United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
ANNEMARIE CARNEY AXON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment.
(Doc. 47). Defendants also filed a motion to strike Plaintiff
Douglas Keith Warren's response to their statement of
facts and his additional undisputed and disputed facts
contained in his response brief. (Doc. 60).
Warren is a Caucasian male. He worked as a special education
teacher and assistant softball coach at Coosa Central High
School during the 2015-16 school year. In April 2016, the
Coosa County Board of Education (the “Board”)
decided not to renew Mr. Warren's probationary
employment. Several weeks later, Superintendent Dennis
Sanford and Coosa Central High School Principal Bradley
Bouldin placed Mr. Warren on administrative leave until the
end of the school year based on reports that Mr. Warren
threatened to destroy school property.
Warren filed this lawsuit alleging that the Board, Mr.
Sanford, and Mr. Bouldin discriminated against him because of
race and gender. The following claims remain pending: (1)
race discrimination, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981,
via § 1983, against the Board and Mr. Sanford and Mr.
Bouldin in their individual capacities (Count One); (2)
gender discrimination, in violation Title VII, against the
Board (Count Two); and (3) defamation, in violation of
Alabama law, against Mr. Sanford and Mr. Bouldin in their
individual capacities (Count Four).
the court DENIES Defendants' motion to
strike the contested portions of Mr. Warren's brief
because Defendants are not prejudiced by Mr. Warren's
failure to strictly comply with this court's instructions
on summary judgment briefing.
the court GRANTS Defendants' motion for
summary judgment on Mr. Warren's § 1981 and Title
VII claims. The court GRANTS the motion for
summary judgment as to Mr. Warren's claim of race
discrimination under § 1981 because Mr. Warren has not
presented a prima facie case of race discrimination. The
court GRANTS the motion for summary judgment
as to Mr. Warren's claim of gender discrimination under
Title VII because Mr. Warren has not presented evidence from
which a reasonable jury could find that the Board
discriminated against him because of his gender or that
gender was a motivating factor for any alleged adverse
the court will enter judgment as a matter of law in favor of
Defendants on all claims over which it has original
jurisdiction, the court WILL DECLINE to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Mr. Warren's
state law defamation claim and WILL DISMISS WITHOUT
PREJUDICE the claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
considering a motion for summary judgment, the court
“draw[s] all inferences and review[s] all evidence in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party.”
Hamilton v. Southland Christian Sch., Inc., 680 F.3d
1316, 1318 (11th Cir. 2012) (quotation marks omitted).
August 2015, the Board hired Mr. Warren, a Caucasian male, as
a special education teacher at Central High School for the
2015-16 school year. (Doc. 48-1 at 68-69; Doc. 52-2 at
147-148). Mr. Warren was not certified to teach special
education, but the Board was experiencing teacher shortages
and needed to fill the position because the school year had
already begun, and the Board had exhausted its pool of
qualified applicants. (Doc. 48-2 at 68, 76-77). Although Mr.
Warren was not initially certified to teach special
education, the Alabama State Department of Education granted
Mr. Warren an alternative certificate when he enrolled in a
special education master's program with the intent to
complete his degree within three years. (Doc. 48-1 at 38,
71-72; Doc. 48-2 at 77-79; Doc. 52-2 at 158). In addition to
teaching special education, Mr. Warren served at the
assistant coach for the Central High School girls'
softball team. (Doc. 48-1 at 120; Doc. 48-3 at 71). Mr.
Warren was a probationary, non-tenured employee.
(See Doc. 48-6 at 2).
the 2015-16 school year, Defendant Dennis Sanford was the
Superintendent of the Coosa County School District. (Doc.
48-2 at 34). Defendant Bradley Boudlin was the Principal at
Central High School. (Doc. 48-5 at 1). Rebecca Stallworth was
the Assistant Principal and head coach of the girls'
softball team. (Id.). Andi Wilson was the
Board's Special Education Coordinator, and April Dudley
was the Assistant Special Education Coordinator. (Doc. 48-2
at 57-58, 62). Ms. Dudley worked closely with Mr. Warren and
oversaw his work because he lacked a special education
background. (Id. at 58, 62-66). For example, Ms.
Dudley reviewed the individualized education programs that
Mr. Warren completed for his students. (Doc. 48-1 at 107).
According to Mr. Warren, Ms. Dudley often emailed comments
and revisions to him, and she “would give [him] a lot
of great feedback.” (Id. at 108).
in March 2016, Mr. Bouldin and Mr. Warren discussed Mr.
Bouldin's son's struggles with standardized tests.
(Doc. 48-3 at 46). Mr. Bouldin testified that Mr. Warren
empathized and stated that he would not have passed the
Praxis exam if he had not cheated on the test.
(Id.). Mr. Bouldin does not remember exactly what
Mr. Warren said, but Mr. Bouldin got the impression that
somehow Mr. Warren had obtained a copy of the test questions
or answers. (Id.). Mr. Warren denies telling Mr.
Bouldin that he cheated on the Praxis or that he took
material from the testing room. (Doc. 48-1 at 232-233,
237-38). Mr. Bouldin testified that he did not reprimand Mr.
Warren or recommend termination at the time because the
school year was almost over. (Doc. 48-3 at 49). Mr. Bouldin
testified that he “knew that there would be discussions
among administration about who should be retained and who
should not among non-tenured teachers, ” and he
“felt that [the situation] would work itself
weeks later, Mr. Bouldin, in consultation with Ms. Wilson and
Ms. Dudley, recommended to Mr. Sanford that he, in turn,
recommend to the Board that it non-renew Mr. Warren's
employment for the following school year. (Doc. 48-2 at 60,
93). The record contains no written warnings or evaluations
about Mr. Warren's job performance, but Mr. Bouldin
testified that he had concerns because Mr. Warren was
frequently out of the classroom “having sports
discussions” or engaging in other matters. (Doc. 48-3
at 27; see Id. at 54). Ms. Wilson testified that she
had expressed concern to Mr. Bouldin about Mr. Warren's
ability to handle his work as a special education teacher
given the amount of time he spent on his coaching duties.
(Doc. 48-2 at 69-73).
on Mr. Bouldin's and Ms. Wilson's reports, Mr.
Sanford recommended to the Board that it not renew Mr.
Warren's employment. (Doc. 48-4 at 18-19). Consistent
with that recommendation, on April 14, 2016, the Board voted
to non-renew Mr. Warren's employment for the following
school year. (Doc. 48-6 at 2, 7- 8). No. one gave the Board
members a reason for the non-renewal recommendation before
the vote. (Doc. 48-4 at 19; 48-6 at 3).
Bouldin and Ms. Stallworth informed Mr. Warren of the
Board's decision on April 20, 2016. (Doc. 48-3 at 75;
see Doc. 52-2 at 51). According to Mr. Warren, Ms.
Wilson told him that the decision to non-renew his employment
was not performance based. (Doc. 48-1 at 113). In her
deposition, Ms. Wilson testified that she would give Mr.
Warren a “good reference as . . . a teacher in
general.” (Doc. 48-2 at 121). According to Ms. Wilson,
Mr. Warren was polite and “at work all the time.”
(Doc. 48-2 at 121). But Ms. Wilson recommended non-renewal to
Mr. Sanford because Mr. Warren still was working toward his
special education certification, and Central High School
“needed someone who was more knowledgeable in that
position.” (Doc. 48-2 at 94).
April 2016, Mr. Warren met with Mr. Sanford to discuss the
Board's decision. (Doc. 48-1 at 110-11). At the end of
the meeting, Mr. Sanford told Mr. Warren that he would ask
the Board to reconsider its decision to non-renew Mr.
Warren's employment. (Doc. 48-1 at 115-116; Doc. 48-4 at
14-15, 35-36). Mr. Sanford told Mr. Bouldin that he planned
to ask the Board to reconsider its vote. (Doc. 48-4 at 36).
At that point, Mr. Bouldin shared with Mr. Sanford his
concern that Mr. Warren cheated on the Praxis exam. (Doc.
48-3 at 50; Doc. 48-4 at 35-36).
early May 2016, Ms. Stallworth-with Mr. Bouldin's support
and approval-told Mr. Warren that he would no longer be the
assistant coach. (Doc. 48-1 at 139; Doc. 48-3 at 81). The
next day, Mr. Bouldin and Mr. Sanford met with Mr. Warren and
told him that they would not overrule Ms. Stallworth's
decision to relieve him as the assistant softball coach.
(Doc. 48-1 at 229-30). The topic of conversation then shifted
to the allegations that Mr. Warren cheated on the Praxis
exam. (Doc. 48-1 at 230; Doc. 48-4 at 34).
Warren denied telling Mr. Bouldin that he cheated on the
Praxis or that he took material from the testing room. (Doc.
48-1 at 232-233, 237-38; Doc. 48-3 at 63). But Mr. Bouldin
insisted that during their conversation several weeks before,
Mr. Warren had suggested that he “had a copy of a
stolen test or somehow had access to the answers.”
(Doc. 48-3 at 63). Mr. Sanford told Mr. Warren that he had no
choice but to “turn him in” to the State
Department of Education. (Doc. 48-1 at 233). The record is
undisputed that neither Mr. Sanford nor Mr. Bouldin
personally reported Mr. Warren's alleged cheating to the
State, but someone affiliated with the Board did alert the
State Department of Education about the allegation. (Doc.
48-1 at 199; Doc. 48-3 at 9, 48; Doc. 48-4 at 32, 47; Doc.
52-2 at 196).
days later, two teachers independently approached Mr. Bouldin
to tell him that Mr. Warren had destroyed a computer hard
drive when he had been non-renewed at a different school.
(Doc. 48-3 at 89-91, 93-94). The teachers were concerned that
Mr. Warren might do “something similar” based on
their conversations with him. (Doc. 48-3 at 94; see
also Doc. 48-3 at 90). Mr. Bouldin advised Mr. Sanford
about these concerns, and Mr. Sanford told Mr. Bouldin to
inform Mr. Warren the following morning that he was being
placed on paid administrative leave. (Doc. 48-3 at 98-99,
112-13). Mr. Bouldin did as Mr. Sanford instructed, and when
Mr. Warren arrived at the school the next day, Mr. Bouldin
and a school resource officer walked Mr. Warren to his
classroom to collect his personal belongings before they
escorted him off school property. (Doc. 48-1 at 160; Doc.
48-3 at 112). Neither Mr. Bouldin nor Mr. Sanford
investigated to find out if Mr. Warren had destroyed property
at a previous school, and neither asked Mr. Warren whether
the allegation was true before placing him on leave. (Doc.
48-3 at 92-94; Doc. 48-4 at 26-27).
Warren alleges that Defendants treated him less favorably
than three other Board employees: Jodi Pate, Cyndel King, and
Jocelyn Marbury. (Doc. 48-1 at 170- 72; Doc. 53 at 4-5,
16-17). First, Mr. Warren claims that Ms. Pate had a letter
of reprimand in her personnel file and received less
favorable feedback, but the Board promoted her into Mr.
Warren's position. (Doc. 48-1 at 166, 170; Doc. 53 at 4).
Mr. Warren has not cited, and the court has not located,
evidence in the record regarding Ms. Pate's race.
Mr. Warren contends that Ms. King called in a bomb threat and
was arrested, but the Board reinstated her to her position.
(Doc. 48-1 at 170). Ms. King was a teacher at Coosa Central
High School during the 2015-16 school year. (Doc. 48-5 at 2).
Near the beginning of the school year, law enforcement issued
a warrant for Ms. King's arrest for a bomb threat
connected to her cell phone number. (Id.). At a
sheriff deputy's request, Mr. Bouldin removed Ms. King
from her classroom and escorted her to the front of the
school to a waiting patrol car. (Id.). Based on the
initial information from the sheriff's deputy, Mr.
Sanford placed Ms. King on administrative leave. (Doc. 48-5
at 2; Doc. 48-6 at 4). Authorities dropped the criminal
charges against Ms. King when they confirmed that another
individual accessed her cell phone and sent the bomb threat.
(Id.). Ms. King then returned from administrative
leave and shared the exculpatory evidence with Mr. Bouldin.
(Id.). Mr. Bouldin did not take disciplinary action
against Ms. King based on the criminal charge. (Doc. 48-5 at
2). Ms. King is Caucasian. (Doc. 48-6 at 4).
Mr. Warren claims that despite accusations of wrongdoing, the
Board took no disciplinary action against Ms. Marbury. (Doc.
48-1 at 172). Ms. Marbury is a tenured employee, and she has
worked for the Board for over 20 years. (Doc. 48-6 at 3).
During the 2015-16 school year, Ms. Marbury served as the
principal at the Coosa County Career Technical Center.
(Id.). During the spring of 2016, students
complained that Ms. Marbury mismanaged school finances by
selling items on school property during the school day. (Doc.
48-6 at 3-4). Mr. Sanford requested that the Board's
attorney investigate the allegations. (Id. at 4). At
the end of the investigation, the Board's attorney found
that no disciplinary action was required. (Id.). Ms.
Marbury is African-American. (Doc. 48-1 at 172).
Motion to Strike
ask the court to strike Mr. Warren's statement of facts
contained in his summary judgment response brief because Mr.
Warren did not comply with Appendix II of the court's
initial order governing requirements for response briefs.
respect to an opposing party's statement of facts,
Appendix II requires the non-moving party to set forth the
facts in three separate sections: (1) response to
movant's statement of facts; (2) additional undisputed
facts; and (3) additional disputed facts. (Doc. 41 at 17-18).
For each section, the opposing party is to set out the facts
in separately numbered paragraphs with a specific reference
to the evidentiary record. (Id.).
Warren's statement of facts does not conform to the
court's instructions. For example, the section of his
brief titled “Response to Movant's Statement”
provides no citations to the evidentiary record, and the
facts are not set out in separately numbered paragraphs
corresponding to Defendants' undisputed statement of
facts. (See Doc. 53).
also challenge Mr. Warren's “Additional Undisputed
Facts” because they claim that the evidentiary
citations do not support the facts alleged and his
“Additional Disputed Facts” because they claim
they are confused by Mr. Warren's failure to include
these facts in his response to their narrative statement of
undisputed facts. (Doc. 60 at 3-4).
true that Mr. Warren did not strictly comply with the
requirements of Appendix II, the court is hard pressed to
agree with Defendants that they are prejudiced by his failure
to do so. (See Doc. 60 at 4). In their reply brief,
Defendants address each of the alleged deficiencies head on.
(See Doc. 59 at 2-5). Moreover, for purposes of
ruling on the motion for summary judgment, the court has
independently reviewed Mr. Warren's statements of fact,
and to the extent they are not supported by the record, the
court has not considered them as true for purposes of this
the court DENIES Defendants' motion to
Motion for ...