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Bowman v. Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 24, 2016

YOLANDA BOWMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
BALTIMORE CITY BOARD OF SCHOOL COMMISSIONERS, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge

Plaintiff Yolanda Bowman (“Plaintiff” or “Bowman”) has brought this action against Defendant Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners (“Defendant” or “the Board”), alleging retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (“Title VII” and/or “Count One”) and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, §§ 42 U.S.C. 2000d-7 et seq. (“Title VI” and/or “Count Two”). Currently pending before this Court is Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 4). The parties’ submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons stated herein, Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 4), construed as a Motion to Dismiss, is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

This Court accepts as true the facts alleged in the plaintiffs’ complaint. See Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff Yolanda Bowman (“Bowman”) alleges the following:

In October 2012, Bowman was hired to work as a fifth grade language arts teacher within the Baltimore City Public School system. Compl. ¶ 10, ECF No. 1. Bowman is an African American woman in her forties and is a certified special education teacher with more than twenty years of teaching experience. Id. ¶¶ 7-8. She was initially assigned to William Paca Elementary School, where she received a “satisfactory” rating on her annual job performance evaluation for the 2012-2013 school year. Id. ¶¶ 11-12.[1]

In August 2013, Bowman was transferred to Mary E. Rodman Elementary School (“Rodman”) where she again taught fifth grade. Id. ¶¶ 13-14. Rodman is within the Baltimore City Public School system and encompasses students from Pre-Kindergarten to fifth grade. Id. ¶¶ 14, 17. Bowman alleges that in 2014, approximately 240 students enrolled at Rodman and the student body was “approximately one hundred percent” African American. Id. ¶¶ 17-18. Bowman also contends that the teachers at Rodman consisted of both African American and Caucasian individuals. Id. ¶ 19.

During the 2013-2014 school year, Bowman was a Team Leader and assisted other teachers with school-related tasks. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. Bowman also led the Performing Arts Club, which organized student performances during that school year. Id. ¶ 27. On her 2013-2014 annual performance evaluation, Bowman received an “effective” rating. Id. ¶ 25. Bowman asserts that Rodman’s Principal Michelle Broom (“Broom”), who is African American, sent teachers to her room to observe her teaching techniques, and brought the State Superintendent to Bowman’s classroom for this purpose. Id. ¶¶ 22, 24.

At the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, Bowman contends that Broom asked her to organize student activities. Id. ¶ 28. Bowman volunteered to run the After School Club, career program (“CAP Club”), Performing Arts Club, Student Counsel, Prison Pen Pal program, and School and Family Counsel. Id. ¶ 29. Bowman alleges that she discussed these activities with Broom, and in August 2014, Broom encouraged her to get the activities started. Id. ¶¶ 30-31. Bowman was again a Team Leader during this school year and alleges that Broom continued to send teachers to her classroom to observe her teaching techniques. Id. ¶¶ 32-33.

At the beginning of the academic year, Bowman states that she noticed Rodman’s seven Caucasian teachers had significantly fewer students than the three African American teachers. Id. ¶ 34. Bowman alleges that the African American teachers were assigned forty or more students, while the Caucasian teachers generally had fewer than twenty-five students. Id. ¶¶ 35-36. Bowman, along with the other African American teachers, allegedly complained about having too many students assigned to their classes. Id. ¶ 37. Bowman complained to school administrators during the weekly team meetings, including to the Staff Developer, Michelle Goosby (“Goosby”). Id. ¶ 38. Bowman felt the class size was too large to control and detrimental to the students. Id. ¶¶ 39-42.

Bowman also alleges that Broom engaged in discriminatory behavior toward African American employees, faculty, and staff at Rodman. Id. ¶¶ 43-46. Bowman contends that Broom made disparaging remarks about African American employees at staff meetings and criticized them in public. Id. ¶ 44. Furthermore, Bowman alleges that Broom did not engage in this behavior towards Rodman’s Caucasian teachers. Id. ¶ 45. Other African American teachers allegedly complained to Bowman about Broom’s discriminatory treatment. Id. ¶ 45.

During September 2014, Bowman again complained to Broom about her large classroom size, stating, “It is not fair that every other day I am getting observed with so many students.” Id. ¶¶ 47-48. On October 4, 2014, Bowman sent an e-mail to Broom stating that her classroom size was too big. Id. ¶ 49. Bowman alleges that Broom either did not respond to her complaints or told Bowman that “you can handle it.” Id. ¶ 50. Bowman also complained to Baltimore City Public Schools’ Support Networks Office, but her class size was not reduced. Id. ¶¶ 51-52.

On October 13, 2014, Broom assigned another teacher to the fourth grade, which was previously assigned to Kristi Tousignant (“Tousignant”), a Caucasian. Id. ¶ 53. Bowman alleges that the addition of a new teacher decreased Tousignant’s workload by half, but similar action was not taken to decrease Bowman’s workload. Id. ¶ 54-55. Later that day, Bowman complained to Broom that “Departmentalization wasn’t even considered to decrease my load. Why was Tousignant given relief? This is discrimination.” Id. ¶ 56. Bowman alleges that Broom retaliated against her complaints by not responding to Bowman, becoming antagonistic, and questioning her performance without providing specific criticisms. Id. ¶¶ 57-60. At the end of October 2014, Bowman claims that Broom discontinued sending teachers to Bowman’s class to observe her teaching techniques and reassigned her Team Leader duties to other teachers. Id. ¶¶ 62-63. Bowman continued to have forty students in her classroom throughout the remainder of the academic year. Id. ¶ 64.

On January 5, 2015, Bowman was placed on administrative leave, and then on February 5, 2015, suspended without pay for alleged misconduct. Id. ¶¶ 65-66. Bowman filed a timely complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Id. ¶ 6. On February 5, 2015, the EEOC dismissed the charge and instead, issued a Notice of Right to Sue Letter. Id. On May 1, 2015, the Board did not renew her teaching contract.[2]

Plaintiff has filed the subject Complaint (ECF No. 1) claiming retaliation in violation of Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Specifically, Bowman alleges that the Board engaged in discriminatory behavior by assigning significantly fewer students to Caucasian teachers than African American teachers. The Board allegedly retaliated against her after she complained about the purported racial discrimination by removing her Team Leader duties, questioning her job performance, maintaining the same number of ...


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