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WILLIS v. WATSON CHAPEL SCH. DIST.

November 15, 1988

LEYDEL WILLIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WATSON CHAPEL SCHOOL DISTRICT; CHARLES KNIGHT, Individually and as Superintendent of the Watson Chapel School District; and C. C. STUART, Individually and as Principal of the Watson Chapel Senior High School, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HARRIS

 OREN HARRIS, UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE

 The plaintiff, Leydel Willis, brings this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 *fn1" seeking a declaratory judgment and injunction to restrain the defendants from maintaining their denial of promotions to her because of her sex. The case was tried to the Court, without the intercession of a jury, on July 18-20, 1988. Counsel for the parties have submitted post-trial briefs. The Court now renders its decision in this matter.

 Plaintiff, a teacher in the Watson Chapel School District, filed her initial complaint and subsequent amended complaints alleging discrimination based upon her sex in the selection of persons to fill vacancies in eight administrative positions which occurred from the 1983-84 school year through the 1987-88 school year. In each instance, plaintiff timely filed a charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and received a "Notice of Right to Sue" as a prerequisite for filing this lawsuit. In addition to the Watson Chapel School District, plaintiff has joined as defendants to this action Charles Knight, superintendent of the district since July 1982, and C. C. Stuart, who is currently an assistant superintendent in the district, and who served as principal of Watson Chapel Senior High School from 1971 to 1985.

 At the outset, the Court notes that there is no question as to the Court's jurisdiction over this action. The plaintiff's complaints allege violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the federal district court is the proper forum for the filing of such actions.

 The United States Supreme Court has set forth the basic allocation of burdens and order of presentation of proof in Title VII cases alleging discriminatory treatment. Texas Department of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 67 L. Ed. 2d 207, 101 S. Ct. 1089 (1981); McDonnell Douglas Corporation v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668, 93 S. Ct. 1817 (1973). First, plaintiff has the burden of proving by the preponderance of the evidence a prima facie case of discrimination. Second, if plaintiff succeeds in proving the prima facie case, the burden then shifts to defendant to articulate some legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the employee's rejection. Third, should defendant carry this burden, plaintiff must then have an opportunity to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the legitimate reasons offered by defendant were not its true reasons, but were a pretext to discrimination. The ultimate burden of persuading the trier of fact that defendant intentionally discriminated against plaintiff remains at all times with plaintiff. Burdine, supra. In discharging this burden, plaintiff need not prove that her sex was the sole reason for the challenged employment decisions, but need only prove that sex was a factor in the decisions. Danzl v. North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale Independent School Dist., 706 F.2d 813 (8th Cir. 1983).

 To establish a prima facie case, plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that she applied for an available position for which she was qualified, but was rejected under circumstances which give rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination. If plaintiff is successful in establishing a prima facie case, the burden that shifts to defendant is to rebut the presumption of discrimination by producing evidence that plaintiff was rejected, or someone else was preferred, for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason. It is sufficient if defendant's evidence raises a genuine issue of fact as to whether it discriminated against plaintiff. If defendant meets this burden, plaintiff, who retains the burden of persuasion, has the opportunity to demonstrate that the proffered reason was not the true reason for the employment decision. She may succeed in this either directly by persuading the Court that a discriminatory reason more likely motivated the employer, or indirectly by showing that the employer's proffered explanation is unworthy of credence. Burdine, supra. With these principles in mind, the Court will proceed to examine the evidence before it.

 Watson Chapel School District (hereinafter WCSD) is located in Jefferson County, Arkansas. *fn2" During the 1987-88 school year, the district's enrollment was approximately 3,700 students. Watson Chapel Senior High School (WCSHS), which includes grades 10 through 12, had approximately 875 students enrolled. Watson Chapel Junior High School (WCJHS), which includes grades 7 through 9, had an enrollment of approximately 900 students. During all times relevant to this action, the district's five-member board of directors has consisted only of males. Prior to 1983, the district had no certified female administrators. Since 1983, two females have been hired as assistant principals in elementary schools.

 Plaintiff contends that she was qualified for each of the administrative positions for which she applied and was not hired. Before discussing the specific positions, the Court will review plaintiff's background and experience in the field of education.

 Plaintiff graduated from Merrill High School in 1954. In 1960, she received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB, formerly Arkansas AM&N), with a major in business. Before coming to work for WCSD, plaintiff taught for three years at Merrill High School.

 Plaintiff has been employed by WCSD as a secondary business education teacher for approximately twenty-five years. From the time she was initially hired until 1970, plaintiff taught at Coleman High School, which was WCSD's black secondary school. *fn3" Since 1970, she has taught at WCSHS. At Coleman, plaintiff sponsored a number of organizations, including the school paper and yearbook, Future Business Leaders of America, and student council. She apparently has not sponsored such organizations at WCSHS. During her years at Coleman, plaintiff served as school secretary in addition to her teaching duties. She testified that she took over the principal's duties when the principal was not present. Plaintiff also served as a school bus driver for fifteen years.

 Plaintiff is currently certified by the Arkansas Department of Education in the areas of secondary business education I and II, and as a secondary principal.

 Testimony from the superintendent, Charles Knight, and from school board members indicates that the school board expects the superintendent to recruit and interview candidates for vacant positions in the district. The superintendent then makes his recommendation to the school board. The superintendent does not provide the board with the names of all applicants, but brings to the board's attention one person at a time for consideration. If the board rejects an applicant recommended by the superintendent, the superintendent will review other applicants and bring another name before the board. In most instances, the board votes to employ the first person the superintendent recommends. Knight stated that applicants are interviewed only if he believes they are qualified for the position sought. Rather than personally conducting all interviews, Knight frequently permits other administrative staff members to conduct interviews and present their recommendations to him.

 At issue in this lawsuit are eight administrative positions for which plaintiff applied and for which she contends she was qualified. The Court will proceed to outline the positions separately, in chronological order, noting specifically the number of applicants for ...


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