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Walter v. Cumberland Valley School Dist.

June 10, 2010

JEANNE WALTER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CUMBERLAND VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT, WILLIAM E. HARNER, MICHELLE ZETTLEMOYER, FRANCES CAROTHERS, KAYE WISHARD, HAROLD BRICKER, JOHN GALLAGHER, AND LYNETTE SNYDER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. John E. Jones III

MEMORANDUM

THE BACKGROUND OF THIS MEMORANDUM IS AS FOLLOWS:

Pending before the Court is the Defendants'*fn1 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment ("the Motion") (Doc. 50) filed on February 2, 2010. Despite being granted an extension of time within which to do so, Plaintiff Jeanne Walter ("Plaintiff" or "Walter") has not opposed the Defendants' Motion, thus we shall deem the Motion as unopposed pursuant to Local Rule 7.6. Accordingly, the Motion is ripe for our review.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff initiated this action, through counsel, on August 23, 2008 by filing a Complaint. (Doc. 1). Thereafter, on May 21, 2009, the Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint seeking recovery pursuant to the American with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA") and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). (Doc. 21). By Memorandum and Order dated October 21, 2009, we dismissed all of the official capacity claims against the individual Defendants and dismissed all claims for punitive damages against the District. (Doc. 41). Following the close of discovery in this matter, the Defendants filed the instant Motion with supporting brief and exhibits.

On April 2, 2010, Plaintiff filed a motion for extension of time, nunc pro tunc, to file an opposition to the Defendants' Motion. (Doc. 68). By Order dated April 5, 2010, we granted the Plaintiff's Motion and required an opposition brief to be filed by April 12, 2010. (Doc. 69). Despite being granted this extension, Plaintiff never filed an opposition to the Defendants' Motion.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate if the record establishes "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Initially, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant meets this burden by pointing to an absence of evidence supporting an essential element as to which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 325. Once the moving party meets its burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to show that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). An issue is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for the non-moving party, and a factual dispute is "material" only if it might affect the outcome of the action under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc, 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986).

In opposing summary judgment, the non-moving party "may not rely merely on allegations of denials in its own pleadings; rather, its response must ... set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). The non-moving party "cannot rely on unsupported allegations, but must go beyond pleadings and provide some evidence that would show that there exists a genuine issue for trial." Jones v. United Parcel Serv., 214 F.3d 402, 407 (3d Cir. 2000). Arguments made in briefs "are not evidence and cannot by themselves create a factual dispute sufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion." Jersey Cent. Power & Light Co. v. Twp. of Lacey, 772 F.2d 1103, 1109-10 (3d Cir. 1985). However, the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non- moving party. P.N. v. Clementon Bd. of Educ., 442 F.3d 848, 852 (3d Cir. 2006).

Summary judgment should not be granted when there is a disagreement about the facts or the proper inferences that a factfinder could draw from them. Peterson v. Lehigh Valley Dist. Council, 676 F.2d 81, 84 (3d Cir. 1982). Still, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; there must be a genuine issue of material fact to preclude summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48.

III. FACTS*fn2

The Plaintiff was hired by the District in 1974 to teach 9th grade English. (Statement of Uncontested Facts (hereinafter "SF"), 1). The Plaintiff subsequently taught 9th grade English for a period of six years. (SF 2). The Plaintiff has a teaching certification in comprehensive English and is also certified as a Reading Specialist. (SF 3). As a Reading Specialist, pursuant to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, a Reading Specialist Educator may teach English courses in middle grades seven through nine. (SF 4).

In or around 1980, Plaintiff was interviewed and was hired as a District reading teacher. The Plaintiff was responsible for teaching reading skills in grades 9 through 12. (SF 5). The Plaintiff continued in the position of English reading teacher for approximately 15 years. (SF 6).

In or around 1994 or 1995, the Plaintiff was involuntarily transferred to a full-time 10th grade English teacher position. The Plaintiff continued in that position for approximately five to six years. (SF 7).

In 2001, the Plaintiff was transferred to an 11th and 12th grade position wherein she taught English to juniors and seniors at the District High School. (SF 8). In her 30-plus years at the District, the Plaintiff taught 11th and 12th graders full-time for a total of three years. (SF 9).

In April 2004, Allison Rose, an 8th grade teacher at Eagle View Middle School, requested childrearing leave for the upcoming 2004-2005 school year. (SF 10). Now-deceased Superintendent, Dr. Jean Walker, determined that this upcoming vacancy was a "mission critical" position to fill because of the importance of the Pennsylvania State Standardized Assessment ("PSSA") tests in 8th grade. (SF 11). As a result, and after discussing the appropriate people to fill that position, the District involuntarily transferred the Plaintiff to an 8th grade English teacher position at the Eagle View Middle School because of her specific educational background and teaching ability. (SF 12). The sequence and factual background related to the transfer are as follows.

On May 21, 2004, Plaintiff received an email from her supervisor, Dr. Fran Carothers, which indicated that Dr. Carothers wanted to meet with the Plaintiff to discuss a change in her teaching assignment for the 2004-2005 school year. (SF 13). In that email, Dr. Carothers asked Plaintiff to "email me with a time that we can meet." (SF 14). Instead of responding to the email upon its receipt, Plaintiff went directly to Dr. Carothers office to discuss the issue. (SF 15). Dr. Carothers told the Plaintiff that she wanted to talk to her later, however, the Plaintiff insisted that Dr. Carothers tell her immediately about the change in her schedule. (SF 16). Dr. Carothers told Plaintiff that she was going to be transferred to an 8th grade English position at Eagle View Middle School and provided the Plaintiff with a letter from Dr. Harold Bricker. (SF 17).

Plaintiff concedes that the District had the contractual right to involuntarily transfer her to the middle school. (SF 18). Indeed, the Plaintiff was at all times a member of the Cumberland Valley Education Association ("CVEA"), and pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement between the District and the CVEA the District ...


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