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Perez-Dickson v. Bridgeport Board of Education

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 19, 2016

CARMEN PEREZ-DICKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
BRIDGEPORT BOARD OF EDUCATION, PAUL VALLAS and DR. SANDRA KASE, Defendants.

RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

WARREN W. EGINTON, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Carmen Perez-Dickson alleges that defendants Bridgeport Board of Education ("Board"), Chief Administrative Officer Sandra Kase and Superintendent Paul Vallas discriminated against her on the basis of her race and retaliated against her. Specifically, plaintiff's amended complaint alleges racial discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 against the Board and Dr. Kase; violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 31-51q against the Board; retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 against Dr. Kase, Superintendent Vallas and the Board; retaliation in violation of the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act ("CFEPA") against Dr. Kase and Superintendent Vallas; and racial discrimination in violation CFEPA against Dr. Kase and Superintendent Vallas.

This case was removed from state court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction.

Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment on the third amended complaint, which has been determined by Court Order [doc. #94] to be the operative complaint.[1] For the following reasons, the motion for summary judgment will be granted.

BACKGROUND

The parties have submitted statements of facts with evidentiary materials that reveal the following undisputed facts.[2]

Plaintiff commenced her employment as an administrator with the Bridgeport Board of Education in 1989. At the time relevant to this action, plaintiff served as the Principal of Jetti Tisdale Elementary School in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Prior to filing this action, plaintiff filed a lawsuit in state court against the Bridgeport Board of Education, the former assistant superintendent, and the former acting superintendent alleging that she was subject to a harassment in retaliation for exercise of her constitutional speech rights and in violation of two statutes that prohibited discipline in certain circumstances, and racial discrimination pursuant to Section 1983. Plaintiff prevailed at trial but the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed the verdict. See Perez-Dickson v. City of Bridgeport, 304 Conn. 483 (2012).

On July 9, 2012, Dr. Kase placed plaintiff on paid administrative leave after she learned of two videos taken on the Tisdale School's security cameras. These videos showed plaintiff dealing with students in two incidents.

A video from March 16, 2012 showed plaintiff "sliding" a student out from under a table, grabbing the students's left leg and pulling the student into the hallway. When the student refused to stand up, plaintiff picked the student up and carried her a few steps before putting her down. After the student stood up, plaintiff walked behind the student with a hold on the back of the student's coat. A video from March 23, 2012 showed plaintiff approaching a student who was crawling on top of, and under, couches. When the student refused to stand up and walk with plaintiff, plaintiff held the student by the left arm and slid her down the hallway by the arm.

After reviewing the videos, Dr. Kase notified plaintiff by letter that she was required to discuss the incidents depicted in the two videos at a meeting scheduled for July 9, 2012. Dr. Kase also contacted the Department of Children and Families ("DCF") pursuant to her obligations as a mandated reporter under the Connecticut General Statutes § 17a-101a.

On July 9, 2012, Dr. Kase heard but was not satisfied with plaintiff's explanation of the incidents shown in the two videos. Plaintiff was subsequently placed on a paid administrative leave of absence pending an investigation by the school district and DCF. In a letter dated July 9, 2012, Dr. Kase informed plaintiff that her leave would continue pending an investigation by the DCF and/or the school district.

In a letter dated July 30, 2012, plaintiff wrote to Superintendent Vallas about her administrative leave and the "benign neglect" that caused "minority students" to fail:

The inability of school administrators to effectively handle children who are disciplinary problems adds to the instability of classrooms, the entire school and to the education system in general. All of the organizational changes, budget trimming, and other policy changes that are being put into place will all be in vain if outcomes in the classroom are undermined when ...

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