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Carter v. Pulaski County Special School District

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

January 30, 2019

MARION CARTER, Plaintiff,
v.
PULASKI COUNTY SPECIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          SUSAN WEBBER WRIGHT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Marion Carter brings this action against the Pulaski County Special School District (District) alleging employment discrimination based on her race, African-American, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Before the Court is a motion of the District for summary judgment [doc.#12]. Carter has responded in opposition to the District's motion and the District has replied to Carter's response. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants the District's motion for summary judgment.[1]

         I.

         Carter is a math teacher at the District's Joe T. Robinson High School (Robinson) where she also served as the coach for the cheer and dance teams. Carter's supplemental cheerleading and dance team contract was for an annual salary of $2, 670.00 each.

         On March 28, 2017, Robinson Principal Mary Carolyn Bailey, who is white, recommended to the District Superintendent Dr. Jerry Guess, also white, that Carter's supplemental contract for her coaching duties not be renewed for the 2017-2018 school year, citing three reasons: (1) lack of participation over the previous two years; (2) inappropriate cheer routines at sporting events; and (3) inappropriate behavior of cheerleaders during out-of-town travel.

         On April 18, 2017, Dr. Guess recommended the non-renewal of Carter's supplemental contract in a notice letter to Carter. This letter was based on the recommendation of Bailey and stated that the reason for this action was “conduct unbecoming a professional employee, ” namely:

1. There has been a lack of participation on the cheerleading squad and dance teams at Robinson High for the last two years. For the 2015-2016 school year, thirteen (13) students tried out for the cheerleading squad and fourteen (14) students tried out for the Dance Team. For the 2016-2017 school year, eleven (11) students tried out for the cheerleading squad and nine (9) students tried out for the Dance Team. Try-outs for the 2016-2018 [sic] school year have not been held yet, but several girls have indicated they will not be trying out.
2. Parents have complained about you allowing the cheerleaders to perform what they consider to be an inappropriate cheer routine at sporting events.
3. Last year, Ms. Bailey received phone calls from witnesses alleging that the cheerleaders were very disorderly and combative to the staff at Chicken Express in Conway during travel for an out of town game. The witnesses also stated you did nothing to calm them down.

         Carter requested a hearing on the recommended non-renewal of her supplemental contract before the District School Board, pursuant to the Arkansas Teacher Fair Dismissal Act. A hearing was held on August 8, 2017, wherein the Board accepted Dr. Guess's recommendation to not renew Carter's supplemental contract.[2]

         In Carter's amended complaint her sole claim for race discrimination against the District is that a similarly-situated white cheerleading coach during the 2012-2013 school year, Amber Populis, had allowed the cheer team to perform inappropriate routines of which Carter complained, and that her complaints were not taken seriously.

         The initial recommendation to not renew Carter's supplemental contract came from Bailey, who states she could recall no complaints regarding Populis's performance as the cheer coach, as described by Carter, during the 2012-2013 school year. At the time of the alleged misconduct by Populis, Bailey was the interim principal.

         After Carter's supplemental contract was not renewed for the cheer and dance teams, she was replaced with Candace Johnson, also an African-American woman. No one replaced Carter as dance coach, as all dance teams in the District were eliminated.

         Carter alleges her supplemental contract was not renewed because of her race. Carter's teaching contract remained intact ...


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