Salau v. Denton

Decision Date08 October 2015
Docket NumberCase No. 2:14–cv–04326–SRB
Citation139 F.Supp.3d 989
Parties Ahmed Salau, Plaintiff, v. Brady Denton, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Missouri

Ahmed Salau, Princeton, WV, pro se.

Paul R. Maguffee, University of Missouri Office of the General Counsel, Columbia, MO, for Defendants.


Before the Court are five Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendants The Curators of the University of Missouri Identified as University of Missouri—Columbia (Doc. # 30), The Curators of the University of Missouri (Doc. # 48), Donnell Young (Doc. # 57), Mark Lucas (Doc. # 55), and Brady Deaton (Doc. # 71). For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' Motions to Dismiss are granted.


Plaintiff Ahmed Salau brings this action against The Curators of the University of Missouri ("University"); Brady Deaton, the former Chancellor of the University; Mark Lucas, the Director of the Office of Student Life; Donnell Young, the Senior Coordinator for the Office of Student Conduct; and two other named defendants for claims of gender discrimination and civil rights violations in connection with the University's policies and procedures for handling student misconduct. In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on September 25, 2012, while enrolled at the University of Missouri, he was notified that he was under investigation for various code of conduct violations, including "nonconsensual sexual behavior, giving alcohol to a person in a drunken state and invasion of privacy." (Doc. # 32, ¶¶ 60, 62). Following the notification, Plaintiff retained counsel, Mr. Clark Jones, to assist him with this matter, and to represent him at the formal hearing. Id. at ¶¶ 67, 68. Plaintiff states he received a letter on October 3, 2012, informing him that he was "permanently separated from the University of Missouri." Id. at ¶ 66. On October 9, 2012, Plaintiff asserts that as a result of the communication between him and Defendant Young regarding Young's "vendetta" against Plaintiff, Defendant Young added additional code of conduct violations. Id. at ¶ 69. On November 7, 2012, the disciplinary panel granted Plaintiff's request for a continuance of the formal hearing. Id. at ¶ 72. Plaintiff alleges additional violations were then added on November 12, 2012, "due to threaten/pushy behavior towards women in the Women's and Gender Studies Program (WGST), the WGST had to rethink its pedagogical practice to limit ... contact with other students in the program," "had to reassign TAs to ensure that only the most experienced TAs teach in Mr. Salau's classes," and that "[Mr. Salau] made a student feel threaten [sic] for her health and safety." Id. at ¶ 79. On November 13, 2012, Plaintiff alleges "Defendant Young refused to provide names, addresses, and phone numbers for any witnesses in any and all allegations and points out that the students' rights in student conduct proceedings do not include the right to have access to names, addresses and phone numbers." Id. at ¶ 80.

On November 28, 2012, Plaintiff dismissed his attorney and asked him to seek a continuance so that he could obtain replacement counsel. Id. at ¶¶ 84, 85. On the day of the formal hearing, Plaintiff arrived at the panel room to request another continuance so he could obtain counsel and found Mr. Jones present in the room. Id. at ¶ 86. After speaking with Plaintiff outside the room at Plaintiff's request, Mr. Jones told the panel that he was discharged by Plaintiff. Id. at ¶¶ 87, 88. Plaintiff's request for a "continuance to safeguard his 5th Amendment rights" was denied by the panel. Id. at ¶ 89. Plaintiff did not participate in the hearing and "he took his respectful exit upon which a finding of expulsion was made." Id. at ¶ 90. The decision of the panel was affirmed upon appeal, and Plaintiff was not allowed to take his final exams. Id. at ¶¶ 94, 95.

On July 12, 2015, Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint asserting twelve causes of action for violation of: (1) Title IX—Discrimination Based on Sex against the University; (2) Title IX—Hostile Education Environment against the University; (3) 42 U.S.C. § 1985 —Civil Conspiracy against Defendants Young, Kingsbury and Spalding; (4) 42 U.S.C. § 1986 —Failure to Intervene in Civil Conspiracy against Defendant Lucas and Deaton; (5) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 —Violation of Due Process Rights against all defendants; (6) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 —Violation of Equal Protection against all defendants; (7) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 —Unreasonable Search and Seizure against Defendants Kingsbury and Spalding; (8) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 —Self–Incrimination against Defendant Young; (9) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 —Free Speech against Defendant Young; (10) Vacatur of the Arbitrator's Decision against Defendants Deaton, Lucas and Young; (11) Estoppel and Reliance against Defendant Deaton, Lucas & Young; and (12) Injunctive and Declaratory Judgment.

Four named defendants filed motions to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint on the grounds that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Plaintiff responded to the motion filed by The Curators of the University of Missouri Identified as University of Missouri—Columbia, but, despite this Court granting four extensions of time to file his response, Plaintiff failed to respond to the remaining motions.


Defendants bring their Motions to Dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), which states a claim may be dismissed for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) ) (internal citations omitted); Zink v. Lombardi, 783 F.3d 1089, 1098 (8th Cir.)cert. denied, ––– U.S. ––––, 135 S.Ct. 2941, 192 L.Ed.2d 976 (2015) ; Hamilton v. Palm, 621 F.3d 816, 817 (8th Cir.2010). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 ; Ash v. Anderson Merchs., LLC, No. 14–3258, 799 F.3d 957, 960 (8th Cir.2015).

The court "must take all factual allegations [made by the plaintiff] as true when considering a motion to dismiss." Great Plains Trust Co. v. Union Pac. R.R. Co., 492 F.3d 986, 995 (8th Cir.2007) ; Data Mfg., Inc. v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 557 F.3d 849, 851 (8th Cir.2009) (noting "[t]he factual allegations of a complaint are assumed true and construed in favor of the plaintiff, even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable"). However, factual allegations which represent "legal conclusions or formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action ... may properly be set aside." Braden v. Wal–Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir.2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677, 129 S.Ct. 1937 ) (internal citations omitted). The pleading standard "does not require detailed factual allegations, but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 ) (internal quotations omitted); Zink, 783 F.3d at 1098 (8th Cir.2015) (stating a pleading must offer more than "naked assertions that are devoid of further factual enhancement") (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955 ) (internal quotations omitted); see, e.g., Ritchie v. St. Louis Jewish Light, 630 F.3d 713, 717 (8th Cir.2011) (finding the district court appropriately granted a motion to dismiss where "facts pleaded in [plaintiff's] complaint [did] not permit [the court] to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct").

The "evaluation of a complaint upon a motion to dismiss is a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Braden, 588 F.3d at 594 (internal citations omitted). "[T]he complaint should be read as a whole, not parsed piece by piece to determine whether each allegation, in isolation, is plausible." Id. ; see also Zoltek Corp. v. Structural Polymer Group, 592 F.3d 893, 896 n. 4 (8th Cir.2010) (noting the court's task "is to review the plausibility of the plaintiff's claim as a whole, not the plausibility of each individual allegation").


Defendants The Curators of the University of Missouri ("University"), Brady Deaton, Mark Lucas, and Donnell Young seek dismissal of all twelve counts set forth in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. The Court will address each count separately.

A. Count 1: Title IX—Sex Discrimination (Against Defendant University)

Plaintiff alleges that he was wrongly found to have committed student conduct violations in his disciplinary proceeding because of the University's gender bias. Defendant University argues Plaintiff fails to plead a plausible claim of gender bias based upon a Title IX erroneous outcome theory.

Title IX states "[n]o person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance ... [.]" 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a) ; see also Wolfe v. Fayetteville, Arkansas Sch. Dist., 648 F.3d 860, 864 (8th Cir.2011) (emphasizing "per the language of Title IX, [the] acts of discrimination must be on the basis of sex") (internal quotations omitted). A plaintiff may assert a claim under Title IX based upon an erroneous outcome theory, in which "the plaintiff attacks the university disciplinary proceeding on grounds of gender bias by arguing that the plaintiff was innocent and wrongly found to have committed an offense." Sahm v. Miami...

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