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Lowery v. Greater Clark County Schools Corp.

United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division

February 20, 2014

Maggie Lowery, Plaintiff,
Greater Clark County Schools Corp., Defendant.


Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Judge

Presently pending before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Greater Clark County Schools, Corp. (“Clark County Schools”). [Filing No. 55.]


Standard of Review

A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). As the current version of Rule 56 makes clear, whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant’s factual assertion can result in the movant’s fact being considered undisputed, and potentially in the grant of summary judgment. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e).

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court need only consider disputed facts that are material to the decision. A disputed fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Hampton v. Ford Motor Co., 561 F.3d 709, 713 (7th Cir. 2009). In other words, while there may be facts that are in dispute, summary judgment is appropriate if those facts are not outcome determinative. Harper v. Vigilant Ins. Co., 433 F.3d 521, 525 (7th Cir. 2005). Fact disputes that are irrelevant to the legal question will not be considered. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

On summary judgment, a party must show the Court what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party’s favor. Darst v. Interstate Brands Corp., 512 F.3d 903, 907 (7th Cir. 2008). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. O’Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011). The Court need only consider the cited materials, Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(3), and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has “repeatedly assured the district courts that they are not required to scour every inch of the record for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them,” Johnson, 325 F.3d at 898. Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Ponsetti v. GE Pension Plan, 614 F.3d 684, 691 (7th Cir. 2010).

After assessing the parties’ claims in accordance with the standards outlined above, the Court concludes that Clark County Schools is entitled to summary judgment. Therefore, the facts detailed below contain all reasonable inferences in favor of pro se Plaintiff Maggie Low-ery.[2] See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 n.2 (1986).



The Court finds the following to be the undisputed facts, supported by admissible evidence in the record:[3]

A. Ms. Lowery’s Initial Employment

In August 2009, Maggie Lowery, who is African American, received a telephone call from Donna Mullins, Director of Human Resources at Clark County Schools, regarding an open teaching position for the 2009-2010 school year. [Filing No. 56-21, at ECF p. 15; Filing No. 56- 24, at ECF p. 2.] The open position was for a home economics teacher at New Washington Middle-High School (the “School”). [Filing No. 56-21, at ECF p. 16.] Ms. Lowery met with the School’s Principal, Ben Ledbetter, and the Vice Principal, Kevin Yancey. [Filing No. 56-21, at ECF p. 17.] She was favorably impressed with the School’s home economics facilities. [Filing No. 56-21, at ECF p. 18.] Mr. Ledbetter called Ms. Lowery the day after her interview to offer her the teaching position, and she accepted the offer. [Filing No. 56-21, at ECF p. 19.] She went to the School to fill out paperwork, and subsequently signed an employment contract. [Filing No. 56-21, at ECF pp. 19-20; Filing No. 56-23, at ECF p. 36.]

Because the school year for teachers had already started, Ms. Lowery’s contract was for a period of one hundred seventy-eight days instead of the one hundred eighty-five days the standard teachers’ contract for that school year included. [Filing No. 56-24, at ECF p. 2.] Ms. Low-ery had not yet been hired when the “startup days” for the 2009-2010 school year occurred, so was not present for them. [Filing No. 56-24, at ECF p. 2.] In addition to her teaching duties, Ms. Lowery was paid $345.13 for being the sponsor of a home economics club. [Filing No. 56-21, at ECF pp. 20-21.]

Upon her employment with Clark County Schools, Ms. Lowery completed a Confidential Emergency Information Sheet in which she stated that she had diabetes but was generally in good health. [Filing No. 56-21, at ECF pp. 22-23; Filing No. 56-23, at ECF p. 37.] She also listed several medications on the form, which she was taking for diabetes. [Filing No. 56-21, at ECF pp. 22-23; Filing No. 56-23, at ECF p. 37.]

B. Ms. Lowery’s Health Insurance

Upon her hiring, Ms. Lowery also enrolled in health insurance coverage offered by Clark County Schools through Humana. [Filing No. 56-21, at ECF p. 21.] Ms. Lowery was under the impression that she would not be covered under the Humana plan until she had been employed for one year. [Filing No. 56-21, at ECF p. 22.] The Humana plan did require that an employee be covered for one year before hospitalization for a pre-existing condition would be covered. [Filing No. 56-24, at ECF p. 4.] Ms. Mullins spoke with Sandy Duvall, a teacher and Union representative, to try to clarify Ms. Lowery’s concerns regarding her coverage. [Filing No. 56-21, at ECF p. 22; Filing No. 56-24, at ECF p. 4.] Ms. Lowery’s concerns related to coverage for her diabetes medication, and ultimately Humana provided coverage. [Filing No. 56-22, at ECF p. 25.]

Ms. Lowery frequently talked about her diabetes while employed by Clark County Schools. [Filing 56-21, at ECF p. 24.] She told Mr. Ledbetter and her students about it, so that they would know what to do if she had any issues. [Filing No. 56-21, at ECF p. 24.] Mr. Ledbetter asked her about her diabetes on a regular basis. [Filing No. 56-21, at ECF p. 25.]

C. Ms. Lowery’s Request to be Hired for After-School Activities

While employed at Clark County Schools, Ms. Lowery expressed interest in being hired in connection with after-school activities for the athletic department, including as a track coach and a basketball coach. [Filing No. 56-22, at ECF p. 19.] All coaching positions had been filled the previous spring, however, long before Ms. Lowery was hired. [Filing No. 56-24, at ECF p. 4.]

D. Incidents During the 2009-2010 School Year

Shortly after the school year began, a paraprofessional arrived unannounced at Ms. Low-ery’s classroom to use one of the kitchens to bake cupcakes with a special education student. [Filing No. 56-21, at ECF pp. 26-27.] Ms. Lowery found this very distracting, and she confronted the paraprofessional who told her that it was part of the curriculum for the student she was working with. [Filing No. 56-21, at ECF p. 27.] Ms. Lowery complained to Mr. Yancey about the situation, and he agreed that it was distracting and discussed the matter with Mr. Ledbetter. [Filing No. 56-21, at ECF p. 27.] Mr. Ledbetter then told Ms. Lowery that the paraprofessional had contacted the director of special education and complained that Ms. Lowery was discriminating against the student. [Filing No. 56-21, at ECF p. 28.] Mr. ...

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