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Robinson v. Grayson County Board of Education

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division

September 17, 2014

DEBORA ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
GRAYSON COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendant,

ORDER

JOSEPH H. McKINLEY, Jr., Chief District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a motion by Defendant, Board of Education of Grayson County, for summary judgment [DN 24] and on a motion by Plaintiff, Debora Robinson, for partial summary judgment against Defendant on Count 4 and a portion of Count 5 of her Complaint [DN 26]. Fully briefed, these matters are ripe for decision.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Before the Court may grant a motion for summary judgment, it must find that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of specifying the basis for its motion and of identifying that portion of the record which demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies this burden, the non-moving party thereafter must produce specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

Although the Court must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the non-moving party is required to do more than simply show there is some Ametaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The rule requires the non-moving party to present specific facts showing that a genuine factual issue exists by Aciting to particular parts of materials in the record" or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence... of a genuine dispute[.]" Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). AThe mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party]." Anderson , 477 U.S. at 252. It is against this standard that the Court reviews the following facts.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Debora Robinson, was employed by the Grayson County School District (hereinafter "District") as a full-time bus driver. During the 2011-2012 school year, Robinson's son was a student in the District. According to Robinson, her son was having difficulties with another student, Stephen Scott. Stephen's then-girlfriend, Makia Duncan, was also a student in the District. Stephen and Makia's younger siblings rode Robinson's bus.

Robinson testified that on November 10, 2011, her son was upset because Stephen had made comments about him that were not true. Robinson discussed the matter with the school resource officer. Later in the evening, while she was at home, Robinson exchanged Facebook messages about her son with Makia, who was pregnant. After Makia requested Robinson leave her alone and stop messaging her, Robinson posted the following:

... you started this YOU LITTLE BITCH I seen girls like you before your mother taught you well what are you going to do when stephen dumps your ass for someone else Do you kids even know what the word commitment means...

(Robinson Dep. Ex. 3; Makia Dec. ΒΆ 4). Makia printed the exchange and showed it to her mother and Stephen's mother. On November 15, 2011, Stephen's mother reported the matter to Arnold Hack, the District's Director of Transportation. Hack reported the matter to the District's Superintendent, Barry Anderson. On November 15, 2011, Anderson approached Robinson about the Facebook exchange with Makia. Anderson showed Robinson a copy of the exchange, and Robinson acknowledged that it was accurate.

On November 16, 2011, Robinson received a letter from Anderson stating that it was his intention to terminate her employment with the Grayson County Board of Education based on violation of "Section 03.27 of the [District's] Policies & Procedures... for immorality, misconduct or conduct unbecoming a school employee." (Anderson Dep. at Ex. 2.) Further, the letter indicated that "[t]his termination of employment will become final ten (10) days from the date this letter is received by you unless you request a hearing and deny the charges." (Id.) Robinson testified that she understood that Anderson intended to terminate her and requested a formal hearing to contest the charges. Further, she understood that the decision rendered as a result of the requested hearing would be final. (Robinson Dep. at 66.) Anderson recused himself as the hearing officer in regard to the termination of Robinson's employment, and she was notified that an independent hearing officer would be selected. She was provided more than twenty days notice of the hearing date. On January 4, 2012, Independent Hearing Officer Scott Lewis conducted the hearing on Robinson's appeal. Robinson was represented by counsel at the hearing where she testified, introduced evidence, and had the opportunity to present and cross-examine witnesses. Anderson and Robinson were the only witnesses who testified.

On January 9, 2012, the Independent Hearing Officer served his opinion on Robinson and her attorney by registered mail. The opinion provided that it was the hearing officer's "determination and ruling that Debora J. Robinson be terminated as an employee in the Grayson County School System in accordance with the request of Superintendent Anderson." After receipt of the opinion, Plaintiff testified that she received paperwork from the Board of Education informing her of her rights in regard to continuation of life insurance coverage, and she applied for unemployment benefits. (Robinson Dep. at 72-75.)

Robinson filed this lawsuit asserting claims for a violation of her rights to free speech, procedural and substantive due process, and equal protection under both the United States Constitution and the Kentucky Constitution. Defendant now moves for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims. In response, Plaintiff concedes that summary judgment should be granted in Defendant's favor as to Counts 1, 2, and 3 of the Complaint, as well as portions of Count 5. Plaintiff argues that summary judgment should not be granted in Defendant's favor as to the procedural and substantive due process claims under the Federal and Kentucky Constitutions alleged in ...


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