Dawkins v. Richmond County Schools (Lawyers Weekly No. 12-03-0523, 16 pp.) (L. Patrick Auld, USMJ) 1:12-cv-00414; M.D.N.C.
Holding: Plaintiff alleges that he was let go from his teaching position because, according to a school administrator, the defendant-principal “had a problem with” plaintiff’s sexual orientation. This allegation is sufficient to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
Plaintiff may proceed in forma pauperis as to the defendant-principal. If he wishes to proceed under Title VII or against the defendant-school district, he must amend his complaint.
The Equal Protection Clause keeps governmental decisionmakers from treating differently persons who are alike in all relevant respects.
Because plaintiff has come forward with factual allegations, which suffice to support an inference that the principal singled plaintiff out from others similarly situated (i.e., competent teachers) and subjected plaintiff to adverse action
(i.e., non-renewal of his teaching contract at the principal’s school and/or interference with plaintiff’s attempt to obtain another position with the defendant-school system) due to plaintiff’s sexual orientation, plaintiff’s claim can proceed beyond preliminary screening unless the court must conclude, as a matter of law, that the principal’s alleged action bore a rational connection to a legitimate governmental interest.
The court cannot make that determination at this juncture.
With regard to plaintiff’s other potential claims, Title VII does not prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
To the extent the complaint alleges employment discrimination based on “sex”, it does so only in a conculsory fashion without factual allegations that would support an inference that plaintiff suffered adverse employment action because he is male. Therefore, the complaint fails to state a claim of sex discrimination under either Title VII or § 1983.
As for the defendant-school system, in order to hold a local government entity liable for a constitutional violation under § 1983, a plaintiff must show that the execution of a policy or custom of the [local government entity] caused the violation.” The complaint fails to allege that the school system had a policy or custom that authorized discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, much less to identify factual matter that would support such a general allegation.
The complaint also does not assert that the school system allowed its principals to set policy regarding what personal characteristics, such as sexual orientation, could be considered in making employment decisions.
Furthermore, the school system is not liable for decisions committed to a principal’s discretion because there is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983. Plaintiff must demonstrate that the school system was aware of the alleged constitutional violation and either participated in, or otherwise condoned, it. The complaint does not allege sufficient factual matter to warrant such a conclusion.
In sum, the complaint lacks factual allegations that would support a §1983 claim against the school system.
Plaintiff’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis is granted.