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Black v. Columbus Public Schools

August 17, 2006

MARIE L. BLACK, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COLUMBUS PUBLIC SCHOOLS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Holschuh

Magistrate Judge Kemp

Memorandum Opinion and Order

Plaintiff Marie Black brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Defendant Columbus Public Schools violated her rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.*fn1 This matter is before the Court on Defendant's motion for leave to file a supplemental motion for summary judgment instanter (Doc. # 152), as amended (Doc. # 158), and on Defendant's motion to stay the case schedule pending a decision on its motion for leave to file its supplemental motion for summary judgment instanter. (Doc. # 153).

I. Background

A. Facts

Plaintiff began her career with Columbus Public Schools in 1965. From 1987 to 1992, Plaintiff served as Assistant Principal at Mifflin Alternative Middle School ("Mifflin AMS"). (Deposition of Marie L. Black (May 23, 1997) at pp. 28, 57). During Plaintiff's tenure as Assistant Principal, Mifflin AMS' Principal was Stephen Tankovich. (Id. at p. 28). Plaintiff alleges that, during the 1990-91 school year, an affair began between Tankovich and a parent volunteer, Cynthia Stanley, that rendered the school office a sexually charged environment and unreasonably interfered with Plaintiff's work performance.*fn2 (Black Dep. at pp. 25, 34). The alleged affair apparently took place on school grounds and, at least to some extent, during school hours. (Id. at pp. 49-50).

In the Spring of 1991, Plaintiff reported the rumored affair, as well as its effects on Plaintiff's job duties, to Mifflin AMS' Community of Schools Leader ("COSL") Maurice Blake.*fn3

(Black Dep. at p. 32). Plaintiff and Blake discussed the alleged affair, Tankovich's unavailability during school hours, and the resulting effect on Plaintiff's disciplinary responsibilities. (Id. at p. 37; Blake Dep. at pp. 32, 58). In response to Plaintiff's concerns, Blake investigated the matter further and found that Plaintiff was handling an "inordinate amount" of the school's disciplinary matters. (Blake Dep. at p. 24).

Blake discussed Plaintiff's concerns with Tankovich on two occasions. (Id. at p. 43). During one of the meetings, Blake discussed Tankovich's unavailability and Plaintiff's complaint that she was shouldering too much disciplinary responsibility. (Id. at pp. 39, 44). Blake instructed Tankovich to be sure that the time he spent with Stanley did not interfere with his duties as Principal and recommended that Tankovich reduce the amount of time Plaintiff spent with respect to discipline. (Id. at pp. 24-25, 39). Tankovich assured Blake that Stanley would not interfere with his duties as Principal and assigned support staff to assist Plaintiff with her disciplinary duties. (Id. at p. 39; Tankovich Dep. at p. 18).

On another occasion, Blake met with Tankovich to discuss the alleged affair. (Blake Dep. at p. 44). Blake testified that he felt obligated to speak with Tankovich about the alleged affair because it was a "serious issue" and, if true, could have an impact on the school's "image" and "work environment." (Id. at pp. 49-50). Tankovich denied having an affair with Stanley. (Id. at p. 44). Blake also met with Stanley to discuss the alleged affair, and she too denied the allegation. (Id. at p. 47).

In the spring of 1992, Plaintiff received notice that she was being transferred, effective for the 1992-93 school year, to Yorktown Middle School ("Yorktown"), where she would serve as the Assistant Principal. (Black Dep. at p. 57; Blake Dep. at p. 55-57). Plaintiff, however, indicated that she was not interested in a transfer to Yorktown. (Black Dep. at p. 59; Blake Dep. at p. 57). In fact, Plaintiff had previously been offered and declined two similar transfers and had informed Blake that she was interested in a promotion, not a lateral transfer (Black Dep. at p. 59; Blake Dep. at p. 56). Nevertheless, Plaintiff was transferred to Yorktown. (Blake Dep. at p. 57).

Plaintiff asserts that her transfer to Yorktown was a retaliatory demotion. First, Yorktown was not an alternative school, as was Mifflin AMS, and thus was considered to be less prestigious. Plaintiff also argues that her talents and background in foreign language education made her particularly well-suited to serve as Assistant Principal at Mifflin AMS because the school had a foreign language and international studies focus.

Second, Plaintiff argues that her transfer to Yorktown was a retaliatory demotion because of a conversation she allegedly had with Blake regarding her transfer. According to Plaintiff, Blake informed her that she would be transferred, and then said, "you've been talking to everybody about what was going on over here . . . [i]t's too bad you didn't talk loud enough." (Black Dep. at pp. 58, 64-65).

Defendant asserts that Plaintiff was transferred to Yorktown because the school had an open position for which Plaintiff was qualified and because the position's duties would accommodate her concerns about student discipline. At a COSL meeting, Gregory Waddell, the COSL for Yorktown, announced that he needed to fill the Yorktown position with an experienced administrator who was a black female and preferably had a "strong curriculum background." (Deposition of Gregory Waddell at p. 17). Blake recommended Plaintiff for the position because he thought the duties of the position better ...


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