Mirabilio v. Regional School District 16
ORDER granting 28 Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted. Signed by Judge Robert N. Chatigny on 09/27/2013. (Bialek, T.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
CATHERINE A. MIRABILIO,
REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT 16,
Case No. 3:11-CV-1468 (RNC)
Plaintiff, a teacher, brings this action against her
employer, the defendant school board, challenging the reduction
of her position from full-time to half-time on the ground that it
violates her rights under Connecticut General Statute § 10-151
and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Defendant has moved to dismiss the amended complaint, arguing
that it fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted
and, in the alternative, that subject matter jurisdiction is
lacking because plaintiff failed to exhaust available
For the following reasons, the motion
Plaintiff, a tenured culinary arts teacher, alleges that the
school board deprived her of her due process rights under the
Fourteenth Amendment and violated Connecticut's Teacher Tenure
Act ("TTA"), Con. Gen. Stat. § 10-151, by failing to provide her
with notice and a hearing before reducing her tenured teaching
position from full- to half-time.
Plaintiff seeks a declaratory
judgment, a permanent injunction requiring defendant to reinstate
her as a full-time teacher, reimbursement of lost salary and
benefits, and other money damages.
On May 12, 2011, the superintendent of schools, acting as an
agent of the school board, sent plaintiff a letter informing her
that the board had voted to reduce her position from full-time to
The parties agree that Section 10-151 is the "sole
and exclusive mechanism for terminating the contract of a
teacher", Am. Compl. at ¶5, but disagree as to whether it applies
when a tenured teaching position is reduced from full- to halftime such that the statutory requirements for termination should
have been followed in this case.1
Plaintiff initiated this action in Connecticut Superior
Court on September 1, 2011, and defendant removed the case to
this Court on September 20, 2011.
Shortly thereafter, defendant
filed a motion to dismiss asserting, as here, that plaintiff's
complaint failed to sufficiently allege a statutory or
constitutional violation and, alternatively, that the Court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction due to plaintiff's failure to exhaust
available administrative remedies.
The motion to dismiss was
The statute provides, in relevant part: "Prior to terminating a
contract, the superintendent [of schools] shall give the teacher concerned a
written notice that termination of such teacher's contract is under
consideration and, upon written request filed by such teacher with the
superintendent, within seven days after receipt of such notice, shall within
the next succeeding seven days give such teacher a statement in writing of the
reasons therefor. Within twenty days after receipt of written notice by the
superintendent that contract termination is under consideration, such teacher
may file with the local or regional board of education a written request for a
hearing." Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 10-151(d).
granted; the equal protection claim was dismissed with prejudice
and the due process claim was dismissed without prejudice to the
plaintiff's right to reassert the claim in an amended complaint.
Plaintiff submitted an amended complaint on October 25, 2012.
the pending motion to dismiss, defendant again asserts that
plaintiff fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted
and, in the alternative, that even if plaintiff states a claim
the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.
II. Due Process Claim
"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.'"
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss may be
granted only if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can
prove no set of facts in support of her complaint that would
entitle her to relief.
King v. Simpson, 189 F.3d 284, 286-87 (2d
In deciding a motion to dismiss, well-pleaded facts
must be accepted as true and considered in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff.
Patane v. Clark, 508 F.3d 106, 111
(2d Cir. 2007).
To state a due process clause claim, plaintiff "must show
that she has a property interest, created by state law, in the
employment or the benefit that was removed."
79 F.3d 318, 322 (2d Cir. 1996).
Bernheim v. Litt,
"It is clear that section
10–151 does create such a protectable property interest."
Zimmerman v. Bd. of Educ. of Town of Branford, 597 F. Supp. 72,
76 (D. Conn. 1984).
The statute provides that "[t]he contract of
employment of a teacher who has attained tenure shall be
continued from school year to school year" and enumerates grounds
for termination as well as pre-termination notice and hearing
requirements designed to protect tenured teachers.
Stat. Ann. § 10-151(d).
However, although "[t]he right to
continued employment is a property right protected under the due
process clause", see Sekor v. Bd. of Educ. of the Town of
Ridgefield, 240 Conn. 119, 129 (1997)(citations omitted),
"personnel decisions short of termination do not constitute a
deprivation of a property interest" cognizable under the
(D. Conn. 1984).
Wargat v. Long, 590 F. Supp. 1213, 1215
Because under Connecticut law a teacher who is
reduced from full-time to part-time employment has not been
terminated within the meaning of the TTA, plaintiff fails to
state a due process claim on which relief can be granted.
Connecticut courts have consistently found that changes to
employment status, even when accompanied by substantial
reductions in salary, do not fall within the definition of
"termination" under the TTA and are not subject to the statute's
protections or judicial review.
See Delagorges v. Bd. of Educ.
of Town and City of West Haven, 176 Conn. 630 (1979) (holding
that school administrators reassigned to teaching positions were
not terminated within the meaning of the TTA and thus the
reassignments were not subject to judicial review); Cimochowski
v. Hartford Pub. Sch., 261 Conn. 287, 297 (2002) (clarifying that
"in Delagorges . . . we concluded that, because the two
plaintiffs had not been terminated, the act did not apply"); id.
at 293 (noting that the reassignments from administrative to
teaching positions in Delagorges had resulted in "substantially
reduced salary"). See also Sch. Adm'rs Ass'n of New Haven v. Dow,
200 Conn. 376, 385 (1986) ("10-151(d) does not apply to . . .
plaintiffs whose positions were being eliminated but whose
employment with the board continued."); Candelori v. Bd. of Educ.
of the City of New Britain, 180 Conn. 66, 67-69 (1980)
(reassignment of school administrators to teaching positions
resulting in substantial reduction in their salaries did not
The present case, in which the
plaintiff has been reassigned from a full- to half-time teaching
position with a substantial reduction in salary, is analogous.
Because plaintiff's position has not been terminated or
discontinued within the meaning of the statute, she is not
entitled to the TTA's pre-termination protections and fails to
allege a cognizable due process claim.
In opposing defendant's motion to dismiss, plaintiff relies
on language from Tucker v. Board of Education that "being
reduced, apparently permanently, to part-time rather than fulltime employment has more of the effect of a termination . . . ."
Tucker v. Bd. of Educ. of Town of Norfolk, 4 Conn. App. 87, 93
This language, however, was dicta distinguishing a
Massachusetts case interpreting a Massachusetts statute and was
referenced only by way of explaining that a tenured teacher's three-year
suspension did not rise to the level of an actionable termination.
As such, the case's holding ultimately cuts against plaintiff's
In light of the subsequent Connecticut Supreme Court cases
interpreting the TTA's termination requirement, plaintiff has failed to
state the deprivation of a cognizable property interest by alleging that
defendant reduced her teaching position from full- to half-time.
Accordingly, defendant's motion to dismiss [doc. # 28] is hereby
So ordered this 27th day of September 2013.
Robert N. Chatigny
United Stated District Judge