United States District Court, District of Columbia
VIVENNE V. VASQUEZ-MILLS, Plaintiff,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.
BERMAN JACKSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Vivienne V. Vasquez-Mills served as an Assistant Principal at
Bruce Monroe at Park View Elementary School from 2010 to
2013. In this lawsuit, she alleges that her supervisors
discriminated against her on the basis of her national origin
when they decided not to renew her contract in 2013.
the District of Columbia, has moved for summary judgment.
Def. District of Columbia's Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. # 21]
(“Def.'s Mot.”); Mem. in Supp. of Def.'s
Mot. [Dkt. # 21] (“Def.'s Mem.”). It submits
that in 2013, the leadership of Bruce Monroe decided that it
no longer required the services of a traditional assistant
principal, and that it needed an Assistant Principal for
Literacy instead to assist the school with its literacy
issues. According to defendant, because plaintiff was not
qualified for the new position, her contract was not renewed.
motion for summary judgment has been fully briefed, and the
Court held a hearing on the motion on September 20, 2017.
Plaintiff took the position in her pleadings that there was
direct evidence of discrimination that precluded the entry of
summary judgment in this case. Pl.'s Mem. of P. & A.
in Supp. of Opp. to Def.'s Mot. [Dkt. # 26]
(“Pl.'s Opp.”) at 13-14. But the Court has
found that the bulk of that evidence is either inadmissible
hearsay or irrelevant to the pending claim of national origin
discrimination. The Court further finds that notwithstanding
the one statement that remains that would be admissible as
the statement of a party opponent, there is no dispute as to
any material fact, and defendant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Plaintiff herself has testified that there was
a non-discriminatory reason underlying the decision not to
renew her contract, and she has come forward with no
admissible evidence that would show bias on the part of the
individual she has agreed was behind the decision. Also, if
one were to move forward to consider the legitimate,
non-discriminatory explanation proffered by the defense,
plaintiff has not pointed to facts that would carry her
burden to show that reason to be pretextual. Therefore, the
Court concludes that plaintiff has failed to produce
sufficient evidence that would enable a reasonable juror to
find that defendant discriminated against her.
who is of Puerto Rican descent, was hired at Bruce Monroe
Elementary School as a New Teacher Mentor in 2009. Def.'s
Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute [Dkt. # 21]
(“Def.'s SOF”) ¶¶ 4-5; Pl.'s
Resp. to Def.'s SOF [Dkt. # 26-12] (“Pl.'s
SOF”) ¶¶ 4-5. In that role, she spent
approximately three days per week at Bruce Monroe where she
would observe new teachers and mentor them during their first
year of teaching. Def.'s SOF ¶¶ 6-8; Pl.'s
SOF ¶¶ 6- 8.
administrative staff at Bruce Monroe was sufficiently
impressed with plaintiff's work as a New Teacher Mentor
that when an assistant principal position became available at
the end of the 2009-10 school year, plaintiff was encouraged
to apply. Def.'s SOF ¶ 11; Pl.'s SOF ¶ 11.
She ultimately received the position, and she was selected by
Dr. Marta Palacios, the principal, to serve as an assistant
principal beginning during the 2010-11 school year.
Def.'s SOF ¶¶ 13, 16; Pl.'s SOF
¶¶ 13, 16.
was supervised by Dr. Palacios. Def.'s SOF ¶ 14;
Pl.'s SOF ¶ 14. The next level supervisor was Dr.
Amanda Alexander, the Instructional Superintendent for a
group of twelve schools that included Bruce Monroe.
Def.'s SOF ¶¶ 17-20; Pl.'s SOF ¶¶
Palacios knew - from the time that she met plaintiff - that
plaintiff was Puerto Rican, and there is some evidence in the
record to suggest that Dr. Alexander did as well. Def.'s
SOF ¶¶ 24-27; Pl.'s SOF ¶¶ 24-27.
Alexander's deposition, she testified that she has
“always known that [plaintiff] was Puerto Rican.”
Dep. of Dr. Amanda Alexander (Dec. 14, 2016) [Dkt. # 21-3] at
13:20-21. But plaintiff disputed defendant's proposed
statement of fact to this effect, pointing to her own
deposition testimony. Pl.'s SOF ¶ 27, citing Dep. of
Vivienne V. Vasquez-Mills (Dec. 6, 2016) [Dkt. # 29]
(“Pl.'s Dep.”) at 72:7-22. At the cited
portion of her deposition, plaintiff was asked a very general
question, and she gave a very general answer: “Q: Now,
I presume . . . by the end of the first year as assistant
principal, everybody knew you were Puerto Rican . . . would
you agree? A: I don't know if everybody. I don't know
if everybody knew.” Pl.'s Dep. at 72:7-13. So while
she is claiming national origin discrimination, it is not
wholly clear from plaintiff's testimony whether it is her
contention that Dr. Alexander was one of the people who knew
of her national origin.
Monroe is unique within the District's public school
system. Because the majority of the student body is learning
English as a second language, the curriculum is conducted in
both English and Spanish. Def.'s SOF ¶¶ 2-3;
Pl.'s SOF ¶¶ 2-3. In addition, Bruce Monroe
students have long struggled with low literacy scores.
Def.'s SOF ¶ 41; Pl.'s SOF ¶ 41.
the D.C. Public School system, principals and assistant
principals serve one-year appointments, and they are eligible
for reappointment at the end of every school year. Def.'s
SOF ¶ 46; Pl.'s SOF ¶ 46. At the end of each
academic year, principals and assistant principals are either
reappointed, not reappointed but made eligible to pursue
other opportunities within the school system, or not
reappointed and made ineligible to pursue those other
opportunities. Def.'s SOF ¶ 47; Pl.'s SOF ¶
the end of the 2012-13 school year, D.C. Public Schools
(“DCPS”) created a new position, an Assistant
Principal of Literacy (“APL”). Def.'s SOF
¶ 38. A successful APL candidate was required to have
demonstrated experience and training in both literacy and
administration, and candidates had to meet certain special
licensure requirements promulgated by the Office of the State
Superintendent of Education. Def.'s SOF ¶¶
39-40; Pl.'s SOF ¶¶ 39-40.
Palacios determined at that time that a transition from a
traditional assistant principal to an APL would better serve
the needs of Bruce Monroe students because the APL would
focus on literacy growth. Def.'s SOF ¶¶ 50-51;
Pl.'s SOF ¶¶ 50-51. So she decided - with the
approval of Dr. Alexander and the DCPS HR department - to
hire an APL instead of a traditional assistant principal for
the 2013-14 school year. Def.'s SOF ¶ 52; Pl.'s
SOF ¶ 52.
the 2013-14 school year budget had already been submitted,
Dr. Palacios had to request a budget change to accommodate
the move to an APL position; she submitted the necessary
paperwork on April 30, 2013. Def.'s SOF ¶ 53;
Pl.'s SOF ¶ 53.
are all undisputed facts that go to the existence of a
non-discriminatory reason for the decision.
around the end of the 2012-13 school year, Dr. Palacios
recommended that plaintiff not be reappointed as the
assistant principal of Bruce Monroe for the 2013-14 school
year, and plaintiff does not dispute that the decision was
initiated by Dr. Palacios. Def.'s SOF ¶ 48;
Pl.'s SOF ¶ 48. Dr. Alexander signed off on the
recommendation, as did the Chancellor of DCPS, Kaya
Henderson. Def.'s SOF ¶ 49; Pl.'s SOF ¶ 49.
to plaintiff, she learned of the decision during a meeting
with Dr. Palacios. Pl.'s Dep. at 135:7-136:1. Plaintiff
testified at her deposition that Dr. Palacios told her that
the decision to not renew plaintiff's contract “was
not her decision” - “this was all Dr. Alexander .
. . [and] you know that Dr. Alexander hates Puerto
Ricans.” Id. at 135:16-21. Palacios disputes
that the statement was made. Dep. of Marta N. Palacios (Jan.
5, 2017) [Dkt. # 29-1] (“Palacios Dep.”) at
73:3-22; see also Def.'s Mem. at 15 (“Dr.
Palacios . . . denies telling [p]laintiff that Dr. Alexander
disliked Puerto Ricans.”).
17, 2013, Dr. Alexander presented plaintiff with the letter
that informed her that she would not be reappointed as an
assistant principal at Bruce Monroe, but that she could seek
other opportunities within the DCPS system. Def.'s SOF
¶¶ 54-56; Pl.'s SOF ¶¶ 54-56. While
plaintiff could have applied for the APL position, she chose
not to apply because she lacked the specialized literacy
training that the position required, so she would not have
been considered qualified for the role. Def.'s SOF
¶¶ 60-62; Pl.'s SOF ¶¶ 60-62. On July
19, 2013, Dr. Palacios selected Althea Bustillo as the new
Assistant Principal for Literacy. Def.'s SOF ¶ 58;
Pl.'s SOF ¶ 58; Ex. 12 to Def.'s Mot. [Dkt. #
filed this three-count lawsuit on May 7, 2015. Compl. [Dkt. #
1]. She alleged in Count I that DCPS engaged in age
discrimination when it failed to re-hire her in 2013.
Id. ¶¶ 45- 51. In Count II, she alleged
that the failure to renew her contract was discriminatory
because both Dr. Alexander and Dr. Palacios were biased
against Puerto Ricans. Id. ¶¶ 53-60. And
in Count III, she alleged that the District of Columbia
interfered with her prospective economic advantage by not
re-hiring her to other assistant principal positions.
Id. ¶¶ 62-72.
October 29, 2015, the Court granted defendant's motion to
dismiss Counts I and III. Min. Entry (Oct. 29, 2015). The
parties then engaged in a period of discovery.
Defendant's motion for summary judgment was filed on
February 17, 2017. Def.'s Mot.; Def.'s Mem. Plaintiff
sought and received three extensions of the due date for her
opposition, and when it was filed on April 17, 2017, it did
not comport with Local Civil Rule 7(h)(1) or the Court's
Scheduling Order. See Min. Order (Apr. 18, 2017).
However, the Court granted plaintiff another opportunity to
supply a conforming statement of facts, and a revised
opposition was docketed on April 26, 2017. Pl.'s Opp.
Defendant filed its reply on May 15, 2017. Reply to Pl.'s
Opp. [Dkt. # 28] (“Def.'s Reply”). The Court
held a hearing on September 20, 2017. Min. Entry (Sept. 20,
judgment is appropriate “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). The party seeking summary judgment
“bears the initial responsibility of informing the
district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying
those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence
of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal quotation
marks omitted). To defeat summary judgment, the non-moving
party must “designate specific facts showing that there
is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324
(internal quotation marks omitted).
mere existence of a factual dispute is insufficient to
preclude summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). A dispute is
“genuine” only if a reasonable fact-finder could
find for the non-moving party; a fact is
“material” only if it is capable of affecting the
outcome of the litigation. Id. at 248; Laningham
v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1241 (D.C. Cir. 1987). In
assessing a party's motion, the court must “view
the facts and draw reasonable inferences ‘in the light
most favorable to the party opposing the summary judgment
motion.'” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372,
378 (2007) (alterations omitted), quoting United States
v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962) (per curiam).
LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR ANALYZING A ...