Dawson v. Pine Bluff School District et al
OPINION AND ORDER granting defts' 8 Motion for Summary Judgment; all of pltf's federal claims are dismissed with prejudice and the state-law claims are dismissed without prejudice. Signed by Chief Judge J. Leon Holmes on 11/10/11. (vjt)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
PINE BLUFF DIVISION
CHRISTINE DAWSON, Guardian and
Next Friend of V.D., a Minor
No. 5:10CV00213 JLH
PINE BLUFF SCHOOL DISTRICT;
PINE BLUFF SCHOOL BOARD;
FRANK ANTHONY, Individually and in
His Official Capacity as Superintendent of the
Pine Bluff School District; and
JIMMY L. FISHER, W.R. NORFUL,
TYRA TYLER-JOHNSON, DAVID BROWN,
DONNA BARNES, CHANDRA GRIFFIN,
and HERMAN HORACE, Individually and in
their Official Capacities as Members and
Directors of the Pine Bluff School Board
OPINION AND ORDER
V.D. was pregnant during the 2009-2010 school year, which was her junior year at Pine
Bluff High School, when she successfully participated in a series of science fairs. She submitted
a science project to her high school science teacher, then participated in a district science fair at the
University of Arkansas in Pine Bluff, in which she placed second, after which she participated in
a regional science fair at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, where she won first place, which
qualified her to participate in an international science fair held in San Jose, California, in May of
2010, while she was seven months pregnant.1 Over the years when a student from Pine Bluff High
School qualified to participate in the international science fair, Pine Bluff High School has usually,
but not always, sent a high school science teacher with the student. In V.D.’s case, no high school
teacher was willing to assume the responsibility of accompanying V.D. on a long trip during the
The evidence established that V.D. delivered her child in July of 2010.
latter stages of her pregnancy, so her mother, Christine Dawson, a special education teacher in an
elementary school in the Pine Bluff School District, accompanied her.
Christine Dawson brings this action as guardian and next friend of V.D., alleging that the
Pine Bluff School District, the superintendent, and the members of the Pine Bluff School Board are
liable for discrimination against V.D. on account of her sex in violation of 20 U.S.C. § 1681. She
also brings actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that V.D. was deprived of property without due
process of law, that her substantive due process rights were violated, and that she was deprived of
her right to equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Finally, she
asserts that the defendants are liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress under state law.
All of these claims are based on the fact that the school district did not send a teacher representative
from the high school science department with V.D. to the international science fair.
The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. For the reasons to be explained, that
motion is granted.
The provision in Title IX at issue states:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from
participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under
any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance[.]
20 U.S.C. § 1681(a). This provision “has consistently been interpreted as not authorizing suit
against school officials, teachers, and other individuals. Fitzgerald v. Barnstable Sch. Comm., 555
U.S. 246, 257, 129 S. Ct. 788, 796, 172 L. Ed. 2d 582 (2009). Accordingly, the plaintiff’s claims
against the individual defendants must be dismissed.
As to the Pine Bluff School District, the issue is whether the district violated that provision
when it failed to send a teacher representative with V.D. to the international science fair. The
undisputed evidence established that the school district never compels any teacher to go to the
international science fair; if a teacher goes, he or she goes voluntarily. The undisputed testimony
of Wilma Kindle (Exhibit X to the motion for summary judgment) established that on two prior
occasions a Pine Bluff High School student qualified for the international science fair but the science
teacher who taught that student chose not to go. One of those instances involved a non-pregnant
female student. That student’s mother, who was a teacher at Pine Bluff High School, accompanied
her to the international science fair. The other instance involved a male student. When no teacher
was willing to go, the student’s father accompanied him. No one from the Pine Bluff School District
went with that student. These are the students who were similarly situated to V.D. In neither
instance did the Pine Bluff School District compel a teacher to accompany the student to the
international science fair. Instead, in both instances, the student’s parent accompanied the student,
which is exactly what happened here. Thus, there is no factual basis for the plaintiff’s contention
that V.D. was denied any benefit of or subjected to discrimination under any educational program
or activity receiving federal financial assistance because of her sex. For the same reason, the
plaintiff’s equal protection claim fails.
To prevail on a claim that her due process rights were violated, whether they were procedural
or substantive rights, the plaintiff must establish that V.D. had a constitutionally protected property
interest of which she was deprived. Davenport v. Univ. of Ark. Bd. of Trustees, 553 F.3d 1110, 1114
(8th Cir. 2009); Bituminous Materials, Inc. v. Rice Co., Minn., 126 F.3d 1068, 1070 (8th Cir. 1997).
A property interest is created by state law and is a legitimate claim of entitlement, not merely a
subjective expectancy. Id. The plaintiff does not identify any basis in state law for concluding that
V.D. had a property interest in being accompanied by a teacher representative from the science
department of Pine Bluff High School to the international science fair in California. Consequently,
both her procedural due process claim and her substantive due process claim must fail.
V.D.’s final claim is for intentional infliction of emotional distress under state law. Having
dismissed V.D.’s claims that arise under federal law, the Court declines to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over her claim that arises under state law. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).
For the reasons stated, the defendants’ motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.
Document #8. All of the plaintiff’s claims that arise under federal law are dismissed with prejudice.
Plaintiff’s state-law claims are dismissed without prejudice.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 10th day of November, 2011.
J. LEON HOLMES
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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