United States District Court, D. Maryland
DR. AKEDA PEARSON
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, et al.
Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge.
plaintiff, Dr. Akeda Pearson, has sued four defendants-the
Board of Education of Anne Arundel County (the Board),
George Arlotto, Mamie Perkins, and Arlen Liverman- claiming
that they violated Title VI and Title VII by racially
discriminating and retaliating against her. The three
individual defendants have moved to dismiss Pearson's
complaint claiming Title VI and Title VII do not impose
liability on individuals and because, even if they did, the
complaint fails to state a plausible claim for employment
discrimination and retaliation. Pearson, for her part, has
filed a motion to amend her complaint, (ECF No. 13), and two
motions for court appointed counsel, (ECF Nos. 12, 27). For
the reasons stated below, the court will grant the
defendants' motions to dismiss as to claims asserted
against Arlotto, Liverman, and Perkins in their individual
capacity, and the plaintiff's motion to amend her
complaint. The plaintiff's motions for court
appointed counsel, however, will be denied.
suit arises out of the dissolution of the Office of Equity
and Human Relations (“OEHR”), an office within
the Anne Arundel County school system. Dr. Akeda Pearson, an
African-American, was hired by OEHR as a School Community
Engagement Liaison in January 2011. (Am. Compl. ¶ 10).
The OEHR was responsible for “identifying and
correcting the racial, discipline, and academic disparities
in education and the unfair treatment of African American
students in Anne Arundel County Maryland School
System.” (Id. at ¶ 12). Pearson received
consistently positive performance evaluations, according to
the complaint. (Id. at ¶ 16).
in May 2014, Pearson was informed, at a meeting attended by
the defendants Mamie Perkins, who also is African American,
Arlen Liverman, and George Arlotto, that OEHR would be
dissolved. (Id. at ¶ 18). The Board intended to
go “in a different direction” and could
“achieve diversity, ” by closing the office,
(id. at ¶ 19), although according to the
complaint 90% of the Board's offices are staffed by all
white employees and OEHR was predominantly African-American.
(Id. at ¶ 25). Pearson was told that any
further questions concerning her employment should be
directed to the Executive Director of Human Resources,
Florence Bozzella. (Id. at ¶¶ 18-19).
Pearson would lose her job in July; she had questions.
meeting with Ms. Bozzella the same day she learned she would
be fired, Pearson also learned that her staff's future
employment was uncertain and was asked “not to tell
them anything for right now.” (Id. at ¶
20). The next day, Pearson was told that she had three days,
shortened to 24 hours by Pearson's prior plan to attend
an out-of-state graduation, to vacate her office.
(Id. at ¶ 21). While Pearson awaited official
termination in July, she was moved to a different office and
stripped of her principal job responsibilities. (Id.
at 22). She claims that no other supervisor was treated
similarly. (See, e.g., id. at ¶ 23).
eventually discovered that an Office of Equity and
Accelerated Student Achievement, (“OEASA”), would
replace OEHR and that she could apply for the
“Specialist for School and Community
Partnerships” position, or some other position in the
newly created office. (Id. at ¶ 24). Pearson
seized the opportunity. She interviewed for the position in
July 2014, but, because of the defendants' alleged
“clear discriminatory animus, ” she was not
selected. (Id. at ¶¶ 26-27). The position
was eventually filled by an allegedly less qualified white
man. (Id. at ¶ 28).
claims that being passed over for the newly created position
also was the last of a series of retaliatory acts perpetrated
by Perkins against Pearson for Pearson's work to remedy
racial inequalities within the Board. Pearson counts among
Perkins' retaliatory acts Perkin's effort to
discredit her work on racial disparities, the elimination of
her position at OEHR, and her being passed over for the newly
created position to which Pearson applied. (Id. at
¶¶ 29-36). Pearson also notes that during the May
2014 meeting Perkins ridiculed her doctorate degree, asking
if her degree meant Pearson was smarter than her.
(Id. at ¶ 33).
August 17, 2017, Pearson filed suit against the four
defendants claiming that the reason she was fired and passed
over for the OEASA position was racial discrimination and
retaliation in violation of Titles VI and VII. (ECF No. 1). The
individual defendants have filed motions to dismiss, (ECF
Nos. 6, 8, 9).
survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the
factual allegations of a complaint “must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the
assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true
(even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations
omitted). “To satisfy this standard, a plaintiff need
not ‘forecast' evidence sufficient to prove the
elements of the claim. However, the complaint must allege
sufficient facts to establish those elements.”
Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir.
2012) (citation omitted). “Thus, while a plaintiff does
not need to demonstrate in a complaint that the right to
relief is ‘probable, ' the complaint must advance
the plaintiff's claim ‘across the line from
conceivable to plausible.'” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). And the plaintiff
typically must do so by relying solely on facts asserted
within the four corners of his complaint. Zak v. Chelsea
Therapeutics Intern., Ltd., 780 F.3d 597, 606-07 (4th
defendants argue that this court should dismiss Pearson's
complaint because she cannot bring suit against individuals
under either Title VI or Title VII. Because the defendants
properly state the law, the court will grant the motions to
dismiss Pearson's claims against Arlotto, Liverman, and
Perkins in their individual capacity.
part, Pearson has filed a motion to amend her complaint and
motions for court appointed counsel. Her motion to amend will
be granted, but her motions for court appointed counsel will
be denied as Pearson has not shown that she lacks the