Maipandi v. Lindenwood University School of Education et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [ECF Doc. 2 ] is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk shall not issue process or cause process to issue upon the complaint, bec ause the complaint is legally frivolous and fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiffs motion for appointment of counsel [ECF Doc. 4 ] is DENIED as moot. A separate Order of Dismissal shall accompany this Memorandum and Order. Signed by District Judge Ronnie L. White on January 27, 2016. (BRP)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
SCHOOL OF EDUCATION, et al.,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on the motion of Obeth Maipandi for leave to
commence this action without payment of the required filing fee [ECF Doc. 2].
Upon consideration of the financial information provided with the motion, the Court
finds that plaintiff is financially unable to pay the filing fee, and therefore, the
motion will be granted. Furthermore, for the reasons set forth below, the Court will
dismiss this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court must dismiss a complaint
filed in forma pauperis ifthe action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief. An action is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis in
either law or fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989). An action is
malicious if it is undertaken for the purpose of harassing the named defendants and
not for the purpose of vindicating a cognizable right. Spencer v. Rhodes, 656 F.
Supp. 458, 461-63 (E.D.N.C. 1987), affd 826 F .2d 1059 (4th Cir. 1987). An action
fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell At!. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
To determine whether an action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted, the Court must engage in a two-step inquiry. First, the Court must identify
the allegations in the complaint that are not entitled to the assumption of truth.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950-51 (2009).
These include "legal
conclusions" and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action [that are]
supported by mere conclusory statements." Id. at 1949. Second, the Court must
determine whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 1950-51.
This is a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its
judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 1950. The plaintiff is required to
plead facts that show more than the "mere possibility of misconduct." Id. The
Court must review the factual allegations in the complaint "to determine if they
plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief."
Id. at 1951.
When faced with
alternative explanations for the alleged misconduct, the Court may exercise its
judgment in determining whether plaintiffs conclusion is the most plausible or
whether it is more likely that no misconduct occurred. Id. at 1950-52.
Moreover, in reviewing a prose complaint under§ 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court
must give the complaint the benefit of a liberal construction. Haines v. Kerner, 404
U.S. 519, 520 (1972).
The Court must also weigh all factual allegations in favor of
the plaintiff, unless the facts alleged are clearly baseless. Denton v. Hernandez,
504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992).
Plaintiff seeks over $4 million in this action, which she summarily states is
brought pursuant to "(i) Fourth (4th) amendment to the constitution; (ii) Title (iv) of
the Civil Rights Acts of 1964; (iii) title (vi) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; (iv)
Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 [EEOA]; (v) Title (iii) of the
Americans with Disabilities Act; (vi) Title (ix) of the Educational Amendments of
1972; and (vii) Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and individuals with
disabilities Education." (ECF Doc. 1, p. 2). The named defendants are Lindenwood
University School of Education ("Lindenwood University"), Cynthia Bice (Dean of
the Education Department), Terry Stewart (Assistant Dean of the Education
Department), and John Long ("Head and Coordinator of the Education Department
Higher Education Leadership & Administration").
Plaintiff alleges that she "was terminated from [the Lindenwood University]
Doctorate Degree pursuit that [she] sacrificed over eight years and worked to earn."
(ECF Doc. 1, p. 5). She states, "I successfully completed and paid for all the
stipulated academic courses except [the] Dissertation (Thesis) towards defense
which I have gone 80%, the Lindenwood University ... decided to withdraw me
without the Doctoral Degree Certificate in December 2014." Id.
that this was "an unfair and discriminatory act not based on academic failures but
academic malpractice at the highest level of intellectual pursuits." Id.
More specifically, plaintiff asserts that "[t]here was no objectivity to the
administration of their discriminatory weapon using 'Comprehensive Exam' after
[she] successfully completed all Coursework with high assessable Grade points."
She complains that the "Comp Exam" at Lindenwood University "had no
catalogs or coursework that must be undertaken and passed; No Syllabus or
Curriculum with study materials as well as needed preparations for either classroom
work, homework or research; No provision for directions and guidelines on what
needs to be covered or learned by 'Examinees'; There was [sic] no previous question
papers made available to [her]; Rather, the Comp Exam was dubious and
administered in secrecy. It lacks transparency but suspicious [sic] except to some
favored candidates of their choice." Id.at 5-6. Plaintiff further contends that the
"manner and conduct of that so called 'Exam' ... is more of a cult than an academic
arrangement because only those who belonged to that cult would be made to succeed
'AT THE END?"' Id. at 6. According to plaintiff, "(m]any victims regard that
exercise as a weapon of unfairness and deceit meant to victimize and segregate those
to be awarded the Ed.D Doctorate Certificate despite the Students' academic
Plaintiff alleges that defendants are "henchmen" who used "unfairness based
on [plaintiffs] national origin." Id.
She considers their actions "against [her] as
unfair, premeditated, discriminatory, illegal, unjustifiable, heartless, immoral, and
disgraceful." Id. Plaintiff complains that, on the first day of class, defendant Long
asked everyone to introduce themselves, and then asked plaintiff, "Where are you
Plaintiff responded that she is from Africa.
complains that Long then asked her, "Where in Africa?" After plaintiff responded
that she is from Nigeria, Long said, "You have a kind of peculiar name." Id. at 7-8.
Several weeks later, Long allegedly commented to plaintiff that she has a thick
accent. At a later time, plaintiff complains that Long asked her where she learned
English and asked if she studied in Africa or in the United States. Last, plaintiff
claims that after the "Comp Exams,'' Long told her she should "immediately go to
the Immigration Office to sort out [her] papers for further stay in the U.S." Id. at 8.
Plaintiff asserts, "That speaks for itself as reminder [sic] to position [her] and go
back to [her] place of origin!" Id.
Regarding defendant Stewart, plaintiff alleges, "He is without doubt the grand
patron for the actualization and perpetuation of discrimination against all victims of
my type who had close contact and, the fact could be proven if proper investigations
are carried out." Plaintiff complains that Stewart "refused audience to entertain
[her] requests for appointment with her," and that on December 15, 2014, Stewart
"confronted [her] with ... a series of silly questions imaginable for [her] purpose ...
Their typical focus hinge [sic] at probing [her] National Origin." Id.
Last, plaintiff alleges that defendant Bice "sanctions and approves of every
act by the two mentioned earlier. She appears to play an indirect role but fully
aware [sic] and work [sic] in tandem . . . Since all they do is right she never
demonstrated to disagree nor disapprove and that is why [plaintiff] was thrown out
completely without remorse." Id.at 9. Plaintiff concludes that "to them [her] type
of personality identified by national origin and peculiar color do not deserve to earn
a Doctoral Degree but should be disqualified by all means." Id.
At the outset, the Court will liberally construe the complaint as having been
brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
("Title IV"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000c et seq.; Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
("Title VI"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000d; the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974
("EEOA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1701 et seq.; Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act
("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12182; Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972
("Title IX"), 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. ; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
("RA"), 29 U.S.C. § 794; and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. Moreover, the Court takes judicial notice that
defendant Lindenwood University is a private liberal arts university located in St.
Charles, Missouri, and notes that plaintiff does not allege that Lindenwood is a
public university or a state actor.
Having carefully reviewed the complaint, the Court concludes that this action
should be dismissed as legally frivolous.
Although plaintiff attempts to assert
claims for the violation of a myriad of federal statutes, her summary and formulaic
allegations fail to state a claim or cause of action for illegal termination from
Lindenwood University 's doctoral degree program.
See Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at
1950-51 (2009). Additional grounds for the Court's pre-service dismissal of this
action are set forth below.
A. Section 1983 Fourth Amendment Claims
Plaintiff attempts to assert a Fourth Amendment violation based on her
termination from Lindenwood University's doctoral degree program; however, her
allegations simply do not rise to the level of a constitutional violation and fail to state
a claim or cause of action under § 1983. To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff
must allege (1) that the defendant acted under color of state law, and (2) that the
alleged conduct deprived the plaintiff of a constitutionally-protected federal right.
Schmidt v. City of Bella Villa, 557 F.3d 564, 571 (8th Cir. 2009). Plaintiff has
failed to allege, and there is no indication, that any of the individuals named as
defendants in this action are state actors within the meaning of§ 1983. See Lindsey
v. Detroit Entm 't, LLC, 484 F.3d 824, 827 (6th Cir. 2007) (in general the "state actor"
requirement prevents the law from reaching the conduct of private parties acting in
their individual capacities).
For these additional reasons, plaintiff's Fourth
Amendment § 1983 claims are legally frivolous and will be dismissed pursuant to §
B. Title IV, Title VI, Title IX, EEOA, and RA Claims
Title IV, Title VI, Title IX, the EEOA, and§ 504 of the RA are federal laws
that protect individuals from various forms of discrimination in public programs.
As previously mentioned, Lindenwood is a private university, and plaintiff does not
allege that it is a public institution or is otherwise subject to any of these statutes.
See, e.g., Scarlett v. Sch. of the Ozarks, Inc., 780 F. Supp. 2d 924, 933-934 (W.D.
Mo. 2011) (setting forth elements of Title VI prima facie case) (citing Tolbert v.
Queens Coll., 242 F.3d 58, 69 (2d Cir. 2001)); Jackson v. Conway, 476 F. Supp.
896, 903 (E.D. Mo. 1979); Thompson v. Ed. of the Special Sch. Dist. No. 1, 144
F.3d 574, 581 (8th Cir. 1998).
As such, plaintiff has failed to state a claim or
cause of action under Title IV, Title VI, Title IX, the EEOA, and/or§ 504 of the RA.
In addition, the Court notes that Title IX bans discrimination on the basis of
gender or sex.
Plaintiff does not allege that she was discriminated against on the
basis of gender or sex, and therefore, she has failed to state a claim under Title IX.
Furthermore, individuals are improper defendants under Title IX.
Goonewardena v. New York, 475 F. Supp. 2d 310, 330 (S.D.N.Y. 2007).
Similarly, the Court notes that individuals cannot be held personally liable
under Title VI.
See Ajiwoju v. Cottrell, 2005 WL 1026702 at * 1 (W.D.Mo. May
2, 2005); Shatz v. City of Plantation, Fla., 344 F.3d 1161, 1170 (11th Cir. 2003);
N.J. Sand Hill Band of Lenape & Cherokee Indians v. Corzine, No. 09-683-KSH,
2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66605, at *60 (D.N.J. June 30, 2010); Gomiller v. Dees,
No. 4:06CV33-D-B, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23230, at * 11 (N.D.Miss. Mar. 28,
2007); see also Steel v. Alma Public Sch. Dist., 162 F. Supp.2d 1083, 1085 (W.D.
Ark. 2001) (in the Title IX context, school officials may not be sued in their
individual capacities; Title IX and Title VI are parallel statutes and operate in the
The Court further finds that plaintiff fails to state a claim for Title VI
violations against defendant Lindenwood University.
claim alleging that [the University's]
"[R]ather than asserting a
policies or general practices are
discriminatory, [plaintiff] seeks to hold [the University] accountable for the acts of
Goonewardena, 475 F. Supp. 2d at 328.
University, however, cannot be held vicariously liable under Title VI for the
actions of individual actors.
See Santos, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106143, at *21;
Earl v. Fresno Unified Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., No. l:ll-CV-01568-LJO-GSA,
2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 64537, at *11-12 (E.D.Cal. May 7, 2012); Vouchides v.
Houston Cmty. College Sys., H-10-2559, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112609, at* 17-18
(S.D.Tex. Sept. 30, 2011); Manuel v. City of Bangor, No. 09-CV-339-B-W, 2009
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 98031, at *11-12 (D.Me. Oct. 21, 2009); Hurd v. Del. State
Univ., No. 07-117-MPT, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73448, at *20 (D.Del. Sept. 25,
"An institution is only liable if it intentionally harassed or discriminated
on the basis of race or nationality."
Hurd, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73448, at *20.
Because plaintiff alleges only vicarious liability against Lindenwood University,
her Title VI allegations fail to state a claim or cause of action.
Court further finds that plaintiff has failed to identify a specific policy or procedure
that is the basis of her Title VI claims against Lindenwood University.
Plaintiff has also failed to state a claim under the EEOA, given that "the
language and structure of the EEOA firmly indicate that Congress authorized only
equitable remedies for violations of the statute . . . [M]onetary damages are
unavailable under the EEOA." Mumid v. Abraham Lincoln High Sch., 618 F.3d
789, 799 (8th Cir. 2010). As previously noted, plaintiff requests solely monetary
relief in the instant action.
For these reasons, the Court will dismiss as legally frivolous and for failure to
state a cause of action, pursuant to§ 1915(e)(2)(B), plaintiffs claims under Title IV,
Title VI, Title IX, the EEOA, and the RA.
C. ADA Claims
Plaintiff claims that defendants violated Title III of the ADA. The purpose
of Title III of the ADA is to "provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable
standards" to remedy discrimination in places of public accommodation. 42 U.S.C.
§ 12101 (b )(2).
Under Title III, places of public accommodation include
"undergraduate or postgraduate private schools." 38 C.F.R. § 36.104. That said,
however, only employers, not individuals, can be liable under the ADA, Shiflett v.
GE Fanuc Automation Corp. , 1996 WL 481082 at *5 (W.D.Va. July 23, 1996), and
an individual may sue under Title III for injunctive relief only. 42 U.S.C. §
12188(a)(l); Steger v. Franco, Inc. , 228 F.3d 889, 892 (8th Cir. 2000). As this
Court has previously noted, plaintiff prays only for monetary relief in this action.
Thus, plaintiffs ADA claims are legally frivolous and will be dismissed pursuant to
D. IDEA Claims
Plaintiff summarily alleges that defendants violated her rights under the
The IDEA governs early intervention, special education, and related
services for disabled school children ages three through twenty-one, or until high
school graduation, and requires public schools to create an individualized education
plan for each disabled child. Dombrowski v. Wissahickon Sch. Dist., 2003 WL
22271654 (E.D.Penn. 2003). Clearly, the IDEA is inapplicable in the instant case,
and thus, plaintiffs claims are legally frivolous and will also be dismissed pursuant
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs motion for leave to proceed in
forma pauperis [ECF Doc. 2] is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk shall not issue process or cause
process to issue upon the complaint, because the complaint is legally frivolous and
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
See 28 U.S.C.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiffs motion for appointment of
counsel [ECF Doc. 4] is DENIED as moot.
A separate Order of Dismissal shall accompany this Memorandum and Order.
this~ day of January, 2016.
RONNIE I. WHITE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?