United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
DR. JAMES ROBERT WHITE, Plaintiff,
GASTON COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendant.
Cogburn Jr. United States District Judge .
MATTER is before the court on defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment (#38) and defendant's Second Motion
to Continue Trial and Pretrial Deadlines (#60). Having
considered defendant's motions and reviewed the
pleadings, the court enters the following Order.
an African-American man, was employed by defendant as an
assistant principal by Gaston County Schools
(“GCS”) from August 2006 through July 2013, with
a tenure spanning multiple schools. From 1973 to 1993,
plaintiff was a guidance counselor for Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Schools (“CMS”), until he left to pursue a
doctoral degree. Between 1997 and 2006, plaintiff held
several part-time and/or temporary positions in education.
superiors included Reeves McGlohon, a white male who served
as superintendent of GCS for approximately seven years.
Plaintiff was originally hired by defendant in 2006 on Mr.
McGlohon's recommendation, and in 2009, Mr. McGlohon
recommended that plaintiff be given a second contract as an
superior was Dr. Dixie Abernathy, who was the Assistant
Superintendent of Elementary Schools for GCS at all relevant
times. Dr. Abernathy has experience as a classroom teacher,
assistant principal, and principal. As Assistant
Superintendent, Dr. Abernathy's role was to supervise and
support the principals of 32 elementary schools within GCS.
2006, Plaintiff was first assigned to Tryon Elementary
School, working under Principal Terry Usery, a white male.
Plaintiff generally received evaluations of “at
standard” or “above standard, ” though he
also received two letters of reprimand. In March 2010,
plaintiff was transferred to Rhyne Elementary School, where
his supervisor was Principal Joey Hopper, also a white male.
Plaintiff received an initial rating of “above
standard”; under a new rating standard for the
2010-2011 school year, plaintiff's ratings ranged from
“proficient” to “distinguished.”
October 2010, an African-American female fifth-grade student
(referred to as “A.C.”) wrote a note to the
school's guidance counselor, Rachel Vanzant, about her
white male teacher, indicating that he made her
uncomfortable. Plaintiff testified he told A.C. to write a
note to the school counselor. According to plaintiff, Ms.
Vanzant told him that A.C. had accused her teacher of sexual
assault and that Principal Hopper had asked the teacher to
handle it. Plaintiff directed Ms. Vanzant to tell the
director of guidance, but did not inform Principal Hopper of
the student's accusation or question Principal
Hopper's handling of the situation. Plaintiff reported
the incident to Dr. Abernathy when Dr. Abernathy called him
roughly three weeks after the allegations were made, though
plaintiff did not ask Dr. Abernathy to take any action or
share the allegations with A.C.'s mother.
February 2011, A.C.'s mother contacted plaintiff to ask
why nothing had been done about her daughter's
accusation. Plaintiff told A.C.'s mother to call Dr.
Abernathy. Dr. Abernathy in turn contacted plaintiff and told
him that she and Dr. Tutterow, the Assistant Superintendent
of Human Resources, would investigate. In March 2011, the
Gastonia Police Department investigated the student's
allegations and determined they were unfounded. Following her
conversation with plaintiff, Dr. Abernathy investigated how
the school principal had handled A.C.'s allegations. On
March 15, 2011, Dr. Abernathy reprimanded Mr. Hopper for his
the same time, plaintiff spoke with Wavey Williams, a former
physical education teacher in GCS, that a student may have
been sexually assaulted. Plaintiff spoke to him because Mr.
Williams was a minister and someone plaintiff respected and
trusted. Plaintiff was unaware that Mr. Williams knew
A.C.'s mother. Plaintiff also did not encourage Mr.
Williams to contact the NAACP, and that was not
plaintiff's purpose in sharing the information with him.
Nor did plaintiff tell Mr. Williams that race was an issue.
18, 2011, Mr. McGlohon recommended (and defendant approved) a
number of administrative transfers, including plaintiff's
transfer to Forestview High School. Plaintiff was pleased, as
he had previously expressed a desire to be in a high school
environment. However, near the end of May 2011, plaintiff had
lunch with A.C. Ms. Vanzant saw plaintiff and A.C. in his
office and told plaintiff he shouldn't eat with A.C.
alone. On or around June 2, 2011, plaintiff told A.C.'s
mother that Ms. Vanzant had warned him not to have lunch
alone with her daughter. Also on or around June 2, 2011, a
representative of the NAACP met with Dr. Abernathy about
A.C.'s allegations. Later that day, plaintiff was
summoned to Dr. Abernathy's office. Plaintiff said he was
in the meeting to answer Dr. Abernathy's questions on
what he told A.C.'s mother about Ms. Vanzant's
warning, and did not participate in any discussion with the
NAACP representative about A.C.'s allegations or the
school's investigation. Dr. Abernathy subsequently gave
plaintiff a written reprimand for his unprofessional
communication with a parent about his coworkers. And at a
meeting with defendant on June 20, 2011, Mr. McGlohon
informed defendant that six of seven principals were
satisfied with their assignment of a new assistant principal,
but that an assistant principal was still being sought for
Forestview (despite previous approval of plaintiff for that
position). Plaintiff was instead transferred to North Belmont
Elementary School, where he would work under principal Chris
Germain, a white male.
stay at North Belmont was short, lasting only from August to
September of 2011. Plaintiff did not show up for his first
day of work or contact Germain. After plaintiff's
relationship with Germain quickly deteriorated, as Germain
expressed on multiple occasions that plaintiff's
communication skills were strongly lacking, plaintiff was
again transferred in late September 2011, this time to
Catawba Heights Elementary School.
Catawba Heights, plaintiff worked under the direction of
principal Phyllis Whitworth, an African American female.
During his time there, Ms. Whitworth expressed repeated
concerns with plaintiff's interpersonal and communication
skills, and implemented measures she believed would help
plaintiff, such as mandatory check-in times and improvement
plans to address her concerns with plaintiff about
insubordination. Plaintiff repeatedly complained about such
measures, believing them to be subjective and unjustified,
but Dr. Abernathy and Mr. McGlohon expressed support for Ms.
Whitworth and told plaintiff to continue following his
supervisor's instructions. Through spring of 2013,
plaintiff accumulated various reminders, warnings, and
letters of reprimand from Ms. Whitworth, as well as
evaluations that rated him positively in some areas but
negatively in others. Ultimately, Ms. Whitworth asked Dr.
Abernathy that plaintiff not be returned to Catawba Heights,
or that she be moved instead.
April 25, 2013, plaintiff was notified of the
superintendent's intent to recommend that his contract
not be renewed, as well as general reasons underlying Mr.
McGlohon's recommendation. Plaintiff requested a hearing
with defendant, and at the hearing, defendant was presented
with a written submission on behalf of the superintendent
explaining that the recommendation was based on “a
pattern of responding inappropriately to supervisory contacts
and displaying poor judgment in communications with other
public education stakeholders, ” as well as supporting
documents. Plaintiff was given the opportunity to present his
own evidence. Following the hearing, defendant voted to
uphold the superintendent's recommendation, and when
plaintiff's contract expired, it was not renewed.
did not appeal defendant's decision, nor file a charge of
discrimination with the EEOC. Instead, plaintiff filed a
complaint with the Department of Education's Office for
Civil Rights, which conducted an investigation and found
insufficient evidence that there had been a violation of
Title VI or Title IX.
20, 2016, plaintiff filed this action pro se in
Mecklenburg County Superior Court. The original Complaint
sought legal and equitable relief under the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq.
(“Title VI”); 42 U.S.C. § 1981; 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983; N.C. Gen. Stat. § 143.422.2; and various
other State law claims. Defendant removed the action to this
Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441.
October 12, 2016, counsel for plaintiff noticed their
appearance in this case. On October 25, plaintiff filed a
Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint, which was granted;
plaintiff's Amended Complaint sought to streamline and
clarify allegations, omitted certain claims, and added a new
Title IX retaliation claim. On February 1, 2017, plaintiff
filed a Second Amended Complaint. In this complaint,
plaintiff alleges a Title VI discrimination claim, race
discrimination and hostile work environment claims, and
retaliation claims under § 1981, § 1983, and Title
IX. Discovery has been completed pursuant to the March 30,
2017 scheduling order. Defendant filed the instant Motion for
Summary Judgment (#38), plaintiff has responded (#50), and
the motion is ripe for review.
judgment is warranted “if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A factual dispute is genuine “if
the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is
material only if it may affect the suit's outcome under
governing law. Id. The movant has the “initial
responsibility of informing the district 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.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal citations omitted). The
burden then shifts to the nonmoving party. That party
“must set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 322 n.3. The
nonmoving party may not rely upon mere allegations or denials
of allegations in pleadings to defeat a motion for summary
judgment. Id. at 324. Instead, that party must
present sufficient evidence from which “a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; accord Sylvia Dev.
Corp. v. Calvert Cnty., Md., 48 F.3d 810, 818 (4th Cir.
Court views evidence and any inferences from evidence in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. “‘Where the
record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of
fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine
issue for trial.'” Ricci v. DeStefano, 557
U.S. 557, 586 (2009) (quoting Matsushita v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). The
question posed by summary judgment ...