United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
DEBORAH L. NAGY, Plaintiff,
TAYLOR COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT and GARY GIBSON, Defendants.
T. TREADWELL, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
Deborah Nagy, a Caucasian female, brings this action against
Defendants Taylor County School District (the “School
District”) and Gary Gibson, alleging violations of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Doc. 1
¶ 1. Nagy also alleges a First Amendment retaliation
claim as well as state law tort claims against Gibson.
See generally Id. Defendants have moved for summary
judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Doc.
18. For the following reasons, the motion is
began working for the School District in 1995 as an
elementary school teacher. Docs. 1 ¶ 8; 24-6 at
16:21-25, 17:8-11. Nagy continued to work as a teacher until
2003 when she was promoted to a principal position in charge
of grades three through five. Docs. 18-5 ¶ 2; 24-6 at
19:5-8. Her duties as principal included the following: (1)
overseeing facilities operations at her school; (2) providing
instructional leadership; (3) handling student discipline;
(4) supervising staff and ensuring they comply with school
procedures, guidelines, and Taylor County Board of Education
policies; (5) attending school functions; and (6) attending
Board meetings and reporting to the Board regarding
significant activities at her school. Docs. 18-5 ¶¶
5-7; 24-6 at 20:11-20, 22:3-19, 25:14-26:7.
2004-2005 school year, the School District opened a new
school for kindergarten through second grade, and Nagy became
and remained its principal until she resigned following the
2014-2015 school year. Docs. 18-5 ¶¶ 3-4; 24-6 at
19:15-20:8. At the time Nagy became a principal, the
Superintendent of the School District was Wayne Smith. Docs.
18-5 ¶ 8; 24-6 at 32:21-25. In early 2013, Smith
announced that he intended to retire. Docs. 18-5 ¶ 9;
24-6 at 35:7-9. At a Board meeting on May 13, 2013, Nagy
expressed her interest in Smith's position as the
District Superintendent, although Nagy never officially
applied. Docs. 18-5 ¶¶ 10, 12; 24-6 at 35-19-22,
2013, the School District hired Defendant Gary Gibson, a
Caucasian male, to replace Smith. Docs. 24-6 at 54:2-5,
67:24-68:1; 27 at 22:3-6. At a December 9, 2013 Board
meeting, Smith announced that the Board had “made the
right choice” in hiring Gibson, a sentiment Nagy
apparently did not share. Docs. 18-3 at 2-3; 24-6 at 54:6-9.
Nagy was present at this meeting and sent a text to a work
colleague that Smith's statement “pissed [her]
off.” Docs. 18-3 at 2-3; 18-5 ¶ 15. Gibson began
work on January 1, 2014, and four months later, Nagy looked
into a Superintendent position in Chattahoochee County but
never applied for the position. Docs. 18-5 ¶¶ 13,
16; 24-6 at 61:1-9, 66:18-67:3. Nagy did, however, apply for
a position as Superintendent, Curriculum Director, and
Principal in Schley County because she “could tell
things were getting tense with Dr. Gibson at the end of [the
2013-2014 school] year.” Doc. 24-6 at 63:20-25,
tension arose when Gibson “began changing and
formalizing the School District's hiring process”
shortly after being hired, despite Nagy already having a
process of her own in place for her school. Doc. 18-5 ¶
18; see also Docs. 24-2 ¶¶ 6-9; 27 at
36:1-40:1. For her hiring process, Nagy typically selected
the lead teachers from each grade level, the literacy coach,
and sometimes the special education teacher to serve on a
hiring committee that consisted of five to six members,
including herself. Doc. 24-6 at 80:14-25, 116:16-25,
117:11-14. All members of her typical hiring committee,
except the lead kindergarten teacher who was
African-American, were Caucasian. Id. at
118:14-119:20. But Gibson believed the School District's
faculty did not adequately represent the diversity in the
student body, which is approximately 47% African-American.
Docs. 18-5 ¶ 20; 24-6 at 75:22-25. Thus, he instituted a
hiring procedure that required the appointment of hiring
committee members to “reflect the community.”
Docs. 18-5 ¶ 21; 27 at 36:17-37:10. This meant that the
hiring committee should “come from all facets of the
school: [m]ale, female, race.” Doc. 27 at 37:4-9. Thus,
the community at large would feel “like they had
input.” Id. at 53:11-22.
Spring of 2014, Gibson verbally explained his new hiring
procedure to all principals, allegedly including Nagy, at an
administrative meeting. Docs. 18-4 ¶ 4; 18-5 ¶ 23.
Nagy, who was a principal at the time, testified that she is
not “sure if [Gibson] brought up the hiring policy
then.” Doc. 24-6 at 74:11-16. But she stopped short of
stating “he didn't say anything [regarding the
hiring procedure], ” and admitted that “it was
written in policy in the middle of October.”
Id. at 79:24-25. Notably, Gibson maintained that in
both his verbal instruction and the written memorandum of the
hiring procedure, he mentioned “nothing about quotas or
percentages.” Doc. 27 at 38:18-20.
the 2013-2014 school year, Nagy went on medical leave, and
Gibson assigned Gwen Jenkins, an African-American assistant
principal at the upper elementary school, to fill in at the
lower school during Nagy's absence. Docs. 24-2 ¶ 12;
24-6 at 97:18-98:2. This “bothered” Nagy because
she believed Ellen Peacock, her predecessor, would have been
a more qualified substitute. Doc. 24-6 at 98:13-99:10.
However, because Peacock had retired, she could only have
worked part time as principal or else she would have lost her
retirement benefits. Id. at 100:7-12; Doc. 27 at
58:5-18. Thus, Gibson reasoned that having Jenkins working
full-time as principal would be better than Peacock working
part time, especially given Peacock was already working
part-time at the central office. Doc. 27 at 58:14-25.
beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, an administrative
assistant position opened up at Nagy's school. Doc. 27 at
59:7-16. Though Nagy was still on medical leave, she came
back to handle the hiring process. Doc. 24-6 at 78:5-14,
93:15-23. With the “same criteria [she] always used,
” Nagy assembled a hiring committee that consisted
entirely of Caucasian staff members. Id. at 79:2-3; Doc.
24-2 ¶ 14. When the all-Caucasian hiring committee
decided in favor of a white applicant, an African-American
interviewee filed an EEOC complaint alleging race
discrimination. Doc. 24-6 at 78:15-18, 96:21-24. The School
District later settled this claim. Docs. 18-5 ¶ 27; 21
September of 2014, while Nagy was still on leave, Gibson met
with Nagy to discuss the EEOC claim and her failure to follow
his hiring procedure. Docs. 24-6 at 84:5-13, 94:8-19, 95:1-14;
27 at 73:21-25. During this meeting, Nagy claims Gibson
“pretty much blamed [her] for [the EEOC] lawsuit,
” and Nagy, in turn, “questioned [Gibson] about
his hiring process.” Docs. 24-2 ¶ 15; 24-6 at
152:15-24. Initially, Gibson believed that a verbal
instruction of his hiring procedure “would suffice,
” because he was “trying to let [the Principals]
do [the hiring process] as much on their own as [he]
could.” Doc. 27 at 37:20-24, 73:7-10.
October 10, 2014, Gibson sent to the principals a written
memorandum detailing the hiring procedure. Id. at
50:15-51:9. The memorandum stated that “the Interview
Committee must be composed of differing genders, races, ages,
and reflect the community we serve.” Doc. 24-6 at
83:8-84:2. While Nagy stated the hiring procedure mentioned a
quota, that word did not appear in the October 10, 2014 memo.
Id. at 85:10-16. However, Nagy testified that she
was told either verbally or in a subsequent memo that 40% of
people on hiring committees had to be minorities.
Id. at 87:7-14. But Nagy admitted Gibson never told
her she needed to hire a certain person based on race or
gender. Id. at 88:3-10. Gibson also never told Nagy
to include specific people in her hiring committee.
Id. at 195:3-5; Doc. 27 at 60:1-8.
the end of 2014, a teacher position became vacant. Doc. 24-2
¶ 16. For this position, Nagy followed Gibson's
hiring procedure in assembling her hiring committee.
Id. The committee consisted of three
African-American staff members and three Caucasian staff
members, including Nagy. Id. Unlike previous
occasions, the committee members used score sheets to
determine the top candidate. See Doc. 24-6 at
115:1-13. After all the score sheets were filled out, a
Caucasian member collected the sheets and left the room to
tally the scores. Id. at 113:19-21. When a white
applicant was announced as the top candidate, “there
was a great deal of dissension by the committee members along
racial lines.” Doc. 18-4 ¶ 5. The African-American
members accused the Caucasian members of improperly
calculating the scores. Doc. 24-2 ¶ 17. In turn, Nagy
accused the African-American members, one of whom was Gwen
Jenkins, of “erasing tally sheet scores in an effort to
benefit the black candidate they favored.” Id.
¶ 18. Gibson was informed of the accusations from both
sides. Doc. 27 at 76:1-11. When Gibson met with Nagy to
discuss this incident, Nagy claims “Gibson refused to
hear [her] complaint about this process, and instead blamed
[her] for the tally sheet tabulation dispute.” Doc.
24-2 ¶ 19. Nagy testified that she did not have these
issues until Gibson became the Superintendent. Doc. 24-6 at
123:14-21. But Gibson “tried to explain to [Nagy] how
[the incident] could have been avoided if the scores were
tallied in the room with the rest of the committee.”
Doc. 18-5 ¶ 38; see also Doc. 18-4 ¶ 6.
Moreover, he doubted Nagy's claims because he stated that
staff members inspected the black members' score sheets
and there were no erasure marks. Doc. 27 at 77:13-22. While
Gibson was attempting to explain these concerns, Nagy walked
out of Gibson's office, “as she did in other
meetings with Dr. Gibson when he was critical of her
performance.” Doc. 18-4 ¶ 6; see also
Doc. 18-5 ¶ 40. Thus, Gibson believed Nagy was being
“openly defiant and rude.” Doc. 18-5 ¶ 41.
alleges several other instances where Nagy exhibited
“disrespectful and insubordinate” behavior.
See, e.g., id. ¶¶ 42-49; Doc. 27
at 79:20-25. For example, Nagy would sometimes refuse to go
to the podium in board meetings to address the Board and
provide a report from her school. Docs. 18-5 ¶ 42; 27 at
81:13-82:4. This behavior, Gibson alleges, had led some Board
members to tell him to “get her to the podium or [they
were] going to do something about it.” Docs. 18-5
¶ 43; 27 at 82:2-4. Nagy also allegedly conversed with
people around her in an audible tone while the Board meeting
was taking place. Docs. 18-5 ¶ 44; 27 at 79:22-23.
Further, Gibson claims Nagy was dismissive with parents and
unwilling to assist in the school office, as “parents
and staff often found her sitting in a rocking chair or on a
counter in the front office.” Doc. 18-5 ¶¶
45-46; see also Doc. 27 at 106:19-25. In another
instance, two officers of the school's PTO allegedly came
to the front office and were ignored by Nagy for some time
until she finally gave them the information they were
seeking. Docs. 18-5 ¶¶ 47-49; 27 at 80:10-12,
Gibson never gave Nagy written notice of discipline for her
behavior, as that was objected to by some board members and
was not “the culture around [the school], ” he
testified that he disciplined her verbally. Doc. 27 at
114:17-116:9. Nagy claims Gibson never spoke to her about
being insubordinate or unprofessional. Doc. 24-2 ¶ 11.
Instead, she claims Gibson rarely spoke to her at all, and
whenever he did, it would be in the presence of one or more
of his staff as an attempt to intimidate her. Doc. 24 at 8.
Gibson denied ever turning Nagy down when she wanted to meet
but admitted he had witnesses in the room whenever he was
talking with Nagy, not to intimidate her but “[b]ecause
things would . . . not be exactly as they were when they were
repeated.” Doc. 27 at 125:16-24.
Spring of 2015, Nagy applied for the position of Curriculum
Director. Doc. 24-6 at 192:5-6. On April 1, 2015, Nagy was
informed by the assistant superintendent that she was not
selected for the position. Id. at 192:8-11, 24-25,
193:1-4. “According to [Gibson's] EEOC Rebuttal,
” Nagy “scored 7 out of 9” on the rubric
from the committee. Id. at 192:19-23. Nagy believes
Gibson purposely put custodians and administrators on the
hiring committee who are “all loyal to Gibson” in
an effort to deny her the position.Docs. 24-1 at 7; 24-6 at
196:7-19. Minutes after hearing that she was not selected,
Nagy called Gibson and initiated a heated confrontation. Doc.
24-6 at 194:3-17. Specifically, Nagy admitted to saying
something to the effect of “you better get ready,
you're not going to be there much longer, I'm coming
after you, you need to get your stuff together.”
Id. 194:10-14. Gibson determined the following
morning that Nagy “could not continue to serve as a
principal after the school year ended.” Doc. 18-5
¶ 55; see Doc. 27 at 128:15-129:1.
next Board meeting was on April 13, 2015, and as noted,
Gibson required all principals to give a short report at
Board meetings. Docs. 24-6 at 219:10-16; 27 at 81:10-17. Nagy
stated she wanted to address the Board “to discuss some
of [her] . . . concerns . . . about the system and the
children, and the way things were being run.” Doc. 24-6
at 217:18-218:1. In her report, Nagy discussed her years in
the School District, the excellent “climate”
rating of her school, her health issues, and how she cared
for her students and her school. Id. at
220:10-221:4. Additionally, Nagy asked what qualifications
were required for Gibson's hiring committees at a
District level, because she had unsuccessfully requested
twice to be on one. Id. at 222:1-9. Nagy also asked
how some decisions were being made by the central office.
Id. at 227:4-9. Nagy testified that she wanted
eventually to voice her opposition to Gibson's programs,
but Gibson cut her off before she could finish. Id.
at 224:2-9, 228:4-5.
this point, Nagy stated she “had no idea” that
she would not return as a principal. Id. at
224:14-16. On April 14, 2015, Nagy received a letter stating
that her contract as a principal would not be renewed for the
2015-2016 school year. Id. at 198:18-22. Instead,
the letter offered Nagy a teaching position, an offer Nagy
rejected. Id. at 198:23-199:20, 201:23-202:1. The
Board, with Gibson's recommendation, voted to replace
Nagy with an African-American female, Gwen Jenkins, the
assistant principal who filled in during Nagy's medical
leave. Id. at 202:2-6. The Board that voted on
Nagy's nonrenewal consisted of three Caucasian members
and two African-American members. Docs. 18-5 ¶ 64; 24-6
at 203:13-16. At the same time as Nagy's nonrenewal, the
Board filled another principal position with a Caucasian.
Docs. 18-5 ¶¶ 61-63; 24-6 at 202:7-203:9.
September 19, 2016, the Board voted to remove Gibson as
Superintendent. Doc. 27 at 87:11-15. During his time as the
School District's Superintendent there were 32 hires,
most of whom were teachers. Id. at 85:9-16. Of the
teacher hires, the “majority by far was
[C]aucasian.” Id. at 86:1-8.
8, 2015, Nagy filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC
and received a Right-to-Sue notice. Doc. 1 ¶ 14. Nagy
timely filed this lawsuit alleging claims against the School
District and Gibson pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Count
I), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count II). See
generally Doc. 1 ¶ 1. Nagy alleges that, despite
her “stellar record as Principal of the Primary School,
” the determining factor in Defendants' decision to
demote and constructively terminate her as the Primary School
Principal was her race. Id. ¶¶ 13, 16, 19.
Nagy also asserts a First Amendment claim against Gibson
(Count IV), alleging Gibson demoted her in retaliation for
her speaking on matters of public concern, and state law
claims for defamation (Count III) and intentional infliction
of emotional distress (Count V). Id. ¶¶
22, 24, 26.
Summary Judgment Standard
shall grant summary judgment “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A factual dispute is not genuine unless,
based on the evidence presented, “‘a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.'” Info. Sys. & Networks Corp. v.
City of Atlanta, 281 F.3d 1220, 1224 (11th Cir. 2002)
(quoting United States v. Four Parcels of Real
Prop., 941 F.2d 1428, 1437 (11th Cir. 1991)); see
also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). “The moving party bears the burden of proving
no genuine issue of material fact exists.” Info.
Sys. & Networks Corp., 281 F.3d at 1224. The movant
may support its assertion that a fact is undisputed by
“citing to particular parts of materials in the record,
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations
(including those made for purposes of the motion only),
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.”
burden then shifts to the non-moving party, who must rebut
the movant's showing “by producing . . . relevant
and admissible evidence beyond the pleadings.”
Josendis v. Wall to Wall Residence Repairs, Inc.,
662 F.3d 1292, 1315 (11th Cir. 2011). The non-moving party
does not satisfy its burden “if the rebuttal evidence
‘is merely colorable, or is not significantly
probative' of a disputed fact.” Id.
(quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50). Further, where a
party fails to address another party's assertion of fact
as required by Rule 56(c), the Court may consider the fact
undisputed for purposes of the motion. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2).
However, “[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of
the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from
the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge . . . .
The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all
justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [her] favor.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.
Nagy's Inadequate Response to Defendants' Statement
of Undisputed Material Facts
argue that “in the vast majority of [Nagy's]
responses to Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Material
Facts (“SMF”), Plaintiff either does not directly
refute the facts or supports her refutations with conclusory
disagreements or evidence that does not actually directly
refute the fact.” Doc. 28 at 2 (internal quotation
marks omitted). There is considerable merit to
Defendants' allegation. Here are but a few examples.
Defendants rely on the affidavit of Latonja Turner, the woman
to whom Nagy texted that Smith's endorsement of Gibson
“pissed [her] off.” Doc. 18-3. Turner attached to
her affidavit a screen shot of those messages. Id.
at 3. Nagy responds by simply stating she “has no
recollection of this text message exchange, or of the date of
any such alleged communication.” Doc. 24-1 at 2. In
response to Defendants' assertion that Nagy “walked
out of Dr. Gibson's office as he was attempting to
explain his concerns . . .” (Doc. 18-5 ¶ 40), Nagy
simply “denies this incident took place as related by
Gibson and Albritton.” Doc. 24-1 at 6. And in response
to the assertion that Nagy told Gibson “that she was
going to ‘get' him and that he should ‘pack
his office' because he was going to lose his job”
(Doc. 18-5 ¶ 54), Nagy “denies that her
conversation with Dr. Gibson was as alleged by Dr.
Gibson.” Doc. 24-1 at 7-8. Yet, Nagy testified:
Q: Do you remember saying, you better get ready, you're
not going to be there much longer, I'm coming after you,