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Dehaney v. Chagnon

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 20, 2017

AMY CHAGNON, et al., Defendants.


          Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Errol Dehaney is incarcerated at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution. He has filed a complaint pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights by defendants Amy Chagnon and Maria Pirro Simmons. Based on my initial review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I conclude that plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed in part, but that the remaining claims should proceed against both defendants.


         The following allegations from plaintiff's complaint are accepted as true only for purposes of the Court's initial review. In early 2015, plaintiff applied for a job as a classroom tutor at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution school. On March 13, 2015, he was assigned to be a tutor in defendant Chagnon's math class. Chagnon taught two math classes each morning and taught one special education student in the afternoon. Doc. #1 at 3 (¶¶ 5-9). From March 2015 to October 2015, plaintiff tutored inmate students during both of the morning classes and performed miscellaneous tasks in the classroom during Chagnon's session with the special education student.

         Plaintiff alleges that during his time as a tutor in Chagnon's classroom, Chagnon repeatedly engaged in inappropriate behavior and made sexual comments to the inmate students in her classes. In addition, plaintiff alleges that Chagnon had a close relationship that was sexual in nature with one student in particular. The other students in the classes became upset because Chagnon favored this particular student and allowed him special privileges. Chagnon also flirted with other students, besides the student with whom she allegedly had a relationship. Chagnon's conduct created tension and jealousy within the group.

         Students often behaved disrespectfully towards Chagnon, but she refused to discipline them because she did not want them to tell the school principal, defendant Pirro, about her inappropriate behavior. Chagnon had informed plaintiff in late March 2015 that she had an ongoing conflict with Pirro. Id. at 6 (¶ 30). Multiple students voiced their frustrations about Chagnon's unfair treatment of them and threatened to stop coming to class. Chagnon repeatedly relied on plaintiff to convince these students to continue coming to class and not to report Chagnon's inappropriate behavior to Pirro. Chagnon also required plaintiff to do various school-related projects for her, including preparing lessons for her to use in the classroom.

         In October 2015, plaintiff learned that Pirro would be leaving and a new principal would be taking her place. Id. at 26 (¶ 137). On October 23, 2015, Chagnon told plaintiff that she could “do without a tutor” and suggested that plaintiff apply to work for another teacher. When plaintiff asked Chagnon if she was dissatisfied with his work performance, she responded that he was an “excellent worker” and that she would write him an “excellent” performance evaluation. Plaintiff suspected that Chagnon's decision was motivated by her desire not to teach afternoon classes. Chagnon was the only teacher with an assigned tutor who did not have to teach full classes in both the morning and the afternoon. Now that a new principal was starting, Chagnon likely feared that if she continued to have a tutor, the new principal might force her to teach afternoon classes. Id. at 28 (¶ 144).

         On October 25, 2015, plaintiff wrote to another teacher requesting to be assigned as that teacher's tutor. Plaintiff also wrote to Chagnon asking for her help in getting reassigned. On October 26, 2015, plaintiff spoke to his unit counselor, Counselor Grant, about his work situation and his need for a new tutoring assignment. On October 27, 2015, plaintiff conveyed this same information to his unit manager, Captain Black. Plaintiff also asked Captain Black to speak with Pirro regarding his reassignment to a new tutoring position. That same day, plaintiff wrote to Pirro directly and asked to be reassigned as a tutor for another teacher. Id. at 29-30 (¶¶ 146-51).

         On October 28, 2015, prison officials transferred plaintiff to the University of Connecticut for scheduled medical treatment. For several days following his visit to the University of Connecticut, plaintiff remained in the medical unit at MacDougall-Walker. Id. at 29 (¶ 148).

         On November 4, 2015, Captain Black informed plaintiff that he had spoken to Pirro. Pirro had indicated to Black that she disliked that Chagnon had arranged for plaintiff to do her job for her by “teaching at the board, ” but that she did not have a problem with plaintiff himself. Captain Black indicated that plaintiff would not be fired unless he received an unfavorable work report. Plaintiff then made a complaint to Captain Black about Chagnon's misconduct and inappropriate behavior. Captain Black indicated that he would talk to Chagnon. Id. at 30 (¶ 153).

         Later that day, after speaking to Captain Black, Chagnon issued plaintiff an unfavorable work evaluation. She gave him a rating of “fair” and included a comment stating that plaintiff had a conflict of interest. When Chagnon asked plaintiff to sign the evaluation, plaintiff refused, because he did not agree with it. Plaintiff asserts that throughout his time as a tutor, he worked diligently, followed Chagnon's instructions, and was successful in helping students grasp the material. Pirro later signed off on the unfavorable evaluation. Id. at 30-31 (¶ 154-56).

         After seeing the evaluation, plaintiff wrote to Pirro and accused her of conspiring with Chagnon to retaliate against him. Plaintiff asked to have the evaluation expunged and to be assigned as a tutor to another teacher. Pirro did not respond. Plaintiff reported defendants' conduct to Captain Black. Id. at 31 (¶¶ 156-58).

         By December 3, 2015, Pirro had been replaced by the new principal, Principal Beaulieu. Plaintiff told Beaulieu about his situation. He informed her that he had written twice to Pirro and several times to Beaulieu but had received no response. Beaulieu directed plaintiff to Superintendent Holly, who told plaintiff that Chagnon had decided she did not need a tutor, that there was no malice involved in plaintiff's removal as Chagnon's tutor, and that plaintiff could send a letter to the school or principal seeking to become a tutor again. Id. at 32 (¶¶ 163-64).

         On December 7, 2015, plaintiff wrote to Beaulieu and sought a tutoring assignment with another teacher. In his letter, he discussed the experience, skills, passion, and successful track record that he would bring to a tutoring position. He also sent a copy of the letter to Holly. Id. at 32-33 (ΒΆ 165). Despite this letter and ...

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