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Hopkins v. Trenton Board of Education

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 27, 2018

LYMAN HOPKINS, Plaintiffs,


          PETER G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.

         This matter comes before this Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs second amended complaint. [ECF No. 24].

         Facts and Procedural History

         This case returns to the Court for the third time. Plaintiff filed his original complaint on May 8, 2017. After screening the initial complaint, the Court granted Plaintiffs application for in forma pauperis, and allowed him to submit a new complaint that complied with Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). (ECF No. 5). An amended complaint was then filed on September 6, 2017, after Plaintiffs motion to reopen the case was denied. [ECF No. 12]. Defendant then filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint on September 27, 2017 which was granted by this Court on November 7, 2017. [ECF No. 19]. Plaintiff was again allowed to amend his complaint. He filed a second amended complaint on December 4, 2017. On January 2, 2018, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss this second amended complaint which is now before this Court. [ECF No. 24].

         Mr. Hopkins alleges that his complaint sets forth a plausible cause of action because he obtained documents from the Trenton Board of Education showing disparate treatment. Some of these documents are attached to the Complaint; but having reviewed them, I do not see their relevance.

         Plaintiff, Lyman S. Hopkins alleges disparate treatment by Defendant Trenton Board of Education, based on its failure to hire him as a Spanish teacher. Plaintiff, a New Jersey-certified Spanish teacher, is a sixty-year old African American man, who has been physically disabled since 2010. (Amend. Compl. at ¶ 10). On February 19, 2016, Plaintiff applied for a position as a Spanish teacher at "Trenton P.S.[1]" (hereinafter Trenton Public Schools) and was later interviewed on March 10, 2016. (Id. at ¶ 26-28). Plaintiff arrived to the interview carrying a laptop computer, canvas bag with teaching materials, utilizing a cane to assist walking. (Id. ¶ 33). During his interview with Defendants Madeline Roman and Michael Pettola, it was explained to Plaintiff that he should consider a substitute teacher position with Trenton Public School - a position he did not want. (Id. at ¶ 33). Thereafter, Plaintiff received a post-interview e-mail from Defendant that stated:

this letter is to inform you that you were not selected for the position. Please do not allow this determination to preclude you from applying for open positions for which you qualify. We sincerely regret that the great volume of applications we receive makes it impossible for us to provide you with a more personal response. Again, thank you for your interest in the Trenton Public School District and we wish you success with your future endeavors.

(Id. at ¶ 35).

         On August 1, 2016, Plaintiff again submitted an application for another position as a Spanish teacher at Trenton Public Schools and received an interview on August 3, 2016. (Id. at ¶ 37). According to the Complaint, "[a]bout 100 percent of several school district logo attired personnel at August 2016 Trenton Public School Job Fair reception tables are Black." (Id. at ¶ 41). However, Plaintiff claims there were no "Black interviewers" at any of the candidate interview tables. (Id. at ¶ 42). During his interview with Defendant Sandra Iturbides, Trenton Public School World Languages Supervisor, it was again suggested that he consider a substitute teacher position with Trenton Public School. (Id. at ¶¶ 45-46). Plaintiff mentions that after the August 2016 interview, he was sitting outside of "Trenton P.S. Board Room" making a phone call regarding another interview when "Sandra Iturbides and the technology person walk[ed] past Plaintiff walking away from the room before noontime." ((Id. ¶ 48). According to the Complaint, Plaintiff never received any subsequent communications from Defendant regarding his application. (Id. ¶ 49). Plaintiff makes note of a recruiting company called "Source4Teachers" and its involvement in recruiting substitute teachers for Defendant. (Id. ¶¶ 51-52). Plaintiff also alleges that he was interviewed for several other New Jersey school district Spanish teacher positions between March and September 2016 and this is the only one where he was counseled to seek a substitute teacher position. (Id. ¶54).

         Plaintiff in the second amended complaint brings the following causes of action against Trenton Board of Education, Michael Pettola and Sandra Iturbides, in their official and individual capacity: (1) Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act; (2) violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; (3) violation of Fourteenth Amendment due process and equal protection under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (4) violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 § 105; and (5) violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. In the second amended complaint, Plaintiff has added facts; but some of them are not sensible. For example, he states the following facts:

68. The resultant work-hour limitations brought on by the Affordable Care Act is evidence the substitute agency closely regulates substitute teachers.
69. Plaintiff pleads 'equitable tolling' due to the following paragraphs:
70. Defendant resorts to a proscribed hiring custom.
71. Plaintiff Edgewater Park, N.J. storage unit suffers heavy wall damage shortly after his becoming a Trenton resident. (Exhibit 27)
72. Defendant March 2016 invitation for Plaintiff to reapply.
73. Plaintiff involvement in other Spanish teacher interviews between the dates of the Defendant 2016 interviews. (Exhibit 28)
74. Plaintiff 1992 automobile experiences mechanical failure May 2016 requiring towing and several days repair. (Exhibit 29)
75. Plaintiff early July 2016 need to address City of Trenton (at Trenton City Hall) housing ordinance issues (Trenton Municipal Code § 132-75 Facilities and fixtures) due to ongoing unkempt co-tenant, Ms. J. French. (Exhibit 30)
76. Plaintiff July 8, 2016 at Trenton residence vehicle hit-and-run issues, Trenton police case number 16-008161.
77. Plaintiff preparation for an Italian language teacher endorsement exam that takes place July 16, 2016 in White Plains, NY. (Exhibit 31)
78. Trenton landlord false accusations while supporting Plaintiff co-tenant Ms. J. French who collects one half utility payment from Plaintiff while accepting full energy assistance for PSE&G bills. (Exhibit 32)
79. Plaintiff recollection Trenton landlord getting upset stating, 'Plaintiff cannot even be a substitute teacher!'

(Compl. ¶¶ 68-79). Plaintiff also mentions that he filed an EEOC charge on October 21, 2016. (Id. ΒΆ 86). The majority of the new facts provided consist of conclusory statements, the relevancy of which is difficult to discern. For example, in paragraphs 139 to 152, Plaintiff comments on the racial, ethnic, and educational background of the faculty at the Trenton Puoblic Schools drawing conclusions on Trenton Board of Education's hiring policies which are based on his interpretation of personal research and some ...

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