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Reeves v. Shawnee State University

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio

March 1, 2017

CORY A. REEVES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SHAWNEE STATE UNIVERSITY, ET AL. DEFENDANTS.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

          SUSAN J. DLOTT United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. 11) filed by Defendants Shawnee State University (“SSU”), Dr. Crystal Sherman, and Dr. Leeann Denning (collectively, “the Shawnee State Defendants”). Plaintiff Cory Reeves filed this suit alleging racial discrimination after he was dismissed from the nursing program at SSU. The Shawnee State Defendants argue that Reeves fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and that the Court lacks jurisdiction as to certain claims. For the reasons that follow, the Court will GRANT IN PART AND DENY IN PART the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Complaint Allegations

         The well-pleaded allegations of fact in the Complaint (Doc. 1) must be taken as true for purposes of the Motion.

         Reeves, a black person, was a nursing student who paid tuition to and attended SSU from 2010 until April 27, 2016, the date he was dismissed from the nursing program. (Id. at PageID 4.)[1] He alleges that he was the only black person in his class. (Id. at PageID 4-5.)

         SSU is a state university which offers bachelor, associate, and nursing degrees and which accepts federal funds. Dr. Sherman, a white person, is the Faculty Coordinator at SSU. Dr. Denning, a white person, is the Chair of the Department of Nursing at SSU. (Id. at PageID 5.) Defendants Frankie Saunders and Josie Wright, both white persons, are nurses for Defendant Southern Ohio Medical Center (“the Medical Center”) and preceptors for SSU's Department of Nursing. (Id. at PageID 5-6.)

         Reeves alleges that Defendants subjected him to intentional racial discrimination in the following instances: (1) he was scolded and mocked by a professor during class in the presence of other students in April 2015; (2) he was ignored when he raised his hand or asked a question in class, but the questions of white students were answered; (3) he was not permitted to make up required clinical sessions, but white students were permitted to do so, and SSU policy authorizes make-up opportunities; (4) he was delayed or denied access to exams, but white students were permitted access; (5) he was denied supportive transitional instruction given regularly to white students; and (6) he was placed in unfair test environments, while white students took their tests in quiet environments. (Id. at PageID 7-8.)

         Reeves also alleges that he was subjected to discriminatory terms and conditions in his precepted clinical experience, to which white students were not subjected and in violation of SSU's preceptor policy, in the following instances: (1) Dr. Sherman assigned him a preceptor, Nurse Wright, who was going on vacation and training a new hire, such that he could not perform his required hours; (2) Dr. Sherman then assigned him a new preceptor, Nurse Saunders, after a two-week period where he had no preceptor, but Nurse Saunders told him that receiving the assignment was “throwing her under the bus;” (3) he was required to work at the Medical Center for 36 hours per week after Dr. Sherman told him the appropriate number of hours was 24 per week; (4) he was not permitted to do the work expected of a nursing student and that white students were permitted to perform; (5) he was told by Nurse Saunders to sit and study during his precept hours instead of being permitted to perform work normally performed by nursing students; (6) he was accused by Nurse Saunders of making mistakes he did not make; and (7) he was made to look incompetent by Nurse Saunders. (Id. at PageID 9-10.)

         Reeves was dismissed from the nursing program at SSU on or about April 28, 2016, before completion of the precepted experience and one week prior to his expected graduation. (Id. at PageID 11.) He alleges he was dismissed based on false reports of poor performance by “defendants [sic] agents, ” including Nurse Saunders and Nurse Wright. He further alleges that white nursing students were treated more favorably, including by being re-trained and permitted to repeat areas in which performance was below standard. (Id.) He alleges that he complained about the illegal and inappropriate conduct to University officials, including to Dr. Denning and Dr. Sherman, but that no action was taken to address his complaints. (Id. at PageID 12.) He alleges that Dr. Sherman, Dr. Denning, and SSU upheld his dismissal despite knowing it was unwarranted. (Id.)

         B. Procedural Posture

         Reeves initiated this action against the Shawnee State Defendants, the Medical Center, Nurse Saunders, and Nurse Wright on July 21, 2016. He asserts five broadly-worded claims:

(1) Denial of equal protection against all Defendants;
(2) Race discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 against all Defendants;
(3) Race discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against SSU, the Medical Center, and Dr. Sherman;
(4) Discrimination by recipient of federal funds in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000d against SSU;
(5) Discrimination in violation of Ohio Revised Code Chapter 4112 against all Defendants; and
(6) Intentional infliction of emotional distress against all Defendants.

         (Doc.1 at PageID 7-16.) He asserts the claims against Dr. Sherman, Dr. Denning, Nurse Saunders, and Nurse Wright in both their official and individual capacities. (Id. at 5-6.) Reeves seeks to recover compensatory damages, punitive damages, “injunctive relief in the form of reinstatement to the nursing program, completion of his course and graduation[, ]” and attorney fees. (Id. at PageID 16-17.)

         The Shawnee State Defendants filed an Answer denying liability on September 19, 2016. (Doc. 4.) The Medical Center, Nurse Sherman, and Nurse Wright filed their Joint Answer denying liability the next day. (Doc. 6.)

         The Shawnee State Defendants filed the pending Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on October 27, 2016. Reeves requests in his Memorandum in Opposition that he be given the opportunity to amend the Complaint in lieu of dismissal if the Court finds that he inadequately pleaded his claims. However, Reeves has not filed a separate motion for leave to file an amended complaint nor has he submitted a proposed amended complaint for the Court's consideration.

         II. STANDARD FOR MOTIONS FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

         Rule 12(c) permits a party to move for judgment on the pleadings. The legal standard for adjudicating a Rule 12(c) motion is the same as that for adjudicating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Lindsay v. Yates, 498 F.3d 434, 437 n.5 (6th Cir. 2007). Rule 12(b)(6) permits a party to move for dismissal for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a district court “must read all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true.” Weiner v. Klais and Co., Inc., 108 F.3d 86, 88 (6th Cir. 1997). However, this tenet is inapplicable to legal conclusions and legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         To withstand a dismissal motion, the complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, ” but it must contain “more than labels and conclusions [or] a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. The Court does not require “heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the ...


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