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Childers v. Forrest City School District

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

May 8, 2019

KISHA CHILDERS PLAINTIFF
v.
FORREST CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al. DEFENDANTS

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Kristine G. Baker United States District Judge

         Before the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by defendants ABC Preschool (“ABC”) and Forrest City School District (the “District”) (Dkt. No. 17). Plaintiff Kisha Childers has not responded to the motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion for summary judgment (Id.). The Court denies as moot the pending motion in limine filed by defendants (Dkt. No. 22).

         I. Factual Background

         Unless otherwise noted by citation, the following facts are taken from defendants' statement of undisputed facts (Dkt. No. 19).

         This is an employment discrimination action filed by Ms. Childers, a former aide in the District. Ms. Childers brings this suit for race discrimination against defendants pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. On October 22, 2014, District Superintendent Dr. Tiffany Hardrick provided Ms. Childers with a notice of recommended termination letter (Dkt. No. 19, ¶ 2). The letter cited five reasons for Dr. Hardrick's recommendation to the District school board to terminate Ms. Childers' employment contract (Id.). As outlined in the letter, the recommended termination of Ms. Childers was based on an incident that occurred on October 8, 2014, in which Ms. Childers allegedly engaged in inappropriate and unprofessional behavior by directing vulgar and abusive language at another employee, threatened to fight the other employee and cause her bodily harm, and was subsequently insubordinate to the teacher and principal when they tried to de-escalate the incident (Id., ¶ 3). Dr. Hardrick's letter also noted that Ms. Childers was habitually late for work and other assigned duties and had at least three other incidents like the one on October 8, 2014, purportedly showing a pattern of unprofessional behavior (Id.).

         As a public school employee, Ms. Childers was suspended with pay and was afforded a due process hearing before the District school board pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated § 6-17-1701 et seq. (Dkt. No. 19, ¶ 4). The hearing was held on November 13, 2014, and Ms. Childers attended the hearing and presented a defense (Id.). After a full hearing, the District school board voted to accept the superintendent's recommendation, thereby terminating Ms. Childers' contract (Id., ¶ 5).

         Ms. Childers then filed a Charge of Discrimination (“Charge”) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on or about July 5, 2015, alleging discrimination based on her race (Id., ¶ 6). The EEOC issued Ms. Childers a notice of right to sue letter on July 14, 2015 (Id.). Ms. Childers waited until July 1, 2015, to sign her Charge, and the Charge was not received by the EEOC until on or about July 5, 2015 (Dkt. No. 19, ¶ 8).

         At her deposition, Ms. Childers stated that she did not think she was discriminated against because of her race, even testifying that she “was going to change my motion with the court to say that I wasn't really racially discriminated against, it was job discrimination, wrongful job discrimination.” (Id., ¶ 9). Further, Ms. Childers was asked about her racial discrimination claims during her deposition, which led to the following exchange:

Q. Okay. You agree you weren't racially discriminated?
A. I agree. Because most of the majority of the people that I work with are of my race, and they couldn't have-I mean, most of the other races I work with, we got along well.

(Dkt. No. 17-3, at 13). Ms. Childers also conceded that her direct supervisor, her principal, was African-American; that Dr. Hardrick, the Superintendent who recommended her termination, was African-American; and that the majority of the school board members at her termination hearing were African-American (Id., ¶ 10). Further, Ms. Childers admitted that she had no evidence to support a claim of racial discrimination besides her complaint (Id., ¶ 11). Lastly, Ms. Childers conceded she simply disagreed with the reasons for her termination, admitting this was the business judgment of the District (Id., ¶ 12).

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is proper “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. In such a situation, there can be “no genuine issue as to any material fact, ” since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial. Id. at 323. The moving party is “entitled to a judgment as a matter of law” because the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of his case with respect to which he has the burden of proof. Id.

         A party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing this Court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ” which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment rule is to isolate and dispose of ...


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