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WHITE v. CAMDEN CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION

March 20, 2003

RACHEL WHITE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAMDEN CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stephen M. Orlofsky, United States District Judge

OPINION

Some of the most poignant lessons that we learn as children come from cautionary fables, such as "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" and "Little Red Riding Hood." This case presents a cautionary tale to unwary attorneys and might be aptly titled, "The Client Who Had No Claim."

Plaintiff, Rachel White ("White"), sued Defendant, Camden County Board of Education ("Camden BOE"), for alleged age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or "ADEA," 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. Camden BOE moves for summary judgment, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, and for sanctions against F. Michael Daily, White's attorney, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 11. For the reasons set forth below, the motion for summary judgment shall be granted, and the motion for Rule 11 sanctions shall be denied.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

White first began working as a substitute teacher for the Camden BOE in 1982. See Aff. of Rachel White, 9/6/02 ("White Aff."), ¶ 3. On May 15, 1992, White received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Glassboro State College. See White Aff., Ex. A. White did not obtain a teaching certification at that time because she had not completed her student teaching requirement, see Dep. of Rachel White, 6/6/02 ("White Dep."), 26:11-19, and because of her low grade point average ("GPA"), see Certif. of Thomas Toman, Esq., 7/30/02 ("Toman Certif."), Ex. B. Despite having a GPA below the minimum 2.50 required by the College's School of Education, White received a variance and was permitted to graduate, but her transcript carried the explanation: "This graduate did not complete the requirements of a Glassboro State College approved teacher certification program." Id.; White Dep. 28:13-24.

In June 1992, after obtaining her degree, White applied for a position as a permanent teacher with the Camden BOE. See White Aff., Ex. B. The New Jersey Department of Education sent White an evaluation, in which it outlined additional academic requirements that White needed to complete in order to be certified as a teacher for the handicapped. Id., Ex. D. Specifically, White was to complete twelve additional credits of instruction in "education of the handicapped." Id. White never completed these additional credits. See White Dep. 50:3-8. To date, White has not fulfilled the requirements for teaching certification. Id., 49:6 to 50:8.

In a subsequent application with the Camden City Public School system, dated February 1, 1993, White indicated multiple position preferences, including elementary kindergarten teacher, and teacher of the handicapped for pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and special education classes. Id., Ex. C. In the "Teaching Certificates" section of that application, White did not list any teaching certificates. Id. She did not receive a position.

On March 14, 1994, White filed another application for employment with the Camden City Public School system. See White Aff., Ex. E. This time, she indicated position preferences of pre-kindergarten and kindergarten elementary teacher, but did not indicate a preference as a teacher of the handicapped. Id. On the same application, White wrote that she was eligible for certification upon completion of nineteen additional credits of special education. Id. The Camden BOE followed up by sending White two notices requesting copies of her teaching certificates when they became available. See Toman Certif., Exs. D & E.

Additionally, in a letter dated November 21, 1995, the Camden BOE's Director of Personnel Services, Ms. D. Parthenia Cogdell, brought White's application to the attention of Special Education Supervisors for their consideration, along with other available applicants, "[s]hould an opening become available and the need to fill the position requesting an applicant with an Emergency Teacher of the Handicapped Certificate." Aff. of F. Michael Daily, Jr., 9/6/02 ("Daily Aff."), Ex. C. An emergency certificate is "a substandard one-year certificate issued only in the field of educational services, teacher of the handicapped, teacher of the blind and partially sighted, and teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing." N.J. Admin. Code § 6:11-4.3(a) (West 2003). Such certificates are issued only "on application of a public school district, submitted after August 1, in which the district board of education declares its inability due to unforeseen shortages or other extenuating circumstances to locate a suitable certified teacher." Id. § 6:11-4.3(b).

None of White's applications for a permanent teaching position were successful. See Daily Aff., Ex. B, Interrog. Resp. No. 9. Although White was never hired by the Camden BOE, she has been periodically employed as a per diem substitute teacher. Id., Interrog. Resp. No. 2.

On October 24, 1994, White filed a verified complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, Department of Law & Public Safety, alleging discrimination on the basis of age. See Toman Certif., Ex. F. After conducting an investigation, the Division made the following findings:

(1) Respondent provided a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for refusing to hire Complainant which was supported by the investigation and not refuted by Complainant. Respondent's position was affirmed with respect to the fact that Complainant did not supply the necessary documentation to complete her application which included proof of certification to teach elementary education, the position which Complainant sought.
The investigation revealed that younger applicants who were hired had the necessary certifications in order to qualify for the positions.
There was no evidence obtained during the investigation that would support Complainant's claim that her competitors were held to less rigid standards for employment, than was she.
There was no other evidence, information or testimony obtained during the investigation to support a claim that Complainant was denied a position because of her age.
Id., Ex. G, at 6. The Division found that there was "not probable cause to credit the allegations of the complaint" and closed White's file on June 29, 1998. Id. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), likewise, dismissed White's allegations of discrimination and issued her a right to sue letter on December 10, 1999. White filed her Complaint in this Court on February 24, 2000.

This Court has federal question jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1331 (2003). I have considered the submissions of the parties and decided these motions on the papers ...


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