Meyers v. La Porte Indep. Sch. Dist.
In Meyers v. La Porte Indep. Sch. Dist., 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 29598 (5th Cir. Dec. 20, 2007), the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected a claim of discrimination against a school district by a student who alleged that the district denied her the "opportunity to participate and to perform at the level at which she was capable" on its varsity and junior varsity softball teams in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 ("Title IX"), and the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. The student alleged that she was denied her playing time on the basis of her race, and that as a result she lost scholarships and other opportunities to play softball at the collegiate level.
The Section 1983 claim of Rose Cooks Meyers, the student, failed because:
- Although Meyers produced some evidence that Jannell was subject to racial discrimination by her coaches, even assuming that evidence is true Meyers did not identify any official policy or established custom that was the source of the discrimination, nor did she produce any evidence that LPISD was the "moving force" behind the coaches' decision to limit Jannell's playing time. See Brown, 520 U.S. at 405. Additionally, Meyers produced no evidence that LPISD knew about or had constructive knowledge of any potential discrimination by the coaches. See Pineda v. City of Houston, 291 F.3d 325, 330 (5th Cir. 2002) (stating that plaintiff must show that policymaker knew about repeated violations in order for the violations to become a "custom"). On this record, the district court did not err by granting summary judgment to LPISD on Meyers' § 1983 claim.
Her Section 1981 claim failed because:
- Section 1981 ensures that all persons in the United States have the same right to make and enforce contracts and prevents impairment of those rights by government and non-government actors. See 42 U.S.C. § 1981. But § 1981 does not provide an independent cause of action. Oden v. Oktibbeha County, 246 F.3d 458, 462-63 (5th Cir. 2001). In order to remedy violations of § 1981, a plaintiff must assert a cause of action under § 1983. Id. Meyers's independent § 1981 claim--not brought through § 1983--against LPISD is contrary to Jett v. Dallas Ind. Sch. Dist.: "[T]he express 'action at law' provided by § 1983 for the 'deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws,' provides the exclusive federal damages remedy for the violation of the rights guaranteed by § 1981 when the claim is pressed against a state actor." 491 U.S. 701, 735, 109 S. Ct. 2702, 105 L. Ed. 2d 598 (1989); see also Felton v. Polles, 315 F.3d 470, 482 (5th Cir. 2002). This requirement "is not a mere pleading formality." Felton, 315 F.3d at 482 Because Meyers brought her § 1981 claim independently of her § 1983 claim, the district court did not err by granting summary judgment to LPISD.
The Court observed that "even if Meyers had pleaded her § 1981 claim correctly, Meyers was required to show that LPISD's conduct interfered with an actual contractual relationship, not a speculative or prospective one. Morris v. Dillard Dep't Stores, Inc., 277 F.3d 743, 751 (5th Cir. 2001). But Meyers alleged only that LPISD's conduct, that is, the coaches' conduct, prevented Jannell from potential "opportunit[ies]" to play collegiate softball. Therefore, because she did not allege or show the existence of an actual contractual relationship, or even some kind of offer from a college or university, she failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Morris, 277 F.3d at 751."