United States District Court, D. South Carolina
ORDER AND NOTICE
V. HODGES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Reeves (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and in
forma pauperis, filed this complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against the above-named Defendants (collectively
“Defendants”), alleging violations of her civil
rights, as well as other violations under federal and state
law. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.), the
undersigned is authorized to review such complaints for
relief and submit findings and recommendations to the
Factual and Procedural Background
states she is employed by the Marion County School District
(“District”) as a computer/business education
teacher at Creek Bridge STEM Academy (“School”).
[ECF No. 1 at 1]. She states District and Marion County Board
of Directors (“Board”) are the governing bodies
for District; Kandace Bethea (“Superintendent”)
is District's Superintendent; Paula Grant (“HR
Director”) is District's Director of Human
Resources; Stacy Wilbanks (“Principal”) is
School's Principal; Rachel Caulder (“Lead
Teacher”) is the lead teacher at School; LaTonya Yates
Ford (“Assistant Principal”) is the Assistant
Principal at School; and Waymon Edmunds (“Classroom
Teacher”) is a classroom teacher at School.
Id. at 1-2.
alleges she was offered a position as a teacher in District by
School's former principal Darryl Woodberry (“Former
Principal”), an African American male, in May 2019 and
signed a contract in or around June 2019. Id. at 2.
She claims that upon reporting for duty on August 14, 2019,
she learned Former Principal had been replaced by Principal,
a white female. Id. She maintains Principal changed
her job description from teacher to elementary support and
middle school interventionist. Id. She states she
questioned whether Principal could change her job without
renegotiating the contract. Id.
alleges that on August 19, 2019, she attended a meeting with
HR Director, Principal, Assistant Principal, and Assistant
Superintendent (not a defendant). Id. at 3. She
claims HR Director questioned her about a conversation she
had on a cell phone at a restaurant that was overheard by
another School employee. Id. Plaintiff states she
complained of the change in her job description during the
meeting and Principal indicated she would meet with her
separately to discuss her job duties and expectations.
indicates Lead Teacher issued user names and passwords for
state math assessments to Classroom Teacher's students on
September 13, 2019. Id. Classroom Teacher's
students reported to Plaintiff's work area to participate in
the testing. Id. The students' passwords did not
work, and they were unable to engage in testing. Id.
Plaintiff claims Classroom Teacher expressed his frustration
that the process had not been perfected prior to the date of
testing. Id. She states Classroom Teacher sought out
Lead Teacher and Assistant Principal, but was unable to find
them. Id. She indicates Classroom Teacher returned
to the classroom and reported his frustration to the
students, stating he did not appreciate his class being used
as “guinea pigs” and was angry because no one had
confirmed the passwords or ensured that the proper software
was installed. Id.
claims she was placed on administrative leave with pay on
September 16, 2019. Id. Plaintiff indicates that on
September 26, 2019, Lead Teacher removed her from the
professional development team. Id. at 4. She states
she emailed Lead Teacher to question why she was removed, but
Lead Teacher failed to respond. Id. She claims that
on October 7, 2019, Assistant Principal removed her from the
duty schedule for the period from October 7, 2019, through
June 30, 2020. Id.
states she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on August 25,
2019, alleging discriminatory treatment in the workplace and
harassment. Id. at 3. She indicates the EEOC
received her formal charge of discrimination, 410-2019-01583,
on or about October 2, 2019. Id. at 4. She states
she filed a formal grievance with District on October 10,
2019, as well as two additional charges with the EEOC for
alleges that on October 14, 2019, Superintendent informed her
that she was recommending she be terminated based on emails
she sent to Lead Teacher, as well as false information she
had provided on her application for employment. Id.
She states Superintendent indicated District and HR Director
were unaware she lived and worked in Georgia. Id.
Plaintiff maintains Former Principal was aware she was living
and working in Georgia when she interviewed with him, and she
informed Assistant Principal she was living in Georgia when
discussing a professional development conference in Florence,
South Carolina, in July 2019. Id. She further
maintains she provided a Georgia address for pay and
sets forth 17 alleged causes of action in the complaint and
claims many of these alleged causes of action fall under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. She alleges District and Superintendent
violated her due process rights under the Fifth and
Fourteenth Amendments by withholding exculpatory evidence,
fabricating false reports, and placing her on administrative
leave without following grievance procedures outlined in
School's faculty handbook and Board bylaws. Id.
at 5-6. She also generally alleges all other defendants
violated her due process rights under the Fifth and
Fourteenth Amendments. Id. at 5. She states
defendants conspired to violate her constitutional rights.
Id. at 6. She claims defendants denied her access to
evidence, failed to intervene to protect her rights, and were
negligent in violation of § 1983. Id. at 7,
9-10. She maintains defendants retaliated against her for
expressing her right to free speech under the First
Amendment. Id. at 11. She claims Principal, HR
Director, and Superintendent violated her rights under §
1983 by breaching her contract. Id. at 11-12. She
states defendants engaged in workplace harassment and
defamation. Id. at 12. She indicates District and
School engaged in fraud in violation of § 1983.
Id. at 13.
further alleges defendants conspired to interfere with her
civil rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3).
Id. at 6. She claims defendants violated the
Whistleblower Protection Act. Id. at 12. She alleges
causes of action against defendants for malicious
prosecution, civil conspiracy, and intentional infliction of
emotional distress under South Carolina law. [ECF No. 1 at
requests compensatory damages, costs, and attorney fees in
excess of $75, 000 and an injunction preventing District,
Superintendent, and Board from engaging in discrimination,
workplace harassment, and retaliatory termination pending
resolution of the EEOC charges against them. Id. at
Standard of Review
filed her complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which
permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal
court without prepaying the administrative costs of
proceeding with the lawsuit. To protect against possible
abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court
to dismiss a case upon a finding that the action fails to
state a claim on which relief may be granted or is frivolous
or malicious. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (ii). A
finding of frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an
arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). A claim based on a
meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte under 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). See Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).
complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Pro se complaints are
held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by
attorneys. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th
Cir. 1978). In evaluating a pro se complaint, the
plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. Fine
v. City of N.Y., 529 F.2d 70, 74 (2d Cir. 1975). The
mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings
means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to
state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it
should do so. A federal court is charged with liberally
construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow
the development of a potentially meritorious case.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).
requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the
court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege
facts that set forth a claim currently cognizable in a
federal district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990). Although
the court must liberally construe a pro se complaint, the
United States Supreme Court has made it clear a plaintiff
must do more than make conclusory statements to state a
claim. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
677‒78 (2009); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rather, the complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim
that is plausible on its face, and the reviewing court need
only accept as true the complaint's factual allegations,
not its legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
District and School Not Subject to Suit Under § 1983
state a plausible claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. §
1983,  an aggrieved party must sufficiently
allege she was injured by “the deprivation of any [of
his or her] rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
[United States] Constitution and laws” by a
“person” acting “under color of state
law.” See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see
generally 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller,
Federal Practice and Procedure § 1230 (3d ed.
“persons” may act under color of state law;
therefore, a defendant in a § 1983 action must qualify
as a “person.” For example, inanimate objects
such as buildings, facilities, and grounds are not
“persons” and cannot act under color of state
law. See Preval v. Reno, 57 F.Supp.2d 307, 310 (E.D.
Va. 1999) (“[T]he Piedmont Regional Jail is not a
‘person,' and therefore not amenable to suit under
42 U.S.C. § 1983.”); Brooks v. Pembroke City
Jail, 722 F.Supp. 1294, ...