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Song Koppenhaver v. Unified School District No. 500

April 18, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Julie A. Robinson United States District Judge


Plaintiff Song Koppenhaver brings this lawsuit against defendants Unified School District No. 500 ("U.S.D. 500" or "the District"), as well as members of U.S.D. 500's Board of Education, the District Superintendent and several administrators (collectively "Individual Defendants"), asserting various employment and racial discrimination claims. This matter is before the Court on Individual Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 35). For the reasons explained in detail below, the Court grants Individual Defendants' motion.

I. Background

The following facts are alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint and construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Plaintiff was employed as a teacher, counselor, and administrator for the Kansas City, Kansas, school district beginning in 1996. Plaintiff consistently had excellent performance reviews as a teacher and counselor.

Plaintiff served as an assistant principal at Northwest Middle School for the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years. Plaintiff alleges that when she was at Northwest, she was subjected to harassment and discriminatory treatment because she is not African-American and is of the Hmong national origin. In May 2010, Plaintiff reported the harassment to Defendant Tom Petz, who was the Human Resources Director at the time. Petz attended a meeting with Plaintiff and the administrators who had harassed Plaintiff and threatened her with a disciplinary write-up. Petz told the administrators that they were out of line and needed to stop the harassment. Plaintiff was never evaluated as an assistant principal at Northwest, which was in violation of the policies of the school district.

The District transferred Plaintiff to serve as an assistant principal at West Middle School for the 2010-2011 school year. During that year, Plaintiff was treated differently than a similarly-situated African-American male administrator. In December 2010, Plaintiff met with Defendant Shelly Beech, who was principal at West at the time. Instead of discussing her formal goals in accordance with the District's evaluation procedures, Beech gave Plaintiff three areas of improvement to work on. On April 2, 2011, Plaintiff received a reprimand from Beech that stated that Plaintiff had used poor judgment when removing a cell phone from a student's shirt.

On May 5, 2011, Plaintiff learned that the District administrators intended to recommend to the Board of Education that her administrative contract not be renewed and that she would be transferred to an English as Second Language ("ESL") teaching position for the reason that she exhibited poor judgment. On May 9, 2011, in accordance with District policy, Plaintiff requested a meeting with the Superintendent, Defendant Cynthia Lane, to appeal the non-renewal of her administrative contract with the District. In her written request, Plaintiff informed Lane of the harassment she had experienced during the prior school year and that she believed her non-renewal was in retaliation for reporting the harassment. On May 10, 2011, the Board of Education adopted the decision not to renew Plaintiff's administrative contract, and on May 13, 2011, Plaintiff received a letter from the Board informing her of their decision and giving her ten days to appeal from receipt of the notice.

Instead of meeting with Plaintiff, Lane referred Plaintiff to Defendant Edwin Hudson, the District's Human Resources Director. Hudson met with Plaintiff on May 17, 2011, to discuss her appeal of the Board's decision not to renew her administrative contract. On May 21, 2011, Plaintiff received a letter from Hudson dated May 20, which stated the decision not to renew her administrative contract was appropriate.

Plaintiff then requested a meeting with the Board and sent a request to Hudson for direction for filing a formal appeal of their decision. On May 26, 2011, Plaintiff requested complaint resolution to Superintendent Lane, pursuant to Board policy. In this request, Plaintiff informed Lane that the District had violated several Board policies and that she believed that the actions were a continuing pattern of harassment and/or retaliation based upon race, gender and/or national origin. On June 3, 2011, Plaintiff received notice that the Board would meet with her on June 14, 2011.

District policy for assignments for the following school year is that employees are notified of their assignments on their last "duty day," that is, the last day on the job for the school year that is ending. Plaintiff's last duty day for the 2010-2011 school year was June 10, 2011.

The morning of June 14, 2011, Plaintiff was offered a teaching position from the District as an ESL teacher at Bishop Ward High School, and she accepted the position. At the Board meeting later that day, Plaintiff contested her non-renewal and opposed the District's actions as discriminatory because she was not African-American, and that the decision to not renew her administrative contract was in retaliation for the harassment complaint she filed in 2010.

The next day, the District presented Plaintiff with a different ESL teaching position offer at J.C. Harmon High School, with numerous performance directives and conditions attached, and which was not in the recognized form of a contract for such a position. The District gave Plaintiff twenty-four hours to accept the "reassignment."

Plaintiff filed her first charge of discrimination and retaliation with the EEOC on June 16, 2011, and informed Superintendent Lane she was doing so that day. She also returned the District's June 15 letter, and informed District officials that she fully expected to be employed with the District the next school year. She also cited the June 15 offer as another instance of discriminatory treatment, which was also contrary to Board policy.

The District decided on July 1, 2011 that it would no longer consider Plaintiff for employment. Plaintiff was notified by certified letter dated July 19, 2011, that the ESL teaching position at J.C. Harmon was ...

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