United States District Court, D. Maryland
RICHARD D. BENNETT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Yolanda Bowman (“plaintiff” or
“Bowman”), an African-American woman, has filed
this action against defendant the 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 Title
VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, §§ 42 U.S.C.
2000d-7, et seq., (“Title VI”).
Plaintiff was suspended without pay and, later, not re-hired
as a teacher at the Mary E. Rodman Elementary School in
Baltimore, Maryland, after she failed to obtain parental
consent forms from all students who participated in a
“prison pen pal program” through which the
children corresponded with Bowman's husband, an
incarcerated felon. The failure to obtain these consent forms
generated letters of complaint from many parents of her
students. Nevertheless, Bowman alleges that she was suspended
not as a result of the prison pen pal program, but, instead,
in retaliation for her having complained of racial
discrimination at a staff meeting over three months before
her suspension took effect.
pending before this Court is defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment (“Defendant's
Motion”). (ECF No. 20.) The parties' submissions
have been reviewed, and plaintiff has been accorded a period
of discovery in this case. No hearing is necessary. See
Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below,
Defendant's Motion is GRANTED, and Summary Judgment shall
be ENTERED in favor of defendant on both counts.
ruling on a Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court reviews
the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris,
550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007); Hardwick ex rel. Hardwick v.
Heyward, 711 F.3d 426, 433 (4th Cir. 2013).
Yolanda Bowman, an African-American woman, is a certified
special education teacher with over twenty years of teaching
experience. (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 7-8.) In October 2012,
Bowman was hired to work as a fifth grade teacher within the
Baltimore City Public Schools system. (Bowman Depo., ECF No.
20-3 at 4-5.) She was initially assigned to William Paca
Elementary School, but subsequently was transferred to Mary
E. Rodman Elementary School (“Rodman”) for the
2013/14 academic year. (Id.) Michele Broom
(“Broom”), an African-American woman, was the
principal of Rodman throughout Bowman's tenure there.
(Id. at 7.) Nearly all (98%) of the students at
Rodman were also African-American. (Id.)
Bowman's first year at Rodman, she taught the third grade
and had approximately eighteen (18) students in her class.
(ECF No. 20-3 at 6-7.) In her second year at the school, the
2014/15 academic year, Bowman was the only teacher assigned
to teach the fifth grade, with forty-two (42) students in her
class. (Id. at 8, 22.) That same year, a first-year
teacher, Ms. Tousignant, a Caucasian female, was assigned to
teach the fourth grade class. (Id. at 25-26.) It is
undisputed that the inexperienced Ms. Tousignant struggled to
control her students and that Ms. Bowman, with her extensive
teaching background, lent her assistance to Ms. Tousignant.
(Id. at 25-26.)
new teacher joined Rodman during the 2014/15 year, she was
assigned to the fourth grade in order to reduce the number of
students assigned to the struggling Ms. Tousignant.
(Id. at 21-22.) After the fourth grade class was
divided, Ms. Tousignant was responsible for only fifteen
students. (Id.) The number of students assigned to
Ms. Bowman was unchanged. (Id. at 22.) During a
staff meeting held on October 13, 2014, Bowman asserted that
she felt that the reassignment was unfair and that she was
being discriminated against because the school had reduced
the number of students assigned to Ms. Tousignant, a
Caucasian, but not to Ms. Bowman, an African-American.
Bowman testified that she and Principal Broom had a
professional relationship prior to the 2014/15 academic year,
she now alleges that Broom began treating her with tension
and hostility from that start of the school year. (ECF No.
20-3 at 24, 28.) Notwithstanding, it is undisputed that Broom
encouraged Bowman to start extracurricular clubs at the
school. (Id. at 28-29.) Ms. Bowman proposed a
“prison pen pal program, ” through which students
in Bowman's class wrote letters to Bowman's husband
Mr. Price, a convicted felon who has been incarcerated in
federal facilities since 2008 with an expected release date
in 2019. (Id. at 3, 37.) Given the sensitive nature
of this activity, students were required to obtain parental
permission slips before communicating with the inmate.
(Id. at 37.) While some students returned permission
slips, several others did not. (Id. at 37-41.) Even
students who did not return their permission slips
participated in the program. (Id.)
December 2014, Price sent to Bowman and the students a very
personal letter describing the events that led to his
imprisonment and his experience in prison. (ECF No. 20-4.)
Following the receipt of Price's letter, on Saturday,
December 20, 2014, Bowman sent to the parents of her fifth
grade students a text message explaining that as a result of
his correspondence with the students, her husband had been
placed in solitary confinement. The text message stated:
“Greetings Mary E. Rodman Family, This is Ms. Bowman.
First and for most [sic] I want to wish you all a
blessed and favorable Christmas. May all your needs be meet
[sic]. I now have to ask you for a favor. I started
a pen pal program with the students in my class and my
significant other who is incarcerated. Students received
monthly letters which they were excited about and periodic
phone calls which we talked [sic] on speaker.
Permission slips were sent home to avoid confusion. Well, we
spoke to Mr. Price as a class on December 11 and I did not
here [sic] from him again. Last night I received a
letter from him stating that he was placed in solitary
confinement for saying to the students that he was not a nice
guy and that was considered a threat to children. My family
is completely devastated by this especially that this
happening during the holidays. I am writing the prison to
request an immediate investigation and I need your help.
First please talk to your children about correspondences with
Mr. Price and find out for yourself what was said, then
please send me your email address so we can demand an
explination [sic] from the prison. I'm trying to
get 100 letters out my Mon. [sic] morning so my
children can at least speak to there [sic] father on
Christmas. Mr. Price and I were actually trying to do
something positive for our kids as we both move forward in
becoming ministers. Thank you for all you do, and I look
forward to your email addresses. God's favor on your
(ECF No. 20-6.) The following Monday, December 22, 2014,
multiple parents contacted school administrators to express
concern about the unexpected and peculiar text message from
Ms. Bowman and about the prison pen pal program as a whole.
(ECF Nos. 20-8, 20-9.)
Principal Broom and school administrators learned of the
parents' complaints, they contacted the Baltimore City
Public Schools Office of Labor and Relations. (ECF No. 20-8.)
By letter dated January 5, 2015, Jerome Jones, Manager of the
Office of Labor Relations, notified Bowman that she was being
placed on administrative leave with pay pending further
investigation into her activities and a Loudermill
hearing. (ECF No. 20-10.) The Loudermill
hearing was conducted on January 12, 2015. See ECF
No. 20-11. Following the hearing, Dr. Gregory Thornton, Chief
Executive Officer of the Board, recommended that Ms. Bowman
be terminated. (ECF No. 20-12.) By letter dated February 3,
2015, Bowman was placed in a status of suspension without pay
effective February 10, 2015. (ECF No. 20-12.) Despite
Thornton's recommendation, the Board did not terminate
Ms. Bowman's employment immediately, but instead chose
not to renew her teaching contract by letter dated May 1,
2015. (ECF No. 20-13.)
still on administrative leave, on January 29, 2015, Bowman
filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), alleging
retaliation and discrimination based on her race and age.
(ECF No. 25 at 11-14.) Following its investigation, the EEOC
dismissed Bowman's Charge and issued her a Right to Sue
letter on February 5, 2015. (Id. at 3.) On May 5,
2015, Bowman filed a two-count Complaint in this Court
alleging retaliation in violation of Title VI and Title VII.
(ECF No. 1.) Defendant timely moved to dismiss Bowman's
Complaint. (ECF No. 4.) Accepting as true ...