United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Doc.
No. 16). For the reasons herein, the Court DENIES the Motion
Inez Annette Albright (“Plaintiff”) commenced
this action on June 19, 2017 in the Superior Court of
Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. (Doc. No. 1-1).
Defendants subsequently removed the action to this Court on
August 4, 2017. (Doc. No. 1). After Defendants moved to
dismiss the complaint in its entirety, Plaintiff moved to
amend. (Doc. No. 4, 7). The Court granted Plaintiff's
motion to amend and a subsequent motion to amend. (Docs. No.
9, 13). On October 18, 2017, Plaintiff filed its second
amended complaint, asserting a claim under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 for violating her rights to equal protection under the
Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution and a claim for
tortious interference with contract. (Doc. No. 14).
Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's second amended
complaint on November 1, 2017. (Doc. No. 16). Defendants
contend that the individual defendants, Eric Ward, Chaunel
Johnson, and Avery Mitchell, (the “Individual
Defendants”) are entitled to qualified immunity on both
claims, and that Plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient
facts to support its claims against the Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Board of Education (the “Board”). (Doc. No. 16-1
December of 2014, Plaintiff accepted a position with
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (“CMS”) as a
Behavior Modification Technician (“BMT”) at
Harding High School. (Doc. No. 14 at 3). BMTs assist the school
staff with discipline issues. (Doc. No. 14 at 3). Harding
High School was known for having significant student
discipline problems. (Doc. No. 14 at 4). Plaintiff was the
only female BMT at Harding High School, and she openly
criticized her fellow male security officers' response to
fights that occurred on the campus during the 2014-2015
school year. (Doc. No. 14 at 4). At the end of the school
year, the principal of Harding High School informed Plaintiff
that he would not renew her contract for the 2015-2016 school
year. (Doc. No. 14 at 4).
the principal was replaced by Defendant Ward, and Ward hired
Plaintiff as a BMT for the 2015-2016 school year. (Doc. No.
14 at 4). In the 2015-2016 school year, Plaintiff continued
to voice concerns about security on campus. (Doc. No. 14 at
5). In or around March 2016, Ward discussed a reduction of
the number of BMT positions at Harding High School for the
next school year, including Plaintiff's position. (Doc.
No. 14 at 6). Then, on June 1, 2016, Plaintiff responded to a
call that a large number of students had congregated outside
the cafeteria and had not gone to class. (Doc. No. 14 at 7).
The other BMTs then funneled the students into the G
building-the building Plaintiff with a co-worker was assigned
to oversee. (Doc. No. 14 at 7). Plaintiff asked her co-worker
to come to her aid, but he chose not to respond. (Doc. No. 14
at 7). While urging the students to return to their
classrooms, one student began physically attacking Plaintiff.
(Doc. No. 14 at 7-8). Three other students joined in, and
they continued to attack her until the school resource
officer arrived and intervened. (Doc. No. 14 at 8). News of
the attack spread and created negative publicity for CMS.
(Doc. No. 14 at 9). The Mecklenburg County District
Attorney's office cleared Plaintiff of any wrongdoing,
and eventually, the students involved were charged, and the
main perpetrator convicted of assault. (Doc. No. 14 at 8-9).
16, 2016, Defendant Johnson, who worked in employee relations
for CMS, terminated Plaintiff and informed Plaintiff that she
would not be employed as a BMT in the next school year and
stated that CMS was blaming her for the incident. (Doc. No.
14 at 10). Johnson acted on the recommendation of Ward and
Mitchell, the head of human resources. (Doc. No. 14 at 10).
At that time, Plaintiff believed her position had previously
been eliminated, as informed by Ward. (Doc. No. 14 at 10).
Plaintiff, then, reverted back to her classification as a
member of the permanent substitute teacher pool. (Doc. No. 14
when Plaintiff told Johnson of her classification, Johnson
informed her that she was barred from all future employment
with CMS because of the June 1, 2016 incident. (Doc. No. 14
at 11). Subsequently, Plaintiff's classification as a
member of the permanent substitute teacher pool was removed.
(Doc. No. 14 at 11). Plaintiff asked for a hearing before the
Board, but counsel for the Board informed Plaintiff that she
had no hearing rights because she was not terminated. (Doc.
No. 14 at 11). Then, Plaintiff asked the Board for an
investigation of the incident and her termination but
received no response. (Doc. No. 14 at 11). Despite repeated
request for a writing, Johnson and Mitchell stalled. (Doc.
No. 14 at 11-12). Eventually, in April 2017, Mitchell
responded in writing that “Defendant Johnson had
decided that Plaintiff had violated CMS policy and was
responsible for the assault, but that Plaintiff had not been
disciplined in any manner and had not been terminated.
Rather, her BMT contract had ended and was not
renewed.” (Doc. No. 14 at 12). Plaintiff requested a
hearing with the Board, explaining that by firing her and
barring her from employment as a result of the incident on
June 1, 2016, a gender double-standard had been applied.
(Doc. No. 14 at 12). Male BMTs had fought or beaten students
and were cleared for their acts; however, she had been
attacked and beaten and fired for violating CMS policy. (Doc.
No. 14 at 12). The Board denied Plaintiff's request for a
hearing. (Doc. No. 14 at 13). Counsel for the Board informed
Plaintiff that she had not been fired and being barred from
future employment was not appealable. (Doc. No. 14 at 13).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the sufficiency
of a complaint”-“not resolve contests surrounding
the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of
defenses.” Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178
F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999) (quoting Republican Party
v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992)). The court
accepts all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true
and draws all reasonable factual inferences from those facts
in the plaintiff's favor. Id. at 244 (citations
omitted); Mylan Labs., 7 F.3d at 1134. Well-pleaded
allegations “must contain sufficient factual matter . .
. to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). To be plausible, the factual matter
must “allow the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable.” Id.
(citing Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 556). A court
need not “accept as true allegations that contradict
matters properly subject to judicial notice or by
exhibit.” Veney v. Wyche, 293 F.3d 726, 730
(4th Cir. 2002) (citations and internal quotations omitted).