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Gambrell v. South Brunswick Board of Education

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

October 16, 2019



          PETER G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant South Brunswick Board of Education's ("Defendant") Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 17). For the reasons stated herein, Defendant's motion to dismiss is granted without prejudice.


         Pro se Plaintiffs Eugene C. Gambrell and Doris M. Gambrell (together, "Plaintiffs") filed this action against Defendant on November 20, 2018. (ECF No. 1). The gravamen of Plaintiffs' initial complaint was that Defendant "allowed others ... to carry out all types of illegal practices on both Plaintiffs." (Complaint at 4, ECF No. 1). On March 29, 2019, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, which is substantially similar to their initial Complaint. (Cf Amended Complaint, ECF No. 16 with Complaint, ECF No. 1).

         According to the Amended Complaint, this Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this matter because of the alleged causes of action arising under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, 42 U.S.C. §§1983, 1985, and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(g). (See Amended Compl. at 3).

         Plaintiff Eugene Gambrell is a "Black American Male of the age of seventy seven." (Id. at 11). Plaintiff Doris Gambrell is a "Black American Female of the age of seventy one." (Id.) Plaintiffs were employed as school bus drivers by First Student, Inc. ("First Student"). Plaintiffs were drivers assigned to the South Brunswick School District for twelve years. (Id.).

         Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint is not clearly stated. Plaintiffs seems to allege that Defendants, as well as other unidentified parties, engaged in conduct that constituted a "Breach of Contract, Deliberate Negligences, Conspiracy to Commit Legal Fraud to Band and throw both [Plaintiffs] out of South Brunswick District without any form of Legal Authority or Means, but by their own means of Discrimination, Favoritism, Unfair and Illegal Practices and Procedures, and Discrimination of Religion and Harrass[ment]." (Id. at 4-5). The Amended Complaint also makes scattered references to other state law causes of actions, including slander, defamation of character, and discrimination under state law. (Id. at 3, 5). Plaintiffs allege that as a result of Defendant's actions, including Defendant's purported "black balling," Plaintiffs were deprived of work opportunities in the State of New Jersey. (Id. at 5, 10).

         Perhaps in their most serious allegations, Plaintiffs allege that they were discriminated against based on their "age, color and religion." (Id. at 7, 10-11). Although these allegations are difficult to understand, from the best the Court can tell, Plaintiffs appear to allege that Defendant failed to properly oversee students who were riding the bus, as well as permitted the "Bullying of ... both Plaintiffs." (Id. at 6). As to the former, Defendant purportedly allowed students "to open the back Emergency Door and jump out of the bus . . . each and every year." (Id.). Rather than remedy these problems, Defendant allegedly "use[d] illegal means to Injure and Destroy [Plaintiffs] by further discrimination based on their age, color, and religion." (Id. at 6-7).

         The Amended Complaint also repeats Plaintiffs' allegation in the initial Complaint that they are whistleblowers because of their knowledge that Defendant failed "to Administrate Correct Education and Disciplinary Actions." (Id. at 6). No. other allegations in the Amended Complaint purport to relate to their whistleblower status or that Plaintiffs suffered an adverse employment action due to being whistleblowers. However, on October 2, 2019, Plaintiffs stated on the record that they were "banned" from driving school busses in South Brunswick after making complaints to Defendant regarding, inter alia, students jumping off the back of their busses. After being "banned" from South Brunswick, Plaintiffs stated that they could not obtain employment as school bus drivers anywhere else in New Jersey.

         The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") allegedly issued Plaintiffs Notices of Right to Sue on September 17, 2018 and September 19, 2018. (Id. at 4). Plaintiffs' contend that the Notice evidence wrongdoing and support the viability of their claims. (See ECF No. 20). The EEOC Notice of Right to Sue has not been annexed to any of Plaintiffs' filings.

         Plaintiff is seeking punitive damages due to Defendants' intentional, willful, wanton, malicious, and oppressive conduct. (Amended Compl. at 8). They are also seeking an order that they "be allowed to Drive in the South Brunswick District for any Bus Company that has runs in South Brunswick District." (Id.). Defendant is seeking dismissal of the Amended Complaint on the grounds that Plaintiffs again failed to adequately plead a plausible claim upon which relief can be granted.

         Legal Standard

         On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court is required to accept as true all allegations in the Amended Complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and to view them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). While a court will accept well-pleaded allegations as true for the purposes of the motion, it will not accept bald assertions, unsupported conclusions, unwarranted inferences, or sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; see also Morse v. Lower Merion School District, 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). A complaint should be dismissed only if the well-pleaded alleged facts, taken as true, fail to state a claim. See In re Warfarin Sodium, 214 F.3d 395, 397-98 (3d Cir. 2000). The question is whether the claimant can prove any set of facts consistent with his or her allegations that will entitle him or her to relief, not whether that person will ultimately prevail. Semerenko v. Cendant Corp., 223 F.3d 165, 173 (3d Cir. 2001). "The pleader is required to 'set forth sufficient information to outline the elements of his claim or to permit inferences to be drawn that these elements exist.'" Kost v. Kozakewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993) (quoting 5A Wright & Miller, Fed. Practice & Procedure: Civil 2d § 1357, at 340 (2d ed. 1990)). "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiffs obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact), . . .." Id.

         Where, as here, the plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court should read the complaint generously and hold it "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, ...

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