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Oppong v. Camelot of Kansas

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

August 28, 2013

KOFI BOATENG OPPONG, Plaintiff,
v.
CAMELOT OF KANSAS, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. THOMAS MARTEN, District Judge.

The court has before it defendant Camelot of Kansas's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 30). After reviewing the parties' briefs and the evidence submitted with them, the court grants the motion for the following reasons.

I. Uncontroverted Facts

Plaintiff Kofi Boateng Oppong, a black male, was born in Ghana and immigrated to the United States on an F-1 Student Visa. Camelot of Kansas employed Oppong as a Teacher-Counselor at its Riverside facility (now known as Riverside Academy) in Wichita, Kansas from April 14, 2008 through August 25, 2010. As a Teacher-Counselor, Oppong's primary responsibilities were providing supervision, guidance and direction to emotionally and behaviorally-challenged youth in a psychiatric residential treatment setting.

Since April 14, 2008, Ngeli Kilangwa has been Camelot's Group Living Director at Riverside Academy. As the Group Living Director, Kilangwa is responsible for Teacher-Counselors and their supervisors. Kilangwa is also a black male. Also since April 14, 2008, Leesa Beam has been the Business Office Manager at Riverside Academy; she is responsible for human resources issues at the facility.

On August 18, 2010, Oppong spoke with Kilangwa just prior to clocking in. Kilangwa asked Oppong about Carroll Lewis, an ex-employee who Kilangwa thought might file a complaint with the EEOC. Oppong told Kilangwa that Lewis had contacted him and that he gave a statement in support of Lewis's claim. Kilangwa told Oppong not to speak with Lewis or the EEOC about Lewis's claim.

In late August 2010-the exact date is unknown-a fourteen-year-old Riverside resident reported to his therapist that Oppong had hit, kicked, and punched him and made him say the word "nigger" as punishment for the resident calling a staff member "nigger bitch." The resident alleged that Oppong wrapped him in a white bed sheet, cut holes in a pillow case, and made him wear it, resembling a the garb of a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The resident also reported that staff members Moses Edagwa and Aaron Williams were present during the incident.[1] He claimed that while he wore the white sheet and pillow case, Oppong and Edagwa taunted him and encouraged other residents to do the same.

The resident's therapist reported this to Kilangwa, who investigated by interviewing several people. He questioned Oppong and Edagwa about the incident; each denied any involvement. Kilangwa spoke with Williams, but he later determined that he had not worked on the day the incident occurred, which Oppong does not dispute. Kilangwa spoke to John Branson, another Teacher-Counselor who had witnessed the incident. Branson corroborated the resident's report to the extent that he saw the child being taunted while dressed in a white sheet and hood. Branson told Kilangwa that when he witnessed the incident, Edagwa told him to "mind his own business, " but Branson did not indicate that Edagwa had participated in dressing or taunting the resident. Following his interview of Branson, Kilangwa interviewed seven residents who were present during the incident, and each of them corroborated what Branson had told him.

At this point, the court notes that prior to his termination in August of 2010, Oppong had incurred a substantial disciplinary history. Within his first two years at Camelot, Oppong received a disciplinary counseling six times, twice for disciplining residents inappropriately. One of these incidents resulted in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment ("KDHE") issuing a notice concluding that Camelot was not in compliance with Kansas law because of Oppong's conduct.

Based on his investigation of the incident, Kilangwa believed Oppong had dressed the resident child in KKK garments and allowed other residents to taunt the child. Kilangwa conferred with Leesa Beam, the Business Office Manager, about what action Camelot should take. They agreed that based on the severity of the event in question and Oppong's prior disciplinary history, Camelot should terminate Oppong's employment. They presented this conclusion to Camelot's Executive Director, Heather Sell, and she agreed. Accordingly, Camelot terminated Oppong's employment on August 25, 2010.

Camelot suspended Edagwa but did not terminate his employment. Kilangwa believed that Edagwa was only a witness to the incident and did not actively participate in it. Additionally, Edagwa had no prior disciplinary record. Camelot did not terminate Williams either because Kilangwa determined that he was not working at the time of the incident.

When Kilangwa received the initial report of the incident in late August, he believed that the therapist for the victim's residential unit already had reported the matter to SRS. After SRS did not appear to investigate the incident, Camelot reported the incident to SRS on September 2, 2010. As a result of Oppong's dressing the resident as a KKK member, Camelot received a citation from KDHE for "Non-Compliance" with Kansas law, an infraction that could potentially jeopardize Camelot's license to operate.

On August 2, 2012, Oppong filed this case against Camelot asserting discrimination based on race and national origin under ยง 1981 and retaliation for his ...


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