United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Lindsay United States District Judge
the court is Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss
and Brief in Support (Doc. 14), filed October 2, 2018. Having
considered the motion, response, reply, pleadings, and
applicable law, and for the reasons that follow, the court
denies in part and grants in
part Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss
Factual Background and Procedural History
civil action, Plaintiff Stacy Bailey (“Bailey”),
an elementary school art teacher employed by the Mansfield
Independent School District (“Mansfield I.S.D.”),
asserts federal law claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
and state law claims against Defendants Mansfield I.S.D.; its
Superintendent, Dr. Jim Vaszauskas (“Superintendent
Vaszauskas”); and its Associate Superintendent for
Human Resources, Dr. Kimberly Cantu (“Dr.
Cantu”). Bailey alleges Defendants violated her rights
to equal protection and due process under the Fourteenth
Amendment of the United States Constitution by unlawfully
discriminating against her because of her sexual orientation
and status as a lesbian, including stigmatizing her, making
false allegations that she was engaging in unprofessional
acts, placing her on an eight-month administrative
suspension, and eventually transferring her to a different
school after she allegedly shared a photograph of her
same-sex fiancé along with other family photographs
with second-grade students and mentioned to her fourth-grade
students that a certain artist was married to someone of the
same sex. Bailey further alleges Defendants' actions
burdened her constitutionally protected right to marry. In
addition, Bailey brings state law claims against Defendants
for alleged violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the
Texas Constitution, Article I, § 3, and the Texas Equal
Rights Amendment, Article I, § 3a.
court now sets out the allegations upon which it relies in
deciding the pending motion to dismiss, accepting all
well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true and viewing them
in the light most favorable to Bailey. Sonnier v. State
Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 509 F.3d 673, 675 (5th Cir.
2007). The facts are drawn from Plaintiff's First Amended
Complaint (“Complaint”), the live pleading.
See First Am. Compl. (Doc. 13).
is a teacher with Mansfield I.S.D. who taught art for ten
years at Charlotte Anderson Elementary School. Bailey
“is lesbian/gay and was born that way.”
Id. ¶ 15. Mansfield I.S.D. repeatedly gave
Bailey exemplary performance evaluations and, for two of her
ten years, selected her as “Teacher of the Year.”
Bailey was open about her sexual orientation at work among
her colleagues but never used sexual or mature terms with her
August 23, 2017, while providing an introduction to a class
in the form of a “First Day of School”
PowerPoint, Bailey shared various photographs of her parents,
her family, her “future wife, ” her best friends,
and pictures of herself as a child in an effort to engage the
students. “The photo of [Bailey's] future wife was
an endearing photo of [her] and her future wife dressed as
characters from the children's movie ‘Finding
Nemo.'” Id. ¶ 17. Bailey also showed
her second- grade students slides providing class rules,
rewards, and expectations for the year. Other teachers,
administrators, and employees of Mansfield I.S.D. “who
are heterosexual regularly mention their respective spouse[s]
while in school, have photos of their famil[ies],
fiancés and spouses in the work place, or reference
their famil[ies], fiancés and spouse[s] as part of
conversations with students, lessons, or other
classroom-related interactions.” Id. ¶
that week, the principal of Charlotte Anderson Elementary
School informed Bailey that a parent complained to the school
board and Superintendent Vaszauskas about her
“promoting the ‘homosexual agenda' by
discussing her ‘future wife.'” Id.
¶ 18. The principal stated, “I don't think you
did anything wrong but I don't know what's going to
happen.” Id. On or about August 25, 2017, Dr.
Cantu met with Bailey to discuss the parent's complaint,
stating, “You can't promote your lifestyle in the
classroom.” Id. ¶ 19. Bailey responded,
“We plan to get married. When I have a wife, I should
be able to say this is my wife without fear of harassment.
When I state that, it is a fact about my life, not a
political statement.” Id. Dr. Cantu responded,
“Well right now it kind of is (a political
statement).” Id. When Bailey inquired about
changing policy to keep this from happening again, Dr. Cantu
said, “You are right. It is time to get the ball
rolling on that. You need to realize this is Mansfield and
there could be some pushback.” Id. ¶ 20.
Dr. Cantu told Bailey she had done nothing wrong. That same
evening, Bailey sent an e-mail to Mansfield I.S.D. requesting
it enact a policy prohibiting discrimination against lesbians
had “a holistic approach to teaching about artists
and relevant art history. [She] taught about artist Jasper
Johns and mentioned he served in the Korean War and he had a
partner named Robert Rauchenberg, who was also an
artist.” Id. ¶ 24. This mirrored her
lesson plan for the prior year and “reflects a basic
historical fact that is reflected in encyclopedic sources and
federal publications, such as a study by the U.S. Department
of the Interior.” Id. Bailey also taught about
other artists and their partners, including Frida Kahlo and
Diego Rivera. Id.
September 8, 2017, Dr. Cantu took Bailey out of her class for
a meeting and informed her that another parent had
complained. Id. ¶ 23. This complaint was from
the same parent who made the previous complaint. Id.
Dr. Cantu explained to Bailey that the complaining parent
stated Bailey had shown sexually inappropriate images to
children and asked her to sign a document acknowledging that
she had. Id. ¶ 25. Bailey did not show sexually
inappropriate images to children and refused to sign the
document. Id. Bailey stated to Dr. Cantu,
“This is discrimination. This is wrong and it might
even be illegal. I'm not signing it.” Id.
September 8, 2017, Mansfield I.S.D. has punished Bailey by
placing her on administrative leave for over eight months.
Id. ¶ 26. On October 30, 2017, Mansfield I.S.D.
asked Bailey for her resignation, but she refused to resign.
Id. ¶ 28. On January 9, 2018, Dr. Cantu and
Mansfield I.S.D.'s attorney Mike Leasor met with Bailey
and suggested she had an “agenda.” Bailey stated
she had no agenda and was ready to go back to work at
Charlotte Anderson Elementary. Id. ¶ 29. In
late January 2018, Mansfield I.S.D. first indicated it might
not renew Bailey's contract. Id. ¶ 30.
in February 2018, parents began to attend meetings of
Mansfield I.S.D.'s Board of Trustees asking that Bailey
be returned to the classroom because she was an outstanding
teacher. This was embarrassing for Mansfield I.S.D. and
Superintendent Vaszauskas. Id. ¶ 31.
March 16, 2018, Bailey married her now-wife, Ms. Julie
Vazquez. Id. ¶ 32. On March 27, 2018, Mansfield
I.S.D., with the approval of its Board of Trustees and
Superintendent Vaszauskas, issued an official statement for
immediate release, id. ¶ 33, stating:
It is the responsibility of Mansfield ISD to protect the
learning environment of our students. We also believe it is
paramount to partner with our parents in the education of
their children. Therefore, parents have the right to control
the conversation with their children as it relates to
religion, politics, sex/sexual orientation, etc.
Further, it is the District's general rule not to comment
on employee personnel matters. This protects both the
employee and the District. However, with regard to elementary
school art teacher Stacy Bailey, the District now finds
itself in a situation in which misinformation about her
personnel matter and the resulting disruption of the campus
educational environment leads the District to comment.
The District's concerns regarding Ms. Bailey are not
about her request to have our nondiscrimination policies
reviewed and/or revised with regard to LGBTQ rights.
Mansfield ISD welcomes that discussion through the
District's established policy review committee. Rather,
the District's concern is that Ms. Bailey insists that it
is her right and that it is age appropriate for her to have
ongoing discussions with elementary-aged students about her
own sexual orientation, the sexual orientation of artists,
and their relationships with other gay artists.
Mansfield ISD received complaints from parents about Ms.
Bailey discussing her sexual orientation with elementary-aged
students. After receiving the complaints, administration met
with the teacher more than once regarding the concerns.
However, Ms. Bailey refused to follow administration's
directions regarding age-appropriate conversations with
Again, this situation is not about Ms. Bailey's inquiries
regarding the District's nondiscrimination policies.
Rather, it is a matter of parents having certain rights
pertaining to the topics to which their children are exposed
and the District's right and responsibility to ensure
Defs.' Rule 12(b)(6) Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. A (Doc. 14)
(“Mansfield I.S.D. Press Release”).
Mansfield I.S.D. Press Release generated significant public
outcry and press about Bailey's employment situation,
including public discussions about her sexual orientation and
employment status, as well as criticism of Mansfield I.S.D.
Am. Compl. ¶ 41. It also coincided with a meeting of the
Board of Trustees on March 27, 2018. Id. ¶ 42.
At the board meeting, a number of parents and students
stressed that Bailey was a good teacher and should be brought
back to the classroom. Id. ¶ 43. Mansfield
I.S.D.'s Board of Trustees was taken aback by the public
response in support of Bailey and responded by withdrawing
plans to end Bailey's employment and instead began taking
steps to make her employment intolerable in hopes that she
would quit, which she did not. Id. ¶ 44. By
letter dated April 4, 2018, Bailey requested that she be
allowed to return to Charlotte Anderson Elementary School,
which never occurred. Id. ¶ 45. On April 24,
2018, Mansfield I.S.D. voted to renew Bailey's contract,
although it did not allow her to return to Charlotte Anderson
Elementary School. Id. ¶ 46.
on administrative leave, Bailey's career was damaged by
limiting her advancement, eligibility for promotions, and pay
raises. Id. ¶ 47. Defendants' actions have
damaged Bailey's career and imposed a stigma on her,
making it more difficult to obtain future employment in other
school districts, especially as an elementary school teacher.
Id. ¶ 48.
letter dated May 29, 2018, Mansfield I.S.D. assigned Bailey
to teach art at Lake Ridge High School despite her lack of
experience teaching in a secondary school. Id.
¶ 49. This position was more onerous and damaged
Bailey's career as an educator. Id. Bailey went
from teaching classes of 18 to 21 students at Charlotte
Anderson Elementary School to teaching classes of 38 to 40
students at Lake Ridge High School, which significantly
increased her workload. Id. She was required to
develop an entirely new curriculum for class suitable for
high school students. Id.
May 29, 2018, Bailey applied with several school districts in
Texas for teaching positions. Id. ¶ 50. Other
school districts, in Texas and beyond, regularly ask job
applicants whether they have previously been placed on
administrative leave and use this information to disqualify
applicants. Id. In response to questions on these
applications asking for disclosure of any situations in which
the applicant has been placed on administrative leave, Bailey
disclosed that Mansfield I.S.D. had placed her on
administrative leave. She was not offered any positions by
these school districts. Id.
result of Defendants' actions, Bailey began to experience
emotional distress, extreme sadness, mental anguish, and
depression, for which she sought treatment. Id.
¶ 51. In order to combat such emotional and mental
harms, she began performing music by playing several
different musical instruments for patients in hospice
facilities. Id. Such activities somewhat lessened
her emotional distress, but such feelings continue.
Mansfield I.S.D. has enacted policies prohibiting
discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin,
and sex, it has refused to enact a policy prohibiting
discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and status
as gay or lesbian. Id. ¶ 52. The Texas
Association of School Boards (“TASB”) promulgates
model policies for school districts to use when enacting
policies, including a model policy prohibiting sexual
orientation discrimination. Id. ¶ 53. Mansfield
I.S.D. is a member of TASB and routinely has enacted
TASB's model policies as its own. Id. Mansfield
I.S.D., however, has refused to enact TASB's model policy
that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual
orientation and status as gay and lesbian. Id.
8, 2018, Bailey filed Plaintiff's Original Complaint
(“Original Complaint”), which Defendants moved to
dismiss for failure to state a claim. On August 28, 2018, the
court granted Bailey's motion for leave to file an
amended complaint to address various pleading deficiencies
Defendants had raised in their motion to dismiss, and,
therefore, denied as moot Defendants' motion to dismiss
the Original Complaint. On September 18, 2018, Bailey filed
her First Amended Complaint (“Amended Complaint”)
against Superintendent Vaszauskas and Dr. Cantu, in their
respective individual and official capacities,  and against
Mansfield I.S.D., alleging Defendants violated: (1) the Equal
Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by unlawfully
discriminating against her because of her sexual orientation
and status as a lesbian; (2) the Equal Protection Clause and
Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by burdening
her constitutionally protected right to marry; (3) the Due
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by derogating
authority over gay and lesbian employees to individual
parents who complain or seek to exercise a de facto veto
power over their job and equal dignity (against Mansfield
I.S.D. only); and (4) the Equal Protection Clause of the
Texas Constitution, Article I, § 3, and the Texas Equal
Rights Amendment, Article I, § 3a. She seeks a
declaratory judgment that Defendants illegally discriminated
against her because of her sexual orientation, monetary
damages, punitive damages, reinstatement to her position at
Charlotte Anderson Elementary School, and attorney's
October 2, 2018, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). See Doc. 14. As a threshold
matter, Defendants argue jointly that Bailey's claims
must be dismissed because her allegations are too speculative
and conclusory, and that she resorts to group pleading.
Mansfield I.S.D. argues that Bailey's section 1983 claims
must be dismissed because she fails to adequately plead
municipal liability. Superintendent Vaszauskas and Dr. Cantu,
sued in their respective individual capacities, contend that
Bailey's section 1983 claims must be dismissed because
they are entitled to qualified immunity. The motion has been
fully briefed and is ripe for adjudication.
Legal Standard - Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
defeat a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff must plead
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Reliable
Consultants, Inc. v. Earle, 517 F.3d 738, 742 (5th Cir.
2008); Guidry v. American Pub. Life Ins. Co., 512
F.3d 177, 180 (5th Cir. 2007). A claim meets the plausibility
test “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. 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.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(internal citations omitted). While a complaint need not
contain detailed factual allegations, it must set forth
“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 (citation
omitted). The “[f]actual allegations of [a complaint]
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. (quotation marks, citations, and
footnote omitted). When the allegations of the pleading do
not allow the court to infer more than the mere possibility
of wrongdoing, they fall short of showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept all
well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true and view them in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Sonnier,
509 F.3d at 675; Martin K. Eby Constr. Co. v. Dallas Area
Rapid Transit, 369 F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir. 2004);
Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir. 1996).
In ruling on such a motion, the court cannot look beyond the
pleadings. Id.; Spivey v. Robertson, 197
F.3d 772, 774 (5th Cir. 1999). The pleadings include the
complaint and any documents attached to it. Collins v.
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498-99 (5th
Cir. 2000). Likewise, “‘[d]ocuments that a
defendant attaches to a motion to dismiss are considered part
of the pleadings if they are referred to in the
plaintiff's complaint and are central to [the
plaintiff's] claims.'” Id. (quoting
Venture Assocs. Corp. v. Zenith Data Sys. Corp., 987
F.2d 429, 431 (7th Cir. 1993)). In this regard, a document
that is part of the record but not referred to in a
plaintiff's complaint and not attached to a
motion to dismiss may not be considered by the court in
ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion. Gines v. D.R. Horton,
Inc., 699 F.3d 812, 820 & n.9 (5th Cir. 2012)
(citation omitted). Further, it is well-established and
‘“clearly proper in deciding a 12(b)(6) motion
[that a court may] take judicial notice of matters of public
record.”' Funk v. Stryker Corp., 631 F.3d
777, 783 (5th Cir. 2011) (quoting Norris v. Hearst
Trust, 500 F.3d 454, 461 n.9 (5th Cir. 2007) (citing
Cinel v. Connick, 15 F.3d 1338, 1343 n.6 (5th Cir.
ultimate question in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is whether the
complaint states a valid claim when it is viewed in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff. Great Plains Trust Co.
v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 313 F.3d 305, 312 (5th
Cir. 2002). While well-pleaded facts of a complaint are to be
accepted as true, legal conclusions are not “entitled
to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 679 (citation omitted). Further, a court is not to strain
to find inferences favorable to the plaintiff and is not to
accept conclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions, or
legal conclusions. R2 Invs. LDC v. Phillips, 401
F.3d 638, 642 (5th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted). The court
does not evaluate the plaintiff's likelihood of success;
instead, it only determines whether the plaintiff has pleaded
a legally cognizable claim. United States ex rel. Riley
v. St. Luke's Episcopal Hosp., 355 F.3d 370, 376
(5th Cir. 2004). Stated another way, when a court deals with
a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, its task is to test the sufficiency
of the allegations contained in the pleadings to determine
whether they are adequate enough to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. Mann v. Adams Realty Co., 556
F.2d 288, 293 (5th Cir. 1977); Doe v. Hillsboro Indep.
Sch. Dist., 81 F.3d 1395, 1401 (5th Cir. 1996),
rev'd on other grounds, 113 F.3d 1412 (5th Cir.
1997) (en banc). Accordingly, denial of a 12(b)(6) motion has
no bearing on whether a plaintiff ultimately establishes the
necessary proof to prevail on a claim that withstands a
12(b)(6) challenge. Adams, 556 F.2d at 293.
sues Mansfield I.S.D. pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging it has an official policy of discriminating based on
sexual orientation in violation of her rights to equal
protection of the laws, to marry, and to procedural due
process. Bailey sues Superintendent Vaszauskas and Dr. Cantu,
in their respective individual capacities, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. She alleges they discriminated against
her based on her sexual orientation and status as a lesbian
in violation of her right to equal protection under the
Fourteenth Amendment, as well as her constitutionally
protected right to marry.
considering arguments made jointly by Defendants, the court
will address Mansfield I.S.D.'s motion to dismiss for
failure to allege adequately municipal liability under
section 1983, followed by Superintendent Vaszauskas's and
Dr. Cantu's respective arguments related to qualified
Specificity of Pleadings
threshold matter, Defendants urge the court to dismiss the
Amended Complaint because it “fails to rise above
conclusory and speculative allegations against
Defendants.” Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 4 (Doc. 14).
Relatedly, Defendants assert that Bailey directs her
allegations against Defendants as a group, and that her
allegations of collective wrongdoing are insufficient to
state a plausible claim against a specific defendant,
requiring dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6). See Id.
(“Conclusory and vague allegations and references to
‘Defendants' in general are not sufficient to
support a claim.”).
court rejects Defendants' argument. As can be discerned
from the court's recitation of the factual allegations,
supra, and accepting all well-pleaded facts as true,
the Amended Complaint is sufficiently detailed. Although
Defendants correctly note that Bailey, at times, lumps
Defendants together as a group, read in the context of her
other allegations, the instances of group pleading have not
prevented the court from discerning which defendants are
allegedly responsible for which allegedly unlawful acts.
Accordingly, the court will deny Defendants' motion to
dismiss the Amended Complaint based on group pleading or as
too speculative or conclusory to state a claim.
Section 1983 Claims Against Mansfield I.S.D.
governmental entity, such as Mansfield I.S.D., can be sued
and subjected to monetary damages and injunctive relief under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 only if its official policy or custom
causes a person to be deprived of a federally protected
right. Board of the Cty. Comm'rs of Bryan Cty. v.
Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997); Monell v. New York
City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978).
“Parties can sue a municipality that has violated their
constitutional rights ‘under color of any statute,
ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage.'”
Advanced Tech. Bldg. Solutions, L.L.C. v. City of
Jackson, 817 F.3d 163, 165 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting 42
U.S.C. § 1983 and citing Monell, 436 U.S. at
690). As a governmental entity, Mansfield I.S.D.
cannot be liable for civil rights violations under a
theory of respondeat superior or vicarious liability.
Monell, 436 U.S. at 691; see also Barrow v.
Greenville Indep. Sch. Dist., 480 F.3d 377, 380 (5th
Cir. 2007) (“A school district has no vicarious
liability under § 1983.”); Baskin v.
Parker, 602 F.2d 1205, 1208 (5th Cir. 1979) (recognizing
that “state vicarious liability doctrines are
inapplicable in [section] 1983 suits.”).
policy is defined as:
1. A policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision
that is officially adopted and promulgated by the [school
district] lawmaking officers or by an official to whom the
lawmakers have delegated policy-making authority; or
2. A persistent, widespread practice of [school district]
officials or employees which, although not authorized by
officially adopted and promulgated policy, is so common and
well-settled as to constitute a custom that fairly represents
[school district] policy. Actual or constructive knowledge of
such custom must be attributable to the governing body of the