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Scott v. Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division

December 4, 2019

MARLENE B. SCOTT, Plaintiff,
v.
IREDELL-STATESVILLE SCHOOLS BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Kenneth D. Bell United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education's (“Defendant” or “the Board”) Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 41), which Plaintiff Marlene B. Scott (“Scott”) opposes. The Court has carefully reviewed the motion and considered the parties' briefs and exhibits. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will GRANT the motion and enter Summary Judgment in favor of Defendant.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         This is an employment discrimination dispute under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Plaintiff is an African-American educator who filed this action against Iredell-Statesville Board of Education after she applied for and did not receive any of the four administrative positions within the Iredell-Statesville school system. Plaintiff alleges she was more qualified than those who received the positions and was not promoted because of her race.

         A. Plaintiff's Work History

         Plaintiff began her teaching career in 1995 at Catawba Middle School.[1] (Doc. No. 56, at 2). Her first job in the Iredell-Statesville school system started in 1999 as a teacher at East Iredell Middle School. Id. at 3. From 1999 to 2005, Plaintiff also served as an Instructional Facilitator at East Iredell Middle School. Id. at 3. An Instructional Facilitator role is a leadership position in the Iredell-Statesville school system that focuses on the school's professional development and growth for teachers. In 2005, Plaintiff became a Teacher/Instructional Facilitator at Statesville High School and Troutman Middle School. Id. She stayed in that position until 2009, when she was hired at Troutman Middle School as an Instructional Facilitator/Assistant Principal.[2] Id. She resigned from that position in 2011 and left the Iredell-Statesville school system to become a principal at an elementary school in Alleghany County. Id. In the summer of 2014, Plaintiff applied for positions in the Iredell-Statesville school system in an effort to be closer to home. Id. While she was unable to find an administrative position, Plaintiff was hired as a teacher at West Iredell Middle School and remained there until 2018. Id. In 2018, Plaintiff became the Assistant Principal at West Iredell High School, where she remains today. Id. Plaintiff received various recognitions and awards for her performance during her career.

         Plaintiff's dispute with the Board began somewhere between the fall of 2014 and the fall of 2017 when she applied for numerous administrative positions in the Iredell-Statesville school system, but never received an offer. (Doc. No. 47, at 3). Specifically, Plaintiff brings this suit over four of those positions: (1) the principal position at Statesville Middle School; (2) the assistant principal position at North Iredell Middle School; (3) the assistant principal position at West Iredell Middle School; and (4) the principal position at Celeste Henkel Elementary School. Each of these positions was ultimately filled by a white male or female.

         B. The Board's Hiring Process

         The Board follows a three-step process when selecting candidates for a specific school administrator position. (Doc. No. 47, at 5). Initially, the job opening is posted on a public online portal, through which both internal and external candidates can apply. Id. At the first step, the Board narrows the applicant pool by eliminating those who fail to meet the baseline credentials. Id. At the second step, the Board determines the school's specific school administrator needs and develops particularized selection criteria. Id. at 6. Such criteria may include experience in a particular subject area, the ability to strengthen relationships amongst staff, or prior administrative experience. At the third step, the Board selects the candidate it perceives is most qualified to meet the school's particular needs. Id. To assist the Board in making this determination, candidates who progress to step three typically undergo two levels of interviews. Id. at 7. The first interview is with employees at the particular school, otherwise known as the “school-level team.” Id. The school-level team scores candidates based on their qualifications and how well they perceive the candidate fits the particular needs of the school. Id. These scores then determine who the Board selects for the second level of interviews. Id. Members of the Board conduct the second level of interviews and candidates are once again scored based on their performance, qualifications, and the needs of the school. Id. This same process was the process the Board used to select the four candidates for the positions at issue in this case.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed a charge of race discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on August 24, 2016. (Doc. No. 16, ¶ 27). She received a “Notice of Right to Sue” letter from the EEOC on January 26, 2018 and timely filed this action on April 4, 2018. (Doc. No. 1). In her initial complaint, Plaintiff alleged claims of race discrimination for failure to promote and retaliation under Title VII and 18 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. The Board moved to dismiss Plaintiff's initial complaint arguing that a number of Plaintiff's failure-to-promote claims were barred by the statute of limitations and the retaliation claims were beyond the scope of her EEOC charge. (Doc. No. 9).

         On August 8, 2018, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint. (Doc. No. 12). The Board moved to dismiss based on the same grounds asserted in their previous motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 14). Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint on September 24, 2018, this time alleging only race discrimination under Title VII for failure to promote Plaintiff regarding four specific positions within the statute of limitations. (Doc. No. 16). The Board answered on October 22, 2018. (Doc. No. 22).

         The Board filed the present motion for summary judgment on September 3, 2019. (Doc. No. 41). At the same time, the Board filed an unopposed motion to seal documents supporting their motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 40). The Honorable Magistrate Judge David Keesler granted the Board's motion to seal on September 3, 2019. (Doc. No. 54). Plaintiff filed her response to the Board's summary judgment motion on September 17, 2019, along with a motion to seal a select number of her supporting documents. (Doc. Nos. 56, 55).

         After Plaintiff filed her response, the Board filed a motion to strike an exhibit entitled “Mediation Tapes” and any reference thereto. (Doc. No. 59). The Board also filed a motion to seal documents Plaintiff had filed in support of her response in opposition. (Doc. No. 61). Plaintiff filed two further motions to seal more documents she had previously filed with her response. (Doc. Nos. 62, 63).[3]

         After multiple scheduling attempts, the Court held a hearing in Statesville on November 25, 2019 on the motion for summary judgment, motion to strike, and motions to seal. At the hearing, the Court granted the Board's motion to strike (Doc. No. 59), as well as their motion to seal (Doc. No. 61). As for Plaintiff's pending motions to seal, the Court instructed the parties to confer and submit a joint motion if they sought to seal any remaining documents. On November 27, 2019, the parties filed a joint Notice of Sealing Documents, stating there were no remaining documents they wished to seal. (Doc. No. 76).

         III. ...


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