United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING SUMMARY JUDGMENT
M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
employment discrimination action is before the Court on the
motion for summary judgment filed by the Quitman County
School District. Doc. #49.
January 13, 2016, Gina Lauderdale Terry, a former fifth grade
science teacher in the Quitman County School District, filed
a complaint in this Court against the District. Doc. #1. In
her complaint, Terry alleges claims for race discrimination
and age discrimination. Id.
January 25, 2017, the District filed a motion seeking summary
judgment on all claims. Doc. #49. Terry responded to the
motion for summary judgment on February 8, 2017. Doc. #51.
The District filed a reply in support of its motion on
February 15, 2017. Doc. #53.
Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
“[s]ummary judgment is proper only when the record
demonstrates that no genuine issue of material fact exists
and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Luv N' Care Ltd. v. Groupo Rimar,
844 F.3d 442, 447 (5th Cir. 2016). “A factual issue is
genuine if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury
to return a verdict for the non-moving party and material if
its resolution could affect the outcome of the action.”
Burton v. Freescale Semiconductor, Inc., 798 F.3d
222, 226 (5th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted).
On a motion for summary judgment, a court must
“consider the evidence in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its
favor.” Edwards v. Cont'l Cas. Co., 841
F.3d 360, 363 (5th Cir. 2016).
seeking summary judgment, “[t]he moving party bears the
initial responsibility of informing the district court of the
basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the
record which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact.” Nola Spice
Designs, L.L.C. v. Haydel Enters., Inc., 783 F.3d
527, 536 (5th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and
alterations omitted). If the moving party satisfies this
burden, “the non-moving party must go beyond the
pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial.” Id. (internal quotation marks
omitted). “Where the nonmoving party bears the burden
of proof at trial, the moving party satisfies this initial
burden by demonstrating an absence of evidence to support the
nonmoving party's case.” Celtic Marine Corp. v.
James C. Justice Cos., Inc., 760 F.3d 477, 481
(5th Cir. 2014).
opposing summary judgment, Terry cites various statements
allegedly made by Larry Johnson, the Dean of Students, to
Terry and to teachers the District employed. The District
objects to three of these statements as inadmissible hearsay.
Doc. #53 at 2, 7.
801(c) of the Federal Rules of Evidence defines hearsay as a
“statement that ... the declarant does not make while
testifying at the current trial or hearing [and] a party
offers in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted
in the statement.” “Once a party has properly
objected to evidence as inadmissible hearsay, the burden
shifts to the proponent of the evidence to show, by a
preponderance of the evidence, that the evidence falls within
an exclusion or exception to the hearsay rule and was
therefore admissible.” Loomis v. Starkville Miss.
Pub. Sch. Dist., 150 F.Supp.3d 730, 742-43 (N.D. Miss.
2015) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted).
“Unsubstantiated hearsay evidence that would not be
admissible at trial does not suffice to raise a genuine issue
of material fact.” Arora v. Starwood Hotels &
Resorts Worldwide, Inc., 294 Fed. App'x 159, 161
(5th Cir. 2008) (citing Clary v. Computer Assocs.
Int'l., Inc., 109 F.3d 765, 765 (5th Cir. 1997)).
the District objects to the following alleged statements
attributed by Terry to Johnson: (1) that Terry and another
employee needed to file a class action because of the way
Nanette Reed, Terry's supervisor, treated white teachers;
(2) that Reed became upset with Johnson after Johnson
convinced a white teacher, who Reed was trying to make quit,
not to resign; and (3) that Reed was mistreating another
teacher because the teacher was white. Doc. #53 at 2, 7.
These are clearly out of court statements introduced for the
truth of the matter asserted. Terry did not respond to the
District's objections to their admissibility.
Accordingly, Terry has failed to meet her burden of showing
that the statements fall within an exclusion or exception to
the hearsay rule. Therefore, these statements will not be
considered for the purpose of resolving the motion for
Terry's Education and Work History
is a Caucasian female who was 56 years old during the time
period relevant to this action. Doc. #52-1. In 1997, Terry
obtained a certification in elementary education at Athens
State College in Alabama. Doc. #51-3. In 1989, she received a
Bachelor's degree in secondary education in social
sciences from Athens State; and in 2002, received a
certification in special education from the University of
1990, Terry began her teaching career with the Winfield Board
of Education, working at the Northwest Community College
campus and then the Bevill State Community College in
Northwest Alabama. Doc. #51-2 at 16-20; Doc. #51-3. Terry
later worked as a teacher in various locations, including
Tupelo, Aberdeen, Lafayette County, and Desoto County in
Mississippi, and in Shelby County, Alabama. Doc. #51-3.
The District's Hiring of Terry
summer of 2014, Terry completed an online application for a
teaching position in the State of Mississippi. Doc. #51-2 at
56-57. Sometime later, the District contacted Terry to set up
an interview with Principal Nanette Reed and Curriculum and
Instructional Director Linder Howze, the overseer of teacher
recruitment. Doc. #51-2 at 58-59; Doc. #49-2 at 7-8; Doc.
#49-3 at ¶ 2.
the interview, Terry taught a mock lesson. Doc. #49-2 at 9.
According to Howze, when Terry was “asked how to
prepare a lesson and assess the needs of the students, she
was unable to answer the question.” Doc. #49-3 at
¶4. Howze further testified that Terry was
“totally off key, ” did not “know her
subject matter, ” and raised “concern[s]”
because the school district's performance level was an F.
Doc. #49-2 at 9-11. Because of Terry's “poor
performance during the job interview [and] frequently
changing jobs, ” Howze thought Terry “would not
be a good fit for the District and that she should not be
hired.” Doc. #49-3 at ¶ 5. Even though Howze
expressed her concerns to Reed, Reed offered Terry a position
teaching fifth grade science. Doc. #51-2 at 63; Doc. #49-2 at
10; Doc. #49-3 at ¶ 5. Terry accepted on the spot. Doc.
#51-2 at 63-64.
the interview, Reed recommended Terry to the superintendent,
who in turn recommended Terry to the school board. Doc. #53-4
at 15-16; Doc. #49 at 27.
Terry's Alleged Work Deficiencies
had told all District teachers not to be on their cell phones
during instructional time. Doc. #49-5 at 29. However, Reed
testified that she saw Terry on the phone “about three
times” the first week of school. Id. at 30.
After speaking with Terry several times about being on the
phone, Reed sent Terry an e-mail regarding her cellular phone
early September 2014, Reed conducted an unannounced
evaluation of Terry. Doc. #51-2 at 97. Following her
observation of Terry, Reed told Terry that she did not like
the fact that the kids in her class were running around, and
did not like the way Terry was teaching the class.
Id. at 97-98.
two weeks later, on September 16, 2014, during a routine
observation of Terry's classroom, Reed saw Terry talking
on a cell phone, Terry not teaching the objective listed on
her lesson plan for that day, and students running around and
talking while Terry was talking. Doc. #49-5 at 35-36.
Specifically, Reed witnessed Terry “not teaching the
standard” or “preparing the lesson to one
standard and then teaching something else in the
classroom.” Id. at 32-33. For example, Reed
observed Terry teaching “kinetic energy” when she
was “supposed to have been doing objections in
motion” according to her planned lesson. Id.
at 33. Based on these observations, Reed believed no learning
was occurring in Terry's classroom. Id. at 35.
Letter of Reprimand and ...