United States District Court, D. Delaware
DEBRA R. THOMPSON and JOHN THOMPSON, Plaintiffs,
STATE OF DELAWARE DEPARTMENT OF SERVICES FOR CHILDREN, YOUTH AND THEIR FAMLIES, et al., Defendants.
F. Battaglia, Sr., Biggs and Battaglia, Wilmington, DE -
Attorneys for Plaintiffs
C. Handlon, Adria B. Martinelli, Deputy Attorneys General,
State of Delaware, Department of Justice, Wilmington, DE -
Attorneys for Defendants.
NOREIKA, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
are two motions before the Court. The first, a
“Combined Motion for Summary Judgment and for
Dismissal” (D.I. 13) (“Defendants'
Motion”), was submitted by Defendants Alison McGonigal
(“McGonigal”), Karryl McManus
(“McManus”), Angela Porter
(“Porter”), Josette DelleDonne Manning
(“Manning”) (collectively “Individual
Defendants”), and the Delaware Department of Services
for Children, Youth and their Families (“DSCYF”
or “Department” and collectively with the
Individual Defendants “Defendants”) seeking
dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), in part, and summary
judgment pursuant to Rule 56, in part. The second is the
motion of Plaintiff Debra Thompson (“Thompson”)
for partial summary judgment (D.I. 21) with respect to her
claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the reasons discussed
below, the Court will GRANT-IN-PART and DENY-IN-PART
Defendants' Motion and DENY Plaintiff Debra
Thompson's motion for partial summary
about July 11, 2016, Thompson left her job as a Development
Coach for the Professional Development Center for
Educators/Delaware Academy for School Leadership at the
University of Delaware to take a job as an Education
Supervisor with DSCYF. (D.I. 1 ¶¶ 9, 12). The
Education Supervisor position had previously been held by
Defendant Porter, who had been allegedly “terminated
for personal reasons.” (Id. ¶ 10).
Thompson alleges that she was not informed that Porter had
filed a grievance with respect to the termination and that an
appeal process was ongoing. (Id.). The Complaint
states that “the DSCYF administrators had concerns that
the education side of the Department was weak and not up to
date on current rules, laws and process” and after
Thompson started in the new role she “began to revamp
and upgrade the system” and uncovered “misuse of
funds, lack of accountability and oversight, and
favoritism.” (Id. ¶¶ 14-16).
Thompson alleges that, despite these issues, “in the
short time she was Education Supervisor, [she] brought the
Education Unit into compliance, provided more support to the
administrators, and handled the budget funding more
efficiently.” (Id. ¶ 17). The Complaint
contends that Thompson's performance was praised by her
associates and co-workers and garnered a written performance
evaluation of “Meets Expectations.” (Id.
early October 2016, Thompson learned that Porter had filed a
grievance and successfully contested her termination, and
that the Merit Employee Relations Board (“MERB”)
ordered Porter be reinstated. (Id. ¶¶ 21,
24). The Complaint alleges that Thompson was then informed in
writing that, upon her return, Porter would be filling a
newly created position at DSCYF titled Transition
Coordinator. (Id. ¶ 22). On February 17, 2017,
Defendant McGonigal then verbally informed Thompson that
Porter would be reinstated as Education Supervisor.
(Id. ¶ 25). Thompson alleges that she was told
she would become the Transition Coordinator. (Id.
¶30). She further alleges that “her attempts to
fulfill assignments were thwarted by Porter and the other
Defendants.” (Id.). The Complaint alleges that
Thompson was denied the right to a grievance and both
pre-termination and post termination processes. (Id.
claims that “[u]pon information and belief Defendants
disseminated false and misleading information concerning
Plaintiff's professional reputation and abilities
because within days of February 17, 2017 Plaintiff began
hearing from coworkers and associates that the perception
within and without DSCYF was that Plaintiff was being demoted
for poor performance.” (Id. ¶ 26).
19, 2017, Thompson was hospitalized for an emergency surgery
and could not work until October 2017. (Id. ¶
33). The Complaint alleges that during this time,
“Defendants unilaterally reduced her to a teaching
position for which she did not yet have the required special
education certification” and “gave Porter
supervisory authority over her.” (Id.
¶¶ 32, 34). Thompson claims that she returned to
work in October 2017 to a teaching position at Terry
Psychiatric Children's Center but was then hospitalized
again in January 2018. (Id. ¶ 36). She further
claims that during her time as a teacher, Defendants asserted
that she needed appropriate special education certifications.
(Id. ¶ 35). The Complaint claims that in April
2018, Porter recommended that Thompson be terminated for
failure to obtain required certification. (Id.
¶ 39). Thompson filed a grievance and attended a hearing
on April 24, 2018, where it was determined that she would
have until June 30, 2018 to obtain the necessary credentials.
(Id. ¶ 40). The Complaint asserts that
“Plaintiff was unable to acquire the purported
certification and her employment was terminated through a
Notice from Defendant  Manning dated July 2, 2018.”
(Id. ¶ 42). Thompson contends that she applied
to over 60 teaching and administrative positions but did not
gain employment until August 8, 2018. (Id. ¶
August 13, 2018, Thompson filed this employment action
against DSCYF, McGonigal, McManus, Porter, and Manning
claiming that her demotion and termination violate both
federal and state law. (D.I. 1). Defendants' Motion seeks
dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) in part and summary
judgment pursuant to Rule 56 in part. (D.I. 13). Plaintiffs
oppose. (D.I. 16).
presented with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), district courts conduct a
two-part analysis. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578
F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). First, the Court separates the
factual and legal elements of a claim, accepting “all
of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but
[disregarding] any legal conclusions.” Id. at
210-11. Second, the Court determines “whether the facts
alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show . . . a
‘plausible claim for relief.'” Id.
at 211 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679
survive a motion to dismiss, a civil plaintiff must allege
facts that ‘raise a right to relief above the
speculative level on the assumption that the allegations in
the complaint are true (even if doubtful in
fact).'” Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d
227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Dismissal under Rule
12(b)(6) is appropriate if a complaint does not contain
“sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570); see also Fowler,
578 F.3d at 210. A claim is facially plausible “when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678. The Court is not obligated to accept as true
“bald assertions” or “unsupported
conclusions and unwarranted inferences.” Morse v.
Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir.
1997); Schuylkill Energy Res., Inc. v. Pennsylvania Power
& Light Co., 113 F.3d 405, 417 (3d Cir. 1997).
Instead, “[t]he complaint must state enough facts to
raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal
evidence of [each] necessary element” of a
plaintiff's claim. Wilkerson v. New Media Tech.
Charter Sch. Inc., 522 F.3d 315, 321 (3d Cir. 2008)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
Count I: Violation of the Fourteenth
alleges violation of the Fourteenth Amendment by DSCYF and
the Individual Defendants in their official capacities. The
Complaint alleges that the Defendants “deprived
Plaintiff of property and liberty rights without substantive
and procedural due process of law in violation of the
14th Amendment to the United States Constitution,
entitling Plaintiff to reinstatement ...