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Rawls v. Institutions of Higher Learning

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division

September 3, 2019

AVERY RAWLS PLAINTIFF
v.
INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI, NINA MCLAIN, in her official and individual capacity, MARJORIE GEISZ-EVERSON, in her official and individual capacity DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          KEITH STARRETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This cause came before the Court on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [41]. Plaintiff has responded [45, 46], and Defendants have replied [48]. Having reviewed the parties' submissions, the relevant legal authority, and otherwise being fully advised in the premises, the Court finds the motion is well taken and will be granted for the reasons set forth below.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, at all times relevant was a student in the University of Southern Mississippi (“USM”) Nurse Anesthesia Program (“NAP”) in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. [1] at ¶ 5. Nina McLain served as the Nurse Anesthesia Program Director, and Marjorie Geisz-Everson served as the Associate Nurse Anesthesia Program Director. [42] at p.1. Plaintiff began his studies in the NAP in January of 2016. [42-2] 15:25-16:1.

         The first year of the program is didactic, or instructional, rather than clinical. [42-2] 62:4-7. Students then progress into the clinical setting where they are assigned clinical sites and work cases under the supervision of a preceptor, who is either a certified registered nurse anesthetist (“CRNA”) or an anesthesiologist. [42-4] 11:15-25. The student will show up and do a case with the preceptor. [42-4] 19:7-9. The students in performing their cases will hopefully initially get a daily evaluation from their preceptors and then a monthly summary of their performances. [42-4] 19:10-20:8.

         Plaintiff began his clinicals in January 2017 and was assigned to three different facilities during his clinical rotation: Forrest General in Hattiesburg (Jan-Mar), Southwest Regional Medical Center in McComb (Apr-June), and the VA Medical Center in Jackson (July-Aug). [42-2] 68:22-69:2. In July 5, 2017 after receiving some unfavorable reviews and a host of other issues arose, Plaintiff was placed on clinical probation and put into a remediation plan. [42-2] at pp. 179-186. He then went into his last rotation at the VA. [42-2] 69:3-8. Defendants contend his performance did not improve, and he eventually became a safety concern. [42-2] at pp. 148, 154, 156, 167. On August 14, 2017, Plaintiff was formally dismissed from the NAP. [1] at ¶ 14; [42-2] at p. 192. Plaintiff appealed the decision and received a final decision affirming his dismissal on January 30, 2018. [1] at ¶ 15.

         Plaintiff filed this action on July 30, 2018, contending, inter alia, that Defendants discriminated against him on the bases of both race and gender. [1] ¶¶ 17, 18. Defendants have now filed a Motion for Summary Judgment as to all of Plaintiff's claims.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Rule 56 provides that “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Sierra Club, Inc. v. Sandy Creek Energy Assocs., L.P., 627 F.3d 134, 138 (5th Cir. 2010). The moving party bears the initial burden of showing there is no genuine issue for trial, and it may do so by pointing out “‘the absence of evidence supporting the nonmoving party's case.'” Skotak v. Tenneco Resins, Inc., 953 F.2d 909, 913 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 832 (1992) (quoting Latimer v. Smithkline & French Labs., 919 F.2d 301, 301 (5th Cir. 1990)).

         If the moving party meets this burden, the nonmoving party who will have the burden of proof at trial must come forward with summary judgment evidence establishing the existence of a genuine issue; that evidence must be such that if introduced at trial it would suffice to prevent a directed verdict against the nonmovant. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 321 (1986). A dispute is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see also Sierra Club, Inc. v. Sandy Creek Energy Assocs., L.P., 527 F.3d 134, 138 (5th Cir. 2010) (“An issue is material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action.”). Summary judgment is mandatory “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Brown v. Offshore Specialty Fabricators, Inc., 663 F.3d 759, 766 (5th Cir. 2011) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322).

         B. Analysis

         The Court begins by recognizing that the Plaintiff has abandoned his retaliation claim and all claims against Defendants, Nina McLain and Marjorie Geisz-Everson, in their individual capacities. [46] at p. 5. As such, the Court will analyze the grounds for summary judgment only as to the race discrimination claim under Title VI and the gender discrimination claims under Title VII and Title IX. We start with the Title VII claim.

         1. ...


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