United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION
ROSENTHAL CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Washington sued her former employer, the Alief Independent
School District, alleging that she was unlawfully terminated
because of her race, in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§
1981 and 1983. (Docket Entry No. 1). The District moved to
dismiss for failure to state a claim under § 1981, and,
in the alternative, for failure to state a claim under §
1983. (Docket Entry No. 6). Washington timely filed an
amended complaint, alleging that her § 1981 claim is
brought through § 1983 and that the District had a
“well-established custom of promoting animus against
racial minorities.” (Docket Entry No. 10). She
responded to the District’s motion to dismiss by
arguing that the amended complaint made the motion moot.
(Docket Entry No. 11). The District filed a separate motion
to dismiss the first amended complaint, acknowledging that
its earlier challenge to the § 1981 claim was moot, but
reasserting its motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because Washington did not
allege sufficient facts to plead the District’s
liability. (Docket Entry No. 15). Washington responded.
(Docket Entry No. 17).
on the amended complaint, the motion and response, and the
applicable law, the court grants the District’s motion
to dismiss, without prejudice. (Docket Entry No. 15).
Washington may amend no later than October 17,
2019. The reasons for this ruling are set out below.
facts are drawn from Washington’s amended complaint
allegations. Washington, an African-American woman, alleges
that she was unlawfully terminated from her employment as a
special education teacher and student council manager at
Taylor High School, because of her race. (Docket Entry No.
10). According to Washington, on January 13, 2018, she
learned that Evaline Nguyen, a Taylor High student and
student council member, was in the hospital. (Id. at
¶ 12). Washington went to the hospital to see Nguyen the
following day. (Id. at ¶ 13). Nguyen’s
mother told Washington that Nguyen “had received a text
from a friend”; posted on social media that
“today is the day I’m going to end it all”;
and then consumed Drano. (Id.). Nguyen’s
mother spoke little English, and another student translated
for Washington. (Id.). Nguyen asked Washington to
tell the school counselor what had happened. (Id. at
¶ 14). Washington informed Nguyen’s counselor,
named Moore,  as well as Destiny Lewis, one of the
school’s associate principals, about the suicide
January 17, Taylor High teacher Stephanie Johnson asked
Washington about Nguyen’s absence. (Id.).
Washington told Johnson that she could not discuss the matter
with her. (Id.). Johnson asked if she could visit
Nguyen, and Washington told her to ask Nguyen’s parents
for permission. (Id.). That night, Johnson and two
other teachers, Arielle Brooks and another teacher named
Deransburg,  visited Nguyen at the hospital.
January 18, Brooks told Washington that Nguyen’s mother
had told Brooks about Nguyen “having some problems
with” her father,  and Nguyen’s mother could not
believe that her child would “do what she did.”
(Id. at ¶ 15). Brooks understood Nguyen’s
mother to accuse her husband of abusing their daughter.
(Id.). Brooks talked to her husband and her father,
a retired police officer. (Id.). They believed that
Nguyen’s father had abused his daughter.
(Id.). Brooks asked Washington for her thoughts on
“the alleged child abuse.” (Id.).
Washington told Brooks that “she had known the Nguyens
for three years and, although the parents were separated,
they both supported their daughter and her efforts at the
Student Council.” (Id.).
January 23, Washington met with Stacie Gibson, the
District’s Human Resources Director. (Id. at
¶ 11). Gibson asked Washington about Nguyen, and
Washington related the described events. (Id.).
Washington was placed on paid administrative leave until
April 3, 2018, for failing to report possible child abuse.
(Id. at ¶ 16).
January 26, Washington met with Elizabeth Veloz-Powell, the
District’s Human Resources Superintendent, and Darrell
Alexander, the District’s Human Resources Executive
Director. (Id.). At that meeting, Veloz-Powell told
Washington that she would remain on administrative leave
pending an investigation. (Id.). Veloz-Powell showed
Washington a letter stating that “they believed”
that Washington failed to report possible child abuse to
Child Protective Services, as requKimberlyRubiired by law,
and that the failure would be reported to the State Board for
Educator Certification. (Id.).
February 8, Washington again met with Veloz-Powell, who asked
her to resign. (Id. at ¶ 17). Washington
refused. (Id.). She told Veloz-Powell that the
teacher’s union would appeal any decision to terminate
her employment. (Id.). Washington exhausted her
administrative remedies, and, on March 20, resigned effective
May 29, 2018. (Id.).
lawsuit, Washington alleges that she was replaced by a
Caucasian teacher, (id. at ¶ 18); that
similarly situated non-African-American employees had not
received similar discipline- administrative leave pending the
investigation and report to the State Board-for similar
conduct (id.); and that the District had a history
of racial animus, (id. at ¶ 30). She further
alleges that Brooks tried to recant her statement that
Washington failed to report the suspected child abuse, but
the District would not consider it. (Id. at ¶
The Legal Standard for a Motion to Dismiss
12(b)(6) allows dismissal if a plaintiff fails “to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” FED.
R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). Rule 12(b)(6) must be read in
conjunction with Rule 8(a), which requires “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). A
complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Rule 8
“does not require ‘detailed factual allegations,
’ but it demands more than an unadorned,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
“The plausibility standard is not akin to a
‘probability requirement, ’ but it asks for more
than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556).
court should generally give a plaintiff at least one chance
to amend under Rule 15(a) before dismissing the action with
prejudice, unless it is clear that to do so would be futile.
See Pervasive Software Inc. v. Lexware GmbH & Co.
KG, 688 F.3d 214, 232 (5th Cir. 2012); Carrollv. Fort James Corp., 470 F.3d 1171, 1175 (5th Cir.
2006) (“[Rule 15(a)] evinces a bias in favor of
granting leave to amend.” (quotation omitted));
Great Plains Tr. Co. v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter &
Co., 313 F.3d 305, 329 (5th Cir. 2002). “Whether
leave to amend ...