United States District Court, D. Kansas
RUBYE L. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 512 K/A SHAWNEE MISSION SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
KATHRYN H. VRATIL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
L. Davis brings suit against the Unified School District No.
512, known as Shawnee Mission School District (the
“District”). Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
plaintiff asserts that based on race, the District reassigned
her teaching position from Shawnee Mission East High School
(“SME”) to Shawnee Mission West High School
(“SMW”) in violation of her rights under 42
U.S.C. § 1981 and the Equal Protection Clause of the
United States Constitution. The case is set for a five-day
jury trial beginning June 4, 2018. Before the Court is
Shawnee Mission School District's Motion For Summary
Judgment (Doc. #134) filed October 31, 2017. For reasons
stated below, the Court reserves ruling on the motion and
directs Magistrate Judge James P. O'Hara to revisit the
stipulation reflected in the Order (Doc. #119) filed
July 14, 2017.
District asserts that plaintiff cannot show that it is liable
under Section 1983. To prove liability under Section 1983
against the District, plaintiff must show the existence of a
District policy or custom which directly caused her alleged
injury. See Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385
(1989); Monell, 436 U.S. at 694. A policy or custom
includes (1) a formal regulation or policy statement; (2) an
informal custom that amounts to widespread practice; (3)
decisions of District employees with final policymaking
authority; (4) ratification by final policymakers of
decisions of subordinates to whom authority was delegated;
and (5) deliberately indifferent failure to adequately train
or supervise employees. See Pyle v. Woods, 874 F.3d
1257, 1267 (10th Cir. 2017) (citing Brammer-Hoelter v.
Twin Peaks Charter Acad., 602 F.3d 1175, 1189 (10th Cir.
District asserts that plaintiff cannot establish Section 1983
liability because she cannot show that a final policymaker
was involved in the reassignment decision. See Shawnee
Mission School District's Memorandum In Support Of Its
Motion For Summary Judgment (Doc. #138-1) filed November
14, 2017 at 15-18. The parties apparently agree that John
McKinney, principal of SME, and/or Ginny Lyon, director of
certified professionals for the District, decided to reassign
plaintiff from SME to SMW. In response to defendant's
motion, plaintiff does not assert that McKinney and/or Lyon
acted as final policymakers for the District. Thus, the
question is whether the District is otherwise liable for the
actions of McKinney and/or Lyon. Plaintiff asserts that even
if McKinney and/or Lyon were not final policymakers,
the District is liable because it ratified and approved the
reassignment decision. See Plaintiff's Response
(Doc. #145) at 21-22. Plaintiff also asserts that under
equitable estoppel principles, the Court should preclude the
District from claiming that McKinney and/or Lyon did not have
final authority to make the reassignment decision. See
Plaintiff's Response (Doc. #145) at 23-25.
Court has spent considerable time evaluating the parties'
summary judgment filings.On this record, plaintiff has not
demonstrated a genuine issue of material fact regarding
whether (1) the Board ratified the reassignment
decision or (2) the District should be
equitably estopped from claiming that McKinney and/or Lyon
did not have final policymaking authority.
extent that McKinney and/or Lyon are not final policymakers
and the Board did not ratify the reassignment decision, the
District is not liable under Section 1983. Thus, any
complaint about discriminatory conduct by McKinney and/or
Lyon belongs in a suit against them personally. See
Milligan-Hitt, 523 F.3d at 1229.
2, 2017, Magistrate Judge K. Gary Sebelius entered an order
which sustained plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint
to include claims against McKinney and Lyon. Thereafter,
on July 8, 2017, plaintiff filed an Amended
Complaint (Doc. #120) which asserted claims against them
in their individual and official capacities. See id.
¶¶ 5-6. Specifically, plaintiff asserted claims
against McKinney and Lyon in their official capacities and
alternatively - in the event they were “deemed not to
have the final authority for the District” to reassign
plaintiff - in their individual capacities. Id.
reasons not apparent in the record, at a status conference
before Judge Sebelius on July 14, 2017, plaintiff agreed to
dismiss the individual capacity claims against McKinney and
Lyon After the conference, Judge Sebelius entered an order
which noted that the District opposed the addition of two new
parties in the case. See Order (Doc. #119) filed
July 14, 2017 at 1. In the order, he noted the District's
position that in granting plaintiff leave to amend, the Court
“had not allowed plaintiff to add two individuals as
defendants being sued in their individual capacities.”
Id. Judge Sebelius then stated as follows:
After some discussion, the parties agreed to a stipulation
concerning [McKinney and Lyon]. Plaintiff agreed to dismiss
the individual defendants if the [District] agreed that the
individual defendants had acted in their official capacities
and within the scope of their authority in transferring
plaintiff from her employment at [SME] to [SMW]. The
[District] agreed to plaintiff's request.
Id. The magistrate ordered that “[i]n light of
the stipulation reached by the parties, ” plaintiff
shall file a motion to dismiss the individual defendants.
Id. at 2. On July 19, 2017, plaintiff dismissed
without prejudice all claims against McKinney and Lyon.
See Notice Of Voluntary Dismissal (Doc. #121).
Court is confused and disturbed by the purported stipulation.
It appears to serve no purpose or benefit to plaintiff and in
fact contravenes plaintiff's best interests in the case.
As noted, a key issue is whether the District is liable for
the conduct of McKinney and Lyon. The parties dispute whether
they acted as final policymakers and/or whether the Board
ratified the reassignment decision. If the District is not
liable for their conduct, it is obviously in plaintiff's
best interest to assert individual claims against McKinney
and Lyon to hold them personally liable for the reassignment
decision. According to Judge Sebelius, plaintiff agreed to
dismiss the individual claims so long as the District agreed
that in reassigning plaintiff, McKinney and Lyon acted in
their official capacities and within the scope of their
authority. This purported stipulation is irrelevant to the
issues at hand. The record reflects no dispute regarding
whether McKinney and Lyon acted in their official capacities
and within the scope of their authority. Moreover, because
the District was already a defendant in the case, plaintiff
did not need to add official capacity claims against McKinney
and Lyon. See, e.g., Lopez v. LeMaster, 172
F.3d 756, 762 (10th Cir. 1999) (Section 1983 claim against
municipal employee in official capacity equivalent of suit
against municipality). Because Judge Sebelius was apparently
involved in brokering this confusing result, the Court
directs Judge O'Hara to revisit the stipulation
reflected in the order of July 14, 2017 (Doc. #118) and
determine whether the stipulation should be recalled and
plaintiff's claims against McKinney and Lyon individually
reinstated in this case.
IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Magistrate Judge James P.
O'Hara revisit the stipulation reflected in
Order (Doc. #119) filed July 14, 2017 and determine
whether the stipulation should be recalled and
plaintiff's claims against McKinney and Lyon individually
reinstated in this case.
IS FURTHER ORDERED that Magistrate Judge James P.
O'Hara discuss mediation with the parties and if
appropriate, order them to mediate plaintiff's claims.
following facts are uncontroverted, deemed admitted or
construed in the light most favorable to
District is a public school district in Johnson County,
Kansas. Its Board of Education serves as governing body of
the District. Board policy states that it “may delegate
administrative policy to the superintendent or other
employees as specified, but retains the power to alter or
veto the acts of any or all employees when such acts are
deemed contrary to the legal rights or obligations of the
district, inconsistent with board policies or goals, or
contrary to the best interest of the district.”
Defendant Ex. 31.
times relevant to plaintiff's claims, Dr. Jim Hinson
served as superintendent of the District. As Superintendent,
Hinson was the executive officer and chief administrative
officer for the District. As such, he was vested with charge
and control of schools within the District, subject to the
Board's policies, orders, rules and regulations.
times relevant to plaintiff's claims, Ginny Lyon served
as director of certified professional staff for the District.
As director of certified professional staff, Lyon was vested
with authority to approve and authorize reassignment of
teachers from particular buildings. Hinson Depo. at 17:17 to
18:11, Plaintiff Ex. 7. Regarding teacher assignments, Lyon
exercised final authority - her decisions did not require
review or approval by her superiors. Id. at 19:23 to
20:7. As a practical matter, Lyon would defer to a school
principal's decision to reassign a teacher so long as it
was in accordance with District administrative guidelines.
Lyon Depo. at 12:15 to 14:15.
administrative guidelines regarding transfer and reassignment
of secondary teachers provide, in part, as follows:
It has been the policy of the Board of Education to rely upon
attrition, i.e. retirement, resignations, and leaves of
absences before transfers are issued. Transfers will be made
only when necessary and in the best interest of the school
system. The Board of Education has charged administration
with the responsibility of staffing all of the programs of
the district. The programs of the district include the
curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular offerings.
a transfer is necessary, the following factors will be
• Instructional requirements of the building.
• Length of service in [the District]. ***
• Teacher's area of expertise.
• Licensures, major areas of study, additional credit
hours, and advanced degrees.
• Present in-building assignments:
(1) Department chairperson/division coordinator.
(2) Head coaching duties.
(3) Sponsor of co-curricular activities.
(4) Assistant coach in one sport.
(5) Leadership on building committees[.] ***
(6) Training that has been conducted to fill specific
building roles such as teaching IB or being IB coordinator[.]
Plaintiff Ex. 35.
a reputation of having more minority students than SME.
Muhammad Depo. at 27:19-25, Plaintiff Ex. 15. For the 2015-16
school year, SME enrollment was 87 per cent white, and 13 per
cent black, Hispanic and other minority students. For the
same school year, SMW was 56 per cent white and 44 per cent
black, Hispanic and other minority students comprised the
remaining 44 per cent. Students refer to SMW and another
District school, Shawnee Mission North (“SMN”),
as “ghetto” schools. Id. at 28:1-3. This
is primarily based on lower-income apartment housing that is
close to those schools, students coming in from neighboring
cities, single-parent households and a higher ratio of low
socioeconomic students and families. Id. at 28:4-12.
SNW and SMN students have reputations of being more
disruptive and having more behavior issues than students in
other schools in the District. Id. at 28:13-16.
is an African American woman. In 1999, she graduated from
Middle Tennessee State University (“MTSU”) with a
Bachelor of Science degree in biology with concentration in
microbiology, and a minor in chemistry. With a grade point
average of 3.74 on a four-point scale, she graduated cum
laude. Plaintiff graduated in the top five per cent of her
class and was a member of Phi Kappa Phi Society.
2006, plaintiff received a Master of Arts degree in Teaching
from Central Missouri State University, where she graduated
with a 4.0 GPA.
of 2006, the Kansas Board of Education granted plaintiff a
license to teach biology in grades 6 ...