United States District Court, D. Maryland
HOPE E. LEE-THOMAS
PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS, et al.
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pending and ready for resolution is the motion for summary
judgment filed by Defendant Board of Education of Prince
George's County (“Defendant” or “the
Board”). (ECF No. 41). The issues have been fully
briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed
necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the
motion for summary judgment will be denied.
Hope E. Lee-Thomas (“Plaintiff”) suffers from a
hearing impairment, chronic vertigo, and carpal tunnel
syndrome. (ECF No. 41-2, at 23, 25). She has been a
Paraprofessional at Andrew Jackson Academy, a school in the
Prince George's County Public Schools system
(“PGCPS”), since March 25, 2014. (ECF No. 41-8,
at 1-2). Prior to her current placement, Plaintiff had worked
for Defendant at other PGCPS schools and had previously
notified Defendant of her need for accommodations for her
disabilities. (ECF No. 43, at 3).
19, 2014, Plaintiff filed a formal request for a disability
accommodation. (ECF No. 41-2, at 21-24). These requests are
referred to as “4172” requests within PGCPS
because the Board's processes related to disability
accommodations are described in a formal policy called
Administrative Procedure 4172. (See Id. at 14). In
her 4172 request, Plaintiff asked for: (1) an upright support
chair, (2) handrails in both adult bathrooms, (3) an
amplified, flashing telephone in her classroom, (4) a
portable loop system in her classroom, (5) a portable loop
system in the multi-purpose room, and (6) an American Sign
Language (“ASL”) interpreter or a Communications
Access Realtime Translation (“CART”) system for
any meetings, programs, or workshops held outside of these
two rooms. (Id. at 21). On May 30, Elizabeth Davis,
PGCPS's Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”)
Compliance Officer, responded by including Plaintiff on an
email to another PGCPS employee asking him to set a time to
“fit” her for an ergonomic chair. (ECF No. 43-1,
at 40). Defendant did not contact Plaintiff about any of the
other requested accommodations before the end of the school
year on June 18. (ECF Nos. 41-2, at 37; 43, at 4; 44-1, at
absence of any further information about her requested
accommodations, Plaintiff submitted a charge of
discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”), which was received on July
16. (ECF No. 41-3). That same month, Amana Simmons had taken
over as the EEO Compliance Officer for PGCPS. (ECF No. 41-2,
at 1). On the same day that Plaintiff filed her EEOC charge,
Ms. Simmons contacted Plaintiff to determine whether she had
received the accommodations she sought in her 4172 request.
(Id. at 3). Plaintiff notified Ms. Simmons of her
pending EEOC charge, and no further action was taken during
the summer vacation to provide Plaintiff with the requested
she returned to work for the new school year on August 18,
Plaintiff contacted Ms. Simmons about her 4172 request. When
Ms. Simmons attempted to set up a meeting, Plaintiff refused
to meet without her union representative, who was out of town
for the week. (Id.). The next day, Plaintiff
notified Ms. Simmons that she was having trouble
understanding the material presented during a Professional
Development workshop held in the multi-purpose room, which
had not been outfitted with a portable loop system as
Plaintiff had requested. (Id. at 3-4). Defendant had
provided two ASL interpreters for the workshop. Plaintiff,
however, is not fluent in ASL and relies on reading the lips
of interpreters, and the interpreters at the training were
not mouthing the words. (Id. at 4). When no ASL
interpreter was present at a training on August 20,
Plaintiff's principal, Veronica Richardson, allowed her
to leave the training. (Id. at 30-36).
email dated August 21, Ms. Simmons told Plaintiff that she
had obtained Plaintiff's classroom assignment from Dr.
Richardson, and that: (1) a portable loop system would be
installed in her classroom, (2) Dr. Richardson had relieved
her of the obligation to attend meetings in the multi-purpose
room, (3) a technology support employee would ensure that her
telephone had blinking lights, (4) there was already a
handrail installed in the bathroom closest to her classroom,
(5) Ms. Simmons was submitting a work order to have a
handrail installed in one of the bathrooms in the office, and
(6) they were still determining the status and location of
the ergonomic chair that Plaintiff had been fitted for in
May. (Id. at 31). Plaintiff and Ms. Simmons met to
follow up on these accommodations on September 4.
(Id. at 38). At the meeting, Ms. Simmons confirmed
that there was a blinking light on Plaintiff's telephone,
that the portable loop system would be installed in her
classroom, and that a new ergonomic chair would be ordered
and delivered. Although a handrail had already been installed
in the women's faculty bathroom, Ms. Simmons agreed that
Defendant would install a handrail in the men's faculty
bathroom “in the event that she needs to use the
men's restroom.” Plaintiff's requests to have a
loop system installed in the multipurpose room or to use CART
were still “being evaluated” after the meeting.
(Id.). On September 9, the loop system was installed
in Plaintiff's classroom. (Id. at 39). On
November 21, she received the ergonomic chair. (ECF No. 43-2,
January 29, 2015, the EEOC issued Plaintiff a right to sue
notice on her 2014 charge. (ECF No. 41-4). On February 27,
Plaintiff filed an updated charge with the EEOC. (ECF No.
41-5). Where her 2014 charge complained only about her
requests for a portable loop system and an amplified,
flashing-light telephone (ECF No. 41-3), Plaintiff's 2015
charge also included her requests for handrails, an upright
chair, an ASL interpreter, CART, and a portable loop system
for the multipurpose room (ECF No. 41-5). The EEOC responded
by reopening its investigation and revoking its right to sue
notice. (ECF No. 41-6). On April 20, the EEOC issued a right
to sue notice for Plaintiff's updated charge. (ECF No.
2015, Ms. Simmons and Plaintiff again began to discuss the
Board's responses to Plaintiff's requests for
accommodation. (ECF No. 41-2, at 5, 40). As part of these
discussions, Ms. Simmons told Plaintiff that the school's
building engineers had advised her that it was not feasible
to install a portable loop system in the multi-purpose room.
(Id. at 42). Instead, ASL interpreters would be
provided if and when Plaintiff “desire[d] to attend
special programs or other meetings” in that room.
(Id.). Ms. Simmons further stated that CART was
still being evaluated. (Id.). Plaintiff met with Ms.
Simmons again on June 16 and recapped these issues before the
summer break. (Id. at 6-7).
filed her complaint in this court on July 9, 2015, alleging
violations of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 791,
et seq., and the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.
(ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 14-17). Defendant filed a motion to
dismiss on October 26. (ECF No. 13). Plaintiff responded and
filed an amended complaint. (ECF Nos. 16; 16-1; 20).
Defendant consented to Plaintiff amending her complaint,
withdrew its motion to dismiss, and filed its answer on
December 7. (ECF Nos. 17; 18). After ...