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Campbell v. State of Hawaii Department of Education

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

June 11, 2018

Patricia P. Campbell, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
State of Hawaii Department of Education; Patricia Hamamoto, Superintendent of Public Schools, sued in her official capacity; Bruce Anderson, Maui Complex Area Superintendent, sued in his individual and official capacities; Susan Scofield, Principal of King Kekaulike High School, sued in her individual and official capacities; Anthony Jones, Vice Principal of King Kekaulike High School, sued in his individual and official capacities; Robyn Honda, Personnel Regional Officer, sued in her individual and official capacities; Barbara Oura, Vice Principal of King Kekaulike High School, sued in her individual and official capacities; Kurtis Saiki, Athletic Director of King Kekaulike High School, sued in his individual and official capacities, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued and Submitted February 12, 2018 Honolulu, Hawaii

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii Derrick Kahala Watson, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 1:13-cv-00083-DKW-RLP

          Daphne E. Barbree (argued), Law Office of Daphne Barbee, Honolulu, Hawaii, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Miriam P. Loui (argued) and James E. Halvorson, Deputy Attorneys General; Douglas S. Chin, Attorney General; Department of the Attorney General, Honolulu, Hawaii; for Defendants-Appellees.

          Before: Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, Richard R. Clifton, and Sandra S. Ikuta, Circuit Judges.

         SUMMARY [*]

         Employment Discrimination

         The panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants on employment discrimination claims brought by a public high school teacher who was verbally harassed by her students.

         Affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment on the teacher's Title VII claims of disparate treatment based on her sex and race, the panel held that the teacher failed to establish a prima facie case because she did not show that she was subject to an adverse employment action or that similarly situated individuals outside her protected class were treated more favorably.

         The panel also affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the teacher's Title VII hostile work environment claim. The panel held that the defendant public school system could be held liable for students' harassing conduct only to the extent that it failed reasonably to respond to the conduct or ratified or acquiesced in the conduct.

         On the teacher's Title VII retaliation claim, the panel held that she failed to establish that the defendants' asserted rationale for its actions was mere pretext.

         Finally, the panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the teacher's Title IX claims for intentional discrimination.

          OPINION

          O'SCANNLAIN, Circuit Judge

         We must decide whether a high school teacher who was verbally harassed by her students has identified sufficient evidence to support claims for violations of her federal civil rights against the public school system that employed her.

         I

         Patricia Campbell was employed by the Hawaii Department of Education (DOE) from 2000 until she resigned in July 2009. From 2004 through 2007, Campbell taught music and band at King Kekaulike High School (KKHS) on the island of Maui. Unfortunately, Campbell's experience at KKHS was hardly pleasant. Instead, her tenure at the school was marred by numerous accusations of misconduct perpetrated against, and by, Campbell.

         A

         Campbell alleges that, throughout her time at KKHS, she was frequently harassed and degraded by students on the basis of her race (white) and her sex (female). She alleges that students called her a slew of offensive names, including "fucking weirdo, " "cunt, " "bitch, " and "fucking haole."[1]According to Campbell, she was even physically threatened by one student who claimed to have a gun.

         Campbell routinely reported the students' misconduct to DOE administration during the 2006-2007 school year. In response, Vice Principals Barbara Oura and Anthony Jones investigated Campbell's many complaints and imposed a variety of disciplinary measures against those students who were found to have misbehaved. The punishments ranged in severity based on both the nature of the misconduct and the student's past disciplinary history. Some students were given formal warnings or disciplinary counseling, others were placed in detention, and some were suspended from school for up to three days. Four students were even transferred out of Campbell's classes at her request. Although Campbell has no reason to doubt that these disciplinary measures took place, she claims that the school never informed her of them at the time.

         B

         Contemporaneously, Campbell herself was the subject of numerous complaints. During the 2006-2007 school year, Vice Principal Oura investigated complaints which the DOE had received from students, parents, and at least one other teacher, accusing Campbell of a variety of misconduct, including physical and verbal abuse of students, discrimination against students, and failure to maintain a safe classroom environment. Because the DOE determined that Campbell's presence on campus would not interfere with the investigation or present a threat to students, she was allowed to continue working during the investigation. On March 22, 2007, Oura concluded her investigation and found that Campbell had intimidated and discriminated against students, physically grabbed and verbally abused students, failed adequately to supervise students at school-sanctioned activities, and harassed a colleague. Despite Oura's findings, the DOE took no action against Campbell, who was allowed to keep her position at the school.

         On May 7, 2007, Campbell reportedly stormed into the office of Vice Principal Jones as he was meeting with a student. It is not entirely clear why Campbell confronted Jones, but she allegedly yelled at Jones and others in the office and refused to leave when asked. Two days later, Jones held a counseling meeting with Campbell to discuss the incident, and he later gave Campbell a memorandum documenting that meeting. Among other things, Jones's memorandum stated that Campbell had "verbally ragged at" a security officer, and it directed Campbell not to "address adults or students on campus in a yelling or ragging manner."

         Campbell took offense to the memo and in particular to Jones's use of the words "ragged" and "ragging, " which she believed to be a reference to her menstrual cycle. The same day she received the memo, Campbell complained to the DOE Superintendent's office about the incident and claimed that Jones had stalked and sexually harassed her. Within a week, the DOE initiated an investigation into Campbell's allegations, which concluded roughly two months later. The investigator ultimately found that there was not enough evidence to sustain Campbell's allegations. In particular, the investigator found that Jones's use of the words "ragged" and "ragging" was not derogatory, but rather was used to mean that Campbell "railed at" or "scolded" others. No further action was taken against Jones as a result of the investigation.

         C

         At some point before the 2007-2008 school year, Campbell requested a transfer to teach elsewhere on Maui- specifically, to serve as the band director at Iao or Kalama Intermediate Schools or to teach kindergarten at Haiku School. Campbell alleges that she personally knew that the band teacher at Iao retired in June 2007 and that the band director at Kalama also "retired in 2007, " though she does not specify when. She further alleges that she "was aware there was a kindergarten teaching position open at Haiku, " but she again does not provide any further detail about when that position became open.

         None of Campbell's transfer requests was granted. With respect to the band teaching position at Iao, the DOE submitted evidence indicating that Campbell's request was denied because such position was not open during the school's annual transfer period in the Spring of 2007[2] and Campbell failed to provide any information that would qualify for an emergency transfer outside the normal transfer window. Evidence in the record suggests that Campbell's requests to transfer to the other schools were also untimely, and she has not argued otherwise.

         Unable to transfer, in August 2007 Campbell requested and was granted a 12-month leave of absence without pay due to work-related stress. Before the next school year, Campbell requested and was granted a second year of unpaid leave. In July 2009, as her second period of leave was coming to an end, Campbell learned that, because there were not enough students to support a full slate of music classes, she had been assigned to teach three remedial math classes and one or two music classes for the upcoming year. Campbell told Principal Susan Scofield that she wouldn't teach remedial math (a subject for which she was not certified), but Scofield insisted that Campbell would need to teach such classes in order to complete her schedule. Campbell never reported back to work after her leave expired. After being told that she would be fired if she did not return to work, Campbell resigned. Her resignation indicated that she had left the school because of a hostile work environment, fear for her safety, and her desire not to teach remedial math.

         D

         On February 19, 2013, Campbell filed this suit against the DOE and various administrators (defendants collectively referred to as "the DOE"), alleging violations of her federal and state civil rights. In particular, Campbell alleged that she had been subjected to several acts of discriminatory treatment and a hostile work environment because of her race and her sex and that she had been retaliated against for complaining of harassment at the school.

         The district court granted partial judgment on the pleadings to the DOE and dismissed several of Campbell's claims. The court later granted summary judgment for the DOE on Campbell's remaining claims of disparate treatment, hostile work environment, and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and sex discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Campbell timely appealed but she challenges only the district court's order granting summary judgment on these four categories of claims. She does not challenge the court's earlier dismissal of her other claims.

         II

         We first consider Campbell's argument that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to the DOE on her Title VII disparate treatment claims.

         Title VII forbids certain employers from "discriminat[ing] against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Campbell argues that the DOE violated this provision by subjecting her to disparate treatment because of her sex and race. To prevail, Campbell must first establish a prima facie case by showing that: (1) she belongs to a protected class, (2) she was qualified for the position in question, (3) she was subject to an adverse employment action, and (4) similarly situated individuals outside her protected class were treated more favorably. Chuang v. Univ. of Cal. Davis, 225 F.3d 1115, 1123 (9th Cir. 2000).

         If she does, the familiar McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework applies. See id. at 1123-24. Under such framework, if Campbell establishes a prima facie case, the burden of production shifts to the DOE to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the challenged conduct. Id. If the DOE does so, the burden then shifts back to Campbell to show that the reason offered is pretextual. Id. at 1124.

         The DOE concedes that Campbell can establish the first two elements of her prima facie case. The DOE argues, however, that the record does not contain sufficient evidence to establish the remaining elements of her claim. We agree.

         A

         For claims of disparate treatment under Title VII, an adverse employment action is one that "materially affects the compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment." Davis v. Team Elec. Co., 520 F.3d 1080, 1089 (9th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). Although ...


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