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Veggian v. Camden Board of Education

October 2, 2007

PAULA VEGGIAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAMDEN BOARD OF EDUCATION, ANNETTE KNOX, FRED REISS, LUIS PAGAN, CAMDEN EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, AND CLARALIENE GORDON DEFENDANTS/ COUNTERCLAIMANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

This matter has come before the Court on Defendants Camden Education Association ("CEA") and Claraliene Gordon's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against them. For the reasons expressed below, Defendants' motion will be denied.

BACKGROUND

This case arises out of Plaintiff's reporting of an alleged grade fixing scheme at Brimm Medical Arts High School ("Brimm") in Camden, New Jersey. Plaintiff, a certified teacher in the City of Camden School District for 39-years, claims that in the Spring of 2004, when she was performing her duties as a "scheduler" for Brimm, which included printing final report cards, she discovered discrepancies between the computer generated final grade reports and the students' transcripts. Plaintiff reported her discovery to her immediate supervisors. As a result, Plaintiff claims that she was retaliated against by Defendants for reporting the grade altering, which resulted in a hostile work environment, as well as an involuntary transfer and demotion.

Plaintiff originally filed a complaint against Defendants Camden Board of Education ("CBOE"), Annette Knox, Superintendent of the Camden School District, Fred Reiss, Assistant Superintendent for Administration and Support Services of the Camden School District, and Luis Pagan, Assistant Superintendent for the Camden Board of Education, bringing claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of her First Amendment rights and her Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. Two years later, Plaintiff was granted leave to amend her complaint to add as defendants the Camden Education Association ("CEA"), the collective bargaining unit and representative for educational employees within the City of Camden Public School District, and Claraliene Gordon, President of the CEA during the relevant time period. Plaintiff has asserted First and Fourteenth Amendment violations pursuant to § 1983 against the CEA and Gordon, as well as a claim for breach of the duty of fair representation. Following the filing of Plaintiff's amended complaint, the CEA and Gordon moved to dismiss her claims pursuant to Federal Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(6), which is now before the Court for consideration.

DISCUSSION

A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

When considering a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), a court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005). It is well settled that a pleading is sufficient if it contains "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Under the liberal federal pleading rules, it is not necessary to plead evidence, and it is not necessary to plead all the facts that serve as a basis for the claim. Bogosian v. Gulf Oil Corp., 562 F.2d 434, 446 (3d Cir. 1977). However, "[a]lthough the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a claimant to set forth an intricately detailed description of the asserted basis for relief, they do require that the pleadings give defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Baldwin County Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466 U.S. 147, 149-50 n.3 (1984) (quotation and citation omitted).

A district court, in weighing a motion to dismiss, asks "'not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claim.'" Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1969 n.8 (2007) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhoades, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)). A court need not credit either "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions" in a complaint when deciding a motion to dismiss. In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429-30 (3d Cir. 1997). The defendant bears the burden of showing that no claim has been presented. Hedges v. U.S., 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991)).

Finally, a court in reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion must only consider the facts alleged in the pleadings, the documents attached thereto as exhibits, and matters of judicial notice.

Southern Cross Overseas Agencies, Inc. v. Kwong Shipping Group Ltd., 181 F.3d 410, 426 (3d Cir. 1999). A court may consider, however, "an undisputedly authentic document that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the document." Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). If any other matters outside the pleadings are presented to the court, and the court does not exclude those matters, a Rule 12(b)(6) motion will be treated as a summary judgment motion pursuant to Rule 56. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b).

B. Analysis

In her amended complaint, Plaintiff explains the roles of the CEA and Gordon in the aftermath of Plaintiff's revelation of the grade fixing scheme:

* On January 19, 2005, the CEA filed a grievance for Plaintiff against Knox and the District for the denial of Plaintiff's due process rights because she was not given an opportunity to speak to the CBOE prior to being informed on December 14, 2004 of her transfer and demotion, and she was not provided with a "RICE" letter, which requires that Plaintiff be provided with three school transfer options. (Amended Compl. ...


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