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Grimes v. Todd

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Statesboro Division

June 29, 2015

LAKEITA GRIMES, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. SAMUEL TODD, Defendant.

ORDER

J. RANDAL HALL, District Judge.

Presently pending before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 44.) For the reasons set forth below, this motion is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed several claims against a number of Defendants, the core of which are that Plaintiff was discriminated against on the basis of her race and gender when she was an undergraduate student at Georgia Southern University ("GSU"), as evidenced by her treatment in class and by the decision to deny her provisional admission to the Sport Management Graduate Program ("the Program"). (Am. Compl., Doc. 17-2.) Plaintiff also alleges she was retaliated against for filing a complaint about said discrimination with the United States Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights ("OCR"). (Id. ¶¶ 63-73.)

On March 27, 2014, in response to the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants (Doc. 13.), the Court dismissed Counts I, III, IV, V, and VI of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint without prejudice. (Doc. 27.) Furthermore, the Court dismissed any claim within Count II that Defendants violated Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1981 rights by denying her admission to the Program with prejudice. (Id.) On April 14, 2014, Defendants filed a supplemental Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 28.) As a result, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C § 1981 claim for racial harassment for failure to state a claim. (Doc. 35 at 6.) The Court specified that "the only claim left in this case" is the claim that Defendant Dr. Samuel Todd, in his individual capacity, retaliated against Plaintiff through his representations to the OCR. (Id. at 9.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Todd's negative report to the OCR was, at least partially, in retaliation for her raising claims about racial harassment while studying at GSU. (Doc. 17-2, ¶¶ 65, 69(b), (c), & (e).) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Todd misrepresented to the OCR the provisional admission standards for the Program and Plaintiff's qualifications. (Id. ¶¶ 64 & 66.) Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Todd misrepresented to the OCR that she was "unruly." (Id. ¶¶ 65 & 69(c).) Because only one claim remains from Plaintiff's complaint, the Court limits its recitation of facts to those relevant to that retaliation claim.

Plaintiff graduated from GSU with a Bachelor's degree in sport management in May 2009. (PSMF, Doc. 56, ¶ 43; DSMF, Doc. 44-2, ¶ 43; Grimes Dep., Doc. 44, Ex. 1 at 16.) Plaintiff's cumulative grade point average was 2.53 on a 4.0 scale. (Unofficial Transcript, Doc. 44-18.) On February 27, 2009, Plaintiff submitted an application for admission to a graduate program[1] at GSU. (Grimes Dep. at 14; Doc. 44, Ex. 6.)

There are two ways by which an applicant can gain admission to the Sport Management Graduate Program: regular admission and provisional admission. In 2009, the written criteria for regular admission to the Program required a Bachelor's degree, at least 2, 75 cumulative grade point average, a 44 on the Miller Analogies test ("MAT") if the applicant chose to take the MAT, two letters of recommendation, and a personal interview with members of the faculty. (GSU Catalogue, Doc. 44, Ex. 4.) Plaintiff admits she was not qualified for consideration for regular admission into the Program. (Grimes Dep. at 34.) In 2009, the written criteria for provisional admission into the Program required an undergraduate grade point average of 2.5 and "a 36 MAT." (GSU Catalogue.)

Defendant Todd was the Program Director of the Program in 2009. (Todd Decl., Doc. 44, Ex. 2 ¶ 16.) As such, he reviewed and made recommendations on all completed applications for admission to the Program. (Id.) Meeting the minimum criteria for admission to the Program did not necessarily guarantee admission. (Id. ¶ 17; DSMF ¶ 38; PSMF ¶ 38.)

Plaintiff received a score of 386 on the April 2009 MAT. (MAT Examinee Report, Doc. 44, Ex. 7.) This score was in the 32nd percentile rank for the total group of test takers and the 29th percentile for her intended major.[2] (Id.) In the past, the MAT was scored based on a two-digit raw score. (MAT Technical Manual, Doc. 44, Ex. 5 at 7-8.) Sometime before 2009, the scoring system changed to a three-digit scaled score. (Id.) After receiving her MAT score, Plaintiff called Dr. Timothy Mack, the Dean of the Jack N. Averitt College of Graduate Studies, and explained that the criteria for consideration for provisional admission into the Program required a MAT score of 36, but the MAT scoring scale had been converted. (Grimes Dep. at 23-24 & 35-36.) Dr. Mack called Plaintiff later and informed her that a raw score of 36 was the equivalent of a scaled score of 380. (Id. at 35-36) Plaintiff also contacted Defendant Todd about her MAT score and the conversion. (Id. at 36.) Defendant Todd informed Plaintiff that he did not know what she needed to score on the MAT for provisional admission and that he was unfamiliar with the MAT scoring scale. (Id. at 37.)

The MAT Technical Manuel[3] sets forth conversion tables that provide a range of scaled scores equivalent to raw scores for the "Total Group" and for each of the seven intended fields of study, including "Undecided". (MAT Technical Manual.) Under the conversion tables for the "Total Group" and "Undecided, " a raw score of 36 is equivalent to a scaled score range of 389-395. (Id. at 9.) A scaled score of 386 is equivalent to a raw score of 33 or 34. (Id.) For all seven intended fields of study, a raw score of 36 is the equivalent of at least a 389. (Id. at 9-16.)

On April 22, 2009, Plaintiff submitted an Applicant Questionnaire for consideration for provisional admission to the Program. (Doc. 44, Ex. 8.) On the questionnaire, Plaintiff stated that she had volunteered at two sporting events: a GSU football game and a NFL Punt, Pass, and Kick competition. (Id.) Plaintiff did not identify any work experience with a sport organization. (Id.) Plaintiff noted that she met with a faculty member at Statesboro High School about his sport related job because she was interested in that type of work. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that in the fall of 2008 she was in the process of starting her own sport management company, Division I Boys, by managing at least 15 at-risk student athletes. (Grimes Dep. at 21.) Plaintiff mentored these students to help them stay out of trouble and focus on school and sports. (Id. at 66.) Plaintiff, however, did not provide information about this experience to GSU in support of her application for admission to the Program. (Id. at 21.)

On June 22, 2009, Plaintiff received a letter informing her that she was not accepted into the Program. (Grimes Dep. at 20; Doc. 44, Ex. 12.) On July 28, 2009, Plaintiff appealed the denial of her application. (Doc. 44, Ex. 13.) In her appeal letter, Plaintiff disclosed that "[i]n the afternoon, [she] would mentor and tutor young students who were interested in football and basketball." (Id.) This is the only time Plaintiff referenced her startup company and experience working with at-risk student athletes. (Grimes Dep. at 24-25.) On August 14, 2009, Plaintiff's appeal was denied by GSU. (Doc. 44, Ex. 15.)

On August 25, 2009, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the OCR against GSU alleging that she was denied admission to the Program for the fall 2009 semester because she was African-American and a female. (OCR Report, Doc. 44, Ex. 16 at 1.) The OCR's investigation included a review of documents pertinent to the complaint and interviews with Plaintiff and GSU staff. (Id.) During the investigation, Plaintiff provided a written statement to the OCR investigator wherein she recounted her qualifications. (Doc. 44, Ex. 17.) Plaintiff again noted that she worked at a GSU football game and a NFL Punt, Pass, and Kick competition in the fall of 2008. (Id.) There is no mention, however, of Plaintiff's startup company in her letter to the OCR. (Doc. 44, Ex. 17.)

On February 13, 2010, the OCR found there was insufficient evidence to support a finding of noncompliance with Title VI and Title IX. (OCR Report at 1.) The OCR set forth the factual findings for its determination. (Id. at 2-4.) Specifically, the OCR found the admission requirements for provisional admission were a 2.5 GPA and a score in the 36th percentile on the MAT, and Plaintiff's MAT score of 386 fell below the provisional admission cut off. (Id. at 3, 5.) Additionally, "[t]he Program director told OCR that Complainant was not considered for admission to the Program because her MAT test score of 386 (32nd percentile) ...


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