United States District Court, D. Maryland
RACQUEL JONES on behalf of her minor children a/k/a S.K.1, S.K.2, B.K. and D.K., as custodial parent and legal guardian
PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS, et al.
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge
pending and ready for resolution in this case are the
following motions: a motion for summary judgment filed by
Defendant Imagine Schools Nonprofit, Inc. (“Imagine
Schools”)(ECF No. 33); a motion for summary judgment
filed by Defendants the Board of Education of Prince
George’s County (the “School Board”) and
Danielle Ellis (neé Goddard) (ECF No. 34); and three
motions to seal (ECF Nos. 32; 48; 68). The relevant issues
have been briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being
deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following
reasons, the motions for summary judgment will be granted.
The motions to seal will be denied without prejudice.
otherwise noted, the facts outlined here are undisputed and
construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff Racquel
Jones (“Plaintiff”), who brings this action on
behalf of her minor children. Plaintiff, who has been without
a permanent address for nearly two years, enrolled her four
children at Imagine Lincoln Public Charter School
(“Imagine Lincoln”) in Temple Hills, Maryland, a
charter school operated by Defendant Imagine Schools. (ECF
No. 33-2 ¶¶ 3-6). Imagine Lincoln had a uniform
policy for its students, which, as of the 2012-2013 school
year, requires that girls in sixth through eighth grade and
all boys wear the following:
White short or long sleeve oxford [shirt] with [school] logo
to be worn with Khaki pants, shorts or red/white/blue necktie
and red cardigan, pullover or vest with school logo.
Dress/casual shoes must also be worn at all times (no
athletic shoes worn unless at physical education).
(ECF No. 33-11, at 3). The uniform policy mandates that girls
in kindergarten through fifth grade wear:
White short or long sleeve oxford [shirt] with [school] logo
to be worn with Khaki pants, shorts (no skirts or skorts),
white short or long peter pan blouse worn only with
red/white/blue plaid jumper, red/white/blue cross bow tie and
navy tights. Dress/casual shoes must also be worn at all
times (no athletic shoes unless at physical education).
(Id.). Pursuant to the uniform policy, “[a]ny
student who is partially out of uniform will receive a
uniform demerit. Any student that is missing a major
component of the school uniform will not be admitted and/or
allowed to remain in school.” (Id.). If a
student receives a uniform demerit, he or she “will
face consequences for that particular day the demerit was
Lincoln changed its uniform policy prior to the 2012-2013
school year, requiring students to wear some different
components than were previously required. (ECF No. 33-1
¶¶ 42-43). Imagine Lincoln informed parents about
the uniform policy change on July 16, 2012. (ECF No. 33-12).
Plaintiff received notice of the uniform change because she
used her sister’s home address to receive school
mailings. (See ECF No. 36, at 17-18). Prior to the
start of the 2012-2013 school year, Plaintiff purchased the
required khaki pants for her children. She also purchased
white shirts, but she was unable to afford the required white
shirts with the school logo. (Id. at 22). The
children’s father purchased shoes for the children.
(Id. at 24). Ms. Ellis, Imagine Lincoln’s
principal, offered Plaintiff at least $100.00 in vouchers to
help defray the cost of purchasing the children’s
uniforms. (ECF Nos. 35, at 15-17; 36, at 30). Plaintiff avers
that Ms. Ellis told her that if she could not afford the
uniforms she should consider placing her children in a
different school. (ECF No. 60-1, at 9-10).
the 2012-2013 and the 2013-2014 school years,
Plaintiff’s children received several uniform demerits
for arriving at school without a complete uniform. (ECF Nos.
33-1 ¶¶ 68-79; 59, at 4). Plaintiff contends that,
in punishment for the repeated uniform violations, the
children were placed in a kindergarten or first grade
classroom for one week each school year despite the fact that
the children were all in higher grades at the time.
(See ECF Nos. 37, at 13; 38, at 6; 59, at 4). While
in the lower-grade classrooms, the children were unable to
complete regular school work. (ECF No. 2 ¶ 31).
Plaintiff asserts that her children were “ridiculed,
bullied, and harassed by their classmates for not having on
school uniforms and for being placed in lower grade
classrooms.” (Id. ¶ 30). According to an
affidavit of Janna Parker, a former teacher at Imagine
Lincoln, Ms. Ellis “frequently called Plaintiff
derogatory names and informed other Imagine Lincoln staff
members that she wanted her children out of the
school.” (ECF No. 67-1 ¶ 10).
commenced this action by filing a complaint in the Circuit
Court for Prince George’s County on September 10, 2014.
(ECF No. 2). Defendants Imagine Schools, the School Board,
and Ms. Ellis (collectively, the “Defendants”)
removed the action to this court. (ECF No. 1). The complaint
asserts the following counts: a violation of Plaintiff and
her children’s substantive due process rights under the
Fourteenth Amendment brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against all defendants (Count I); a violation of the Equal
Protection Clause brought under § 1983 against all
defendants (Count II); and a state-law claim of intentional
infliction of emotional distress against Ms. Ellis (Count
III). Defendants answered the complaint (ECF No. 9), and the
parties participated in discovery.
February 11, 2015, the parties filed a joint motion for a
protective order regarding confidentiality of discovery
material in order to prevent the release of personally
identifiable information of Plaintiff’s minor children
and School Board employees. (ECF No. 12). The following day,
the court issued a paperless order granting the
parties’ motion for a protective order. (ECF No. 13).
October 5, Imagine Schools filed its pending motion for
summary judgment (ECF No. 33), as did the School Board and
Ms. Ellis (ECF No. 34). Plaintiff responded to both motions
(ECF Nos. 50; 59), and Defendants replied (ECF Nos. 71; 74).
The parties have also filed three pending motions to seal.
(ECF Nos. 32; 48; 68).
Standard of Review
judgment is appropriate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
Rule 56(a) when there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact, and the moving party is plainly entitled to
judgment in its favor as a matter of law. In Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986), the
Supreme Court of the United States explained that, in
considering a motion for summary judgment, the
“judge’s function is not himself to weigh the
evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to
determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.”
A dispute about a material fact is genuine “if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. at 248.
Thus, “the judge must ask himself ...