United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
APRIL L. MOORE, Plaintiff,
FWCS SOUTH TRANSPORTATION, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE
April L. Moore, proceeding pro se, filed a Complaint [ECF No.
1] against Defendant FWCS South Transportation on June 26,
2017. In the Complaint, she alleged that she was fired from
her position with the Defendant because of her race, in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42
U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-17 (Title VII). On June 18,
2018, the Defendant moved for summary judgment [ECF No. 25],
and provided notice of the same to the Plaintiff [ECF No.
28]. The Plaintiff did not respond, and instead moved the
Court for the appointment of counsel [ECF No. 30] on July 23,
2018. The Court denied the motion on July 27, 2018 [ECF No.
31]. As of the date of this Opinion and Order, the Plaintiff
has not responded to the Defendant's Motion for Summary
Plaintiff is an African-American woman, who worked as a bus
assistant for the Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS) prior
to her termination. Bus assistants at FWCS are typically
assigned to special needs buses. They also ride with students
who have Individual Education Plans or Behavioral
Intervention Plans. These students often have mental or
emotional issues, which can lead to disruptive behavior.
Transportation management has found that an aggressive
approach is often ineffective when these special needs
students are verbally disruptive on the bus. Thus, bus
assistants are discouraged from taking aggressive,
confrontational approaches to resolve disruptive behavior.
Instead, whenever possible, de-escalation techniques are
has established Bus Assistant Responsibilities and
Guidelines. The Guidelines outline many of the basic
expectations for bus assistants. These expectations note,
among other things, that:
The first priority of the Bus Assistant is the safety of all
students. Nothing should compromise this priority. . . . The
transportation of special needs . . . students is a highly
personal service and requires a thorough assessment of the
student's physical, social, emotional and intellectual
capacities. Mutual respect . . . [is] an absolute necessity.
. . . Bus Assistants are to work with students in a positive
and professional manner. Whether you realize it or not, you
serve as a role model for each of your students. Situations
will arise to test your patience, but you must conduct
yourself in a professional manner at all times. . . . Be
diplomatic at all times to students, parents, and others.
Language that is demeaning or belittling to a student should
not be used in any conversation. An argumentative response to
comments should be avoided and great care should be used to
remain composed. Confrontation by word or action will only
escalate the opportunity for negative responses.
(Ex. A, ECF No. 25-1.) Additionally, all FWCS employees are
bound by the FWCS policy on corporal punishment, which
provides that “the School Board does not condone the
use of unreasonable force and fear as an appropriate
procedure in student discipline.” (Jackson Decl. ¶
10, ECF No. 25-1). Employees are also subject to the Code of
Ethics, which requires them to “[m]ake the well-being
of students the fundamental value in all decision-making and
actions, ” and “[d]emonstrate commitment to
[their] role as educational leaders and role models through
[their] language . . . and behavior.” (Id. at
¶ 11.) Finally, the Plaintiff, as a classified employee,
was also prohibited from making “[a]ny statement,
action, or conduct not in the best interests of the school
corporation.” (Id. at ¶ 12.)
Defendant also presented evidence that transportation
department employees receive training that is consistent with
these expectations. For instance, they are taught that the
use of force against a student is only appropriate where a
child is a danger to himself or others. (Id. at
¶ 13-14.) Employees are also taught to use de-escalation
techniques when a student becomes unruly. (Id. at
¶ 15.) In her deposition, the Plaintiff acknowledged the
appropriate course of action when confronted with a
disruptive student is de-escalation. (Moore Dep. 48:1-5.) She
also acknowledged that this is especially true for students
with mental or emotional issues. (Id. at 48:6-9.)
fall of 2016, the Plaintiff worked as a bus assistance on
buses that carried special education students, many of whom
had mental or emotional problems. On October 18, 2016, the
Plaintiff was working an afternoon route on Bus #227. There
were a few elementary students on the bus at that time. One
of the students, referred to as “B.” by the
Defendant, was approximately nine years old at the time of
the ride. The Plaintiff knew B., and was aware that B. was a
special education student with mental and emotional issues.
day B. was disruptive on the bus. During the course of the
ride, B. stood up after he was accused of kicking a student
who was walking down the bus aisle. B. then made a scene. The
driver asked the Plaintiff to intervene, but initially the
Plaintiff remained in her seat and indicated to the driver
that the driver should handle it herself. However, shortly
afterward the Plaintiff told B. to sit down. Rather than sit
down, B. began to yell at the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff then
responded by standing up, approaching B., and yelling at him
to sit down. When she reached B., the Plaintiff grabbed him
and wrestled him into his seat.
and for the next several minutes, the Plaintiff tangled with
B. She held his arms, and used her body to wedge him inside
the wall of the bus. At times, she also pinned B. to his seat
using her arm against his upper chest and neck. Throughout,
B. protested, cried, and begged to be released. Despite these
pleas, the Plaintiff continued to restrain him. At one point,
the driver asked the Plaintiff if she wanted a mobile unit to
assist. She declined.
students on the bus became disruptive, too. One student,
referencing B., shouted, “Kill him! Kill him! Kill
him!” Another made some remark, to which the Plaintiff
responded with a threat to impose a five day suspension.
Throughout the incident, and thereafter, the Plaintiff made
numerous loud and angry remarks to B. Towards the end of the
incident, the Plaintiff told the driver to “burn
rubber” to get B. home. She also declared that she was
going to press charges against B. The entire encounter was
captured on the bus's video recording system.
(See ECF No. 27.)
the incident, the Plaintiff reported to transportation
management that B. had pulled her hair. To verify this
account, the Supervisor of Driver Operations reviewed the
video from the bus. The Director of Transportation did too.
After reviewing the video, they concluded that the Plaintiff
used improper force against B. They consulted a human
resources (HR) employee who agreed with their conclusion. As
a result, the Plaintiff was suspended on October 19, 2016,
one day after the incident.
October 27, 2016, the Director and HR employee met with the
Plaintiff and her union representative. They asked the
Plaintiff to review the video and provide her side of the
story. The HR employee felt that the Plaintiff did not
satisfactorily explain her behavior in the video. After the
meeting, the Supervisor, HR employee, Director of
Transportation, and the Director of South Transportation
unanimously concluded that the Plaintiff used improper force
against the student, and that she should be terminated.
Thereafter, the Plaintiff was recommended for termination on
November 11, 2016. Although the Plaintiff wanted her ...