute [.] Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

III. DISCUSSION

Defendants move for summary judgment arguing that (1) the Hart County School District must be dismissed because there is no such legal entity;(2) Condiff's Title IX claims fail because she did not engage in any protected activity; (3) Condiff's First Amendment claim fails because she had an official duty to report sexual harassment; (4) Condiff's Equal Protection claim fails because she is a “class of one;” and (5) Condiff's § 1983 claims against the Hart County Board of Education fail because Condiff has not established a policy, custom, or practice of retaliation.

A. Hart County School District

There is no legal entity known as Hart County School District.” Instead, the proper legal entity responsible for the operation of Hart County School District is the Hart County Board of Education. Vance v. Spencer County Public School Dist., 231 F.3d 253, 255 n. 2 (6th Cir.2000); Sims v. Bracken County School Dist., 2010 WL 4103167, *1 n. 2 (E.D.Ky. Oct. 18, 2010); KRS 160.160(1). The Plaintiff has filed...

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