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Jones v. Bethel Park School District

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

December 31, 2019

LISA JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
BETHEL PARK SCHOOL DISTRICT And JOSEPH PASQUERILLA Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Marilyn J. Horan United States District Court Judge.

         In this civil rights employment discrimination action, Plaintiff Lisa Jones sue Defendants Joseph Pasquerilla and the Bethel Park School District. Am. Compl. ECF No. 14. Plaintiff asserts two claims. In Count I, Plaintiff alleges a Fourteenth Amendment Due Process claim, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against both Defendants. In Count II, she asserts an Age Discrimination in Employment Act claim against the Bethel Park School District. Plaintiff initially filed a Complaint on June 17, 2019. ECF No. 1. Defendants filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss on July 19, 2019. ECF No. 12. In response, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, rendering the Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss moot. ECF No. 14. filed Pending before the Court is the Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint Pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(7) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ECF No. 15. For the reasons that follow, the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Lisa Jones began working as a long-term substitute teacher for the Bethel Park School District during the 1999-2000 school year. Am. Compl. ¶ 7. She was hired as a full-time elementary gifted education for the 2000-2001 school year, working in that position until 2011 when she began working as a full-time kindergarten teacher. Id. at ¶¶ 7-9. In 2011, the Bethel Park School District underwent a reorganization pursuant to 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 11-1124. Id. at ¶ 10. Pursuant to the reorganization, and unrelated to her performance, Plaintiff was demoted to part-time professional employee status. Id. Plaintiff did not contest the demotion. Id.

         Since her demotion, Plaintiff alleges that Bethel Park School District engaged in a variety of methods to fill full-time positions with less senior teachers for which Plaintiff was properly certified. Id. at ¶¶ 19, 21. The Bethel Park School District has, in part, filled full-time positions without posting the vacancy or advising Plaintiff of the open position. Id. at ¶ 21. The Bethel Park School District changed their method of filling full-time positions for the 2018-2019 school year and began posting vacancies. Id. at ¶¶ 27-28. Plaintiff applied for one such position available in the same building where she worked. Id. at ¶ 29. A younger, less senior person was appointed to the position instead of Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff challenged the decision, asserting that the Bethel Park School District violated 24 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 11-1125.1. Id. at ¶ 30. Plaintiff requested a hearing, which was denied. Id.

         Thereafter, the Bethel Park School District reverted to a method of filling full-time positions that, in one fashion or another, bypassed Plaintiff for certain open full-time positions, which were filled by persons with less seniority than Plaintiff. Id. at ¶¶ 31, 33-35. The Bethel Park School District failed to provide Plaintiff with notice of the reasons she was not being offered an opportunity to fill open positions, or an opportunity to be heard. Id. at ¶ 36. Plaintiff alleges that Joseph Pasquerilla, the Superintendent of the Bethel Park School District, designed and effectuated the practice and policy followed by the Bethel Park School District, with the intention of denying Plaintiff notice and the opportunity to be heard on her entitlement to her protected property interest in a full-time teaching position. Id. at ¶ 37.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In accordance with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A pleading may be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive such a motion to dismiss, the short and plain statement of the claim must contain sufficient factual allegations “to raise a right of relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, to state a claim, the complaint must contain enough factual matter, taken as true, to show that the claim is plausible. Id. at 556. Stated differently, a claim is facially plausible when the pleading contains sufficient facts to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the conduct alleged. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The Supreme Court clarified that this plausibility standard should not be conflated with a higher probability standard. Id.

         The reviewing court must undertake a three-step analysis to determine if a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss. Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016). First, the court must identify the elements necessary to state the claim. Id. Second, it must ignore pure legal conclusions, and it need not accept “unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences.” Id.; Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d 160, 165 (3d Cir. 2013). Finally, with the well-pleaded facts remaining, it must “determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Connelly, 809 F.3d at 787 (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676). The plausibility of the well-pleaded facts is judged using the court's “judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss is solely directed to Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment Due Process claim, Count I. ECF No. 72. Defendants argue that Count I must be dismissed because Plaintiff failed to complete the relevant Collective Bargaining Agreement grievance procedure requiring arbitration. Defendants also argue that Count I should be dismissed for failure to join a necessary party under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19. Finally, because Plaintiff sues Mr. Pasquerilla in his individual capacity only, Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss Count I asserted against Joseph Pasquerilla in his official capacity is moot.

         A. Failure to follow Grievance Procedure

         Defendants rely on Alvin v. Suzuki, 227 F.3d 107 (3d Cir. 2000), in arguing that Count I should be dismissed. However, Plaintiff seeks redress for the Bethel Park School District's failure to provide her with a hearing prior to appointing other persons to a teaching position. Plaintiff asserts that she had a constitutionally protected property interest in a teaching position. The failure to provide a pre-deprivation hearing in such circumstances, gives rise to a separate due process claim, regardless of available post-deprivation procedures. Schmidt v. Creedon, 639 F.3d 587, 597 (3d Cir. 2011). Thus, Plaintiff has properly stated a Fourteenth Amended Due Process claim in Count I, and Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss is DENIED.

         B. ...


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