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Zachery v. Coosa County Board of Education

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

August 27, 2019

WANDA J. ZACHERY Plaintiff,
v.
COOSA COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, et al. Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          EMILY C. MARKS CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Wanda J. Zachery is a teacher employed by the Coosa County Board of Education. In November 2018, the Plaintiff filed a Complaint against the Coosa County Board of Education (“the Board”) and Superintendent Andi Ficquette Wilson, alleging discrimination on the bases of her race and religion. The Plaintiff further asserts denial of her right to Equal Protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

         This matter is before the Court on Motions to Dismiss Portions of Plaintiff's Complaint filed by the Board and Superintendent Wilson. (Docs. 7, 16). For the reasons stated below, these motions (Docs. 7, 16) are due to be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         The Plaintiff is a teacher at Central Elementary School in Coosa County. She has been employed by the Coosa County Board of Education since 2005 and gained tenure in 2009. She received her master's degree in elementary education from Alabama State University in 2014 and her Education Specialist Certificate in elementary education in 2016. Plaintiff is certified as a reading specialist and as a highly qualified teacher. The Plaintiff has taught third grade and has several years of experience as a reading teacher.

         The Plaintiff made it known at work that while she is a Christian, her sincerely held religious beliefs dictate that she should not attend church. She asserts that due to these religious beliefs, she was excluded from professional functions while less qualified white church-attending teachers received more favorable treatment. Specifically, the Plaintiff asserts that the weakest academic students and students with discipline problems were assigned to her class. She further claims that the Superintendent failed to recognize her during meetings until after she filed her EEOC charge and denied her mileage reimbursement. The Plaintiff asserts that she was denied promotions to a reading coach position, and that the Board appointed less qualified white, church-attending teachers.

         The Plaintiff brings the following claims against the Board: 1) Title VII discrimination based on race - failure to promote; 2) Title VII discrimination based on religion - failure to promote; 3) 42 U.S.C. § 1981 discrimination based on race - failure to promote; 4) Title VII discrimination based on race - disparate treatment; 5) Title VII discrimination based on religion - disparate treatment; 6) 42 U.S.C. § 1981 discrimination based on race; 7) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - violation of Equal Protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Plaintiff also sues Superintendent Wilson in her official and individual capacities under Counts Three, Six, and Seven.

         The Board and Superintendent Wilson each filed a Motion to Dismiss Portions of the Plaintiff's Complaint. The Board seeks dismissal of Counts Four, Five, and Six, asserting that the Plaintiff failed to plead sufficient facts to support her claims and that she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. The Superintendent seeks dismissal of Count Six and all claims brought against her in her official capacity.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of the complaint against the legal standard set forth in Rule 8: “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] . . . a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679.

         The plausibility standard requires “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Conclusory allegations that are merely “conceivable” and fail to rise “above the speculative level” are insufficient to meet the plausibility standard. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570. This pleading standard “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Indeed, “[a] pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A) The official capacity claims against the Superintendent are due to be dismissed as redundant.

         Superintendent Wilson argues that the official capacity claims against her found in Counts Three, Six, and Seven are due to be dismissed because those claims are also asserted against the Coosa County Board of Education. The Superintendent argues that because suits against government officials in their official capacities are treated as suits against the entities by which the officials are employed, the official capacity claims against her are duplicative. The Superintendent continues that these official capacity claims do not add any ...


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