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Mattix v. Dekalb County School District

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

July 18, 2014

FLORETTE MATTIX, Plaintiff,
v.
DEKALB COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, CYNTHIA JACKSON, SHERRON LEDBETTER, BEN SMITH, KAREN BRIGGS, and JUDITH ROBINSON, Defendants.

ORDER

RICHARD W. STORY, District Judge.

This case comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim [17] and Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint [22]. After reviewing the record, the Court enters the following Order.

Background

This case arises out of Plaintiff's termination from her employment with the DeKalb County School District ("District") in May 2010. Plaintiff worked for the District as a Special Education teacher from 1996 until 2010, and the events leading to Plaintiff's termination took place between October 2008 and May 2010 at Chamblee Middle School. (See Am. Compl., Dkt. [22-1].)

Plaintiff first filed suit against the DeKalb County Board of Education on June 17, 2011, but the Court granted her motion to voluntarily dismiss without prejudice on May 24, 2013. Plaintiff re-filed her Complaint [3] on September 10, 2013. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss [17] on December 16, 2013 and Plaintiff subsequently filed the present Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint [22] on May 13, 2014. In her original Complaint [3], Plaintiff brought claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 related to First Amendment retaliation; 42 U.S.C. § 1985 for conspiracy to interfere with her civil rights; and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for age discrimination. Plaintiff has withdrawn her § 1985 and Title VII claims in her proposed Amended Complaint [22] and has added claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA") as well as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("Rehabilitation Act"). Plaintiff has also alleged additional factual content with respect to her First Amendment retaliation allegations.

Plaintiff has set forth a lengthy timeline documenting what she alleges was a "hostile work environment" culminating in her retaliatory termination based on her exercise of free speech. In particular, Plaintiff cites the following speech as a basis for her First Amendment claim: her complaints to school officials about the reassignment of a paraprofessional from her classroom to the assistant principal ([22-1] at 10); her statements to the principal regarding "hostile" conduct of another teacher toward Plaintiff (id. at 15); her grades being disregarded by the administration (id. at 22); complaints regarding her assignment to a subject area outside of her teaching specialty (id. at 25); and her speaking out about diminished instructional time for her special education students and the assignment of students without disabilities to her special education classroom (id. at 26-27).

Also included is Plaintiff's documentation of several performance evaluations scheduled during the 2009-2010 academic year in which Plaintiff was given unsatisfactory ratings. Plaintiff alleges that she was charged with several infractions either without notice or in an inconsistent manner from other teachers and that "the requirement of written notification [and] documentation [of her infractions]... [was] not adhered to by the defendants as required by" Georgia's Quality Basic Education Act, O.C.G.A. § 20-2-210. ([22] at 15); see also, ([22]-1] at 49, 80 n.144.) These allegations form the basis of Plaintiff's 14th Amendment Due Process claims in which she alleges her termination hearing was defective because she was given inadequate notice of her infractions, and the decision not to renew her contract was based on erroneous evidence presented before the local school board.

The Court first addresses the Motion for Leave to Amend [22], and finding that leave is not to be granted, will address Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [17] as it relates to the original Complaint [3].

Discussion

I. Motion for Leave to Amend

A. Legal Standard

Under Rule 15(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may amend a pleading once as a matter of right within twenty-one days after service of the pleading, or, if the pleading requires a response, within twenty-one days after service of a responsive pleading or motion filed under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f). Otherwise, under Rule 15(a)(2), the party must seek leave of court or the written consent of the opposing parties to amend. Rule 15(a)(2) directs the Court, however, to "freely give leave when justice so requires." Despite this instruction, however, leave to amend is "by no means automatic." Layfield v. Bill Heard Chevrolet Co. , 607 F.2d 1097, 1099 (5th Cir. 1979). The trial court has "extensive discretion" in deciding whether to grant leave to amend. Campbell v. Emory Clinic , 166 F.3d 1157, 1162 (11th Cir.1999). A trial court may choose not to allow a party to amend "when the amendment would prejudice the defendant, follows undue delays or is futile." Id . A claim is futile if it cannot withstand a motion to dismiss. Fla. Power & Light Co. v. Allis Chalmers Corp. , 85 F.3d 1514, 1520 (11th Cir.1996); see Burger King Corp. v. Weaver , 169 F.3d 1310, 1315 (11th Cir.1999) (futility is another way of saying "inadequacy as a matter of law"). That is, leave to amend will be denied "if a proposed amendment fails to correct the deficiencies in the original complaint or otherwise fails to state a claim." Mizzaro v. Home Depot, Inc. , 544 F.3d 1230, 1255 (11th Cir. 2008).

In their Response, Defendants oppose Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint [22] on the grounds of ...


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