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SWEENEY v. BOARD OF EDUC. OF MUNDELEIN CONSOL. HIG

July 30, 1990

ROBERT SWEENEY, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF MUNDELEIN CONSOLIDATED HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT 120, LAKE COUNTY, ILLINOIS and WAYNE R. BOTTANI,1 Defendants


Milton I. Shadur, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHADUR

MILTON I. SHADUR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 By way of a four-count complaint (the "Complaint") and a supplemental complaint asserting comparable claims (the "Supplemental Complaint"), Robert Sweeney ("Sweeney") complains of unfair treatment at the hands of his former employer, the Board of Education of Mundelein Consolidated High School District 120 ("Board"), and District 120's then Superintendent of Schools Wayne R. Bottoni ("Bottoni"). Sweeney alleges that Board and Bottoni suspended him, required him to take psychiatric exams and subjected him to a remediation plan as retaliation for his having filed a previous lawsuit -- all without due process of law. Sweeney further asserts that those actions violated the tenure provisions of Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 122, para. 24-12 *fn2" and also constituted the intentional infliction of emotional distress.

 Defendants have now moved under Fed. R. Civ. P. ("Rule") 56 for summary judgment on all counts. For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, their motion is granted.

 Facts3

 Sweeney's troubles began in January 1983 when two students claimed that he exerted physical force against them. That accusation led to a series of meetings between Sweeney and then Principal Marilyn Howell ("Howell") *fn4" at which Howell told Sweeney his alleged actions were against school policy and asked that he apologize to the students and their families. Sweeney's response to Howell was that he disagreed with her interpretation of the school's corporal punishment policy and that he resented her request for an apology to the families.

 In an effort to maintain discipline in his classroom, which he felt had been compromised by Howell's actions, Sweeney required the two students involved to read some provisions of the Code about the rights of teachers. *fn5" Howell told Sweeney she found that behavior unprofessional and violative of the Code of Ethics expressed in the school's faculty handbook. Howell then sent a memorandum to Sweeney memorializing the history of events beginning with the students' accusations and citing specific passages from the faculty handbook that she felt Sweeney had violated.

 After receiving that memorandum Sweeney met with Bottoni and unsuccessfully asked for exclusion of the memorandum from his personnel file. Sweeney further asked that he be afforded the opportunity to meet with Board to find out what rights teachers have in disciplining students. On March 9, 1983 Bottoni advised Sweeney that arrangements would be made for Sweeney to address the Board. Bottoni then set up a meeting for March 15 among himself, Howell, Sweeney and a representative from the teacher's union to discuss Sweeney's discomfort with the use of the term "corporal punishment" rather than the term "teacher's rights" to categorize the issue (Bottoni Aff. Ex. 2). Sweeney arrived early for that meeting and told Bottoni (1) that he did not want to have any meeting until he talked with Board's President and (2) that Bottoni and he were not on "the same wave length". Bottoni then suspended Sweeney for 1 1/2 days for his refusal to participate in that meeting.

 Upon his return to work on March 17 Sweeney, at his own request, met with Howell. As a result of his conduct at that meeting, he was suspended again on March 18 for five days. Board then approved a Notice of Remedy for Sweeney on March 22. That remediation plan enumerated the incidents of Sweeney striking students and his acts of insubordination toward Howell. On March 29 Sweeney, represented by his attorney Mildred Haggerty, appeared before Board to contest the two suspensions, and Board approved both. Sweeney did not discuss his views on teacher's rights to discipline students with Board at that time. And after that meeting Sweeney made no further efforts to appear before Board to discuss his views on discipline and punishment.

 No further incidents involving Sweeney took place for the balance of the 1982-83 school year. On July 19, 1983 Sweeney filed a federal court lawsuit (the "1983 Lawsuit") against Board, Bottoni and individual Board members, alleging that defendants' acts in suspending him and placing him on remediation had violated his First Amendment and due process rights. That case settled before trial, on October 18, 1984.

 In June 1985 Sweeney's troubles resurfaced. Twice during that month he received memoranda from Howell regarding his use of corporal punishment against students, and he had a meeting with her where she told him that he was violating her instructions on corporal punishment and that she could not condone the use of force against the students. During the course of the 1985 summer break Bottoni met with a Board attorney, who suggested that Board should seek a psychiatric evaluation of Sweeney as a protective measure against potential liability should Sweeney use force against another student. On August 6, 1985 Board passed a motion requiring Sweeney to undergo a psychiatric evaluation as a condition to returning to class for the 1985-86 school year.

 Sweeney underwent an evaluation with a psychiatrist of his choice on September 4, 1985, and those results were reviewed by a Board-approved psychiatrist on September 17. Despite the psychiatrist's official determination that he was fit to return to work, Sweeney spent the balance of the school year on sick leave due to stress he attributed to the already-described series of events. When Sweeney indicated that he wished to return to school for the 1986-87 year, Board asked that he obtain another updated psychiatric evaluation before the start of the year. *fn6" Following evaluation by a Board-approved psychiatrist, Sweeney was allowed to and in fact did return to work for the 1986-87 school year -- and that entire year passed without incident.

 School year 1987-88 again witnessed difficulties between Sweeney and his class and, in turn, Sweeney and the administration. In dealing with discipline problems that arose in December 1987, Sweeney avoided striking the students and instead yelled at them, made them sit in the hallway and forced them to do push-ups in the classroom in lieu of detention after school. Sweeney was having a particularly hard time with student Jeff Wright and told then Principal John Davis that if the boy "takes a swing at me, he better make it good. Otherwise, they will take him out in a garbage bag" (Sweeney Dep. 62). Following those events Bottoni met with Sweeney on January 19, 1988, when Bottoni told Sweeney that he did not condone such behavior and that Sweeney was suspended again. *fn7" Formal minutes of the meeting were made available to Sweeney, and the next day Bottoni sent him a letter summarizing the meeting's activity and specifying the grounds of the suspension. Sweeney, with the aid of counsel, appealed the suspension at a February 2, 1988 Board meeting. Again Board sustained Sweeney's suspension and directed him to submit a psychiatric report to Board before his return to the classroom. At the conclusion of that suspension period -- January 25, 1988 -- illness prevented Sweeney from returning to work, and he remained out for the balance of the school year.

 After repeated Board requests for an updated psychiatric evaluation, on August 11, 1988 Sweeney's attorney provided a report from a privately retained psychiatrist. That report was forwarded to Board-approved psychiatrist Dr. Utley, who reviewed the file and on August 30 informed Board that Sweeney could return to work. Sweeney resumed his teaching duties on September 1.

 On September 13, 1988 Board placed Sweeney on a six-month remediation plan, which it later (on January 24, 1989) extended to cover all of the 1988-89 school year. Due to a reduction in force Sweeney was honorably discharged on March 21, 1989.

 Sweeney filed his original Complaint in this action on June 22, 1987 on the basis of the events that had transpired before that date. Factual allegations as to events after that date were added by way of the December 15, 1988 Supplemental Complaint. Each complaint contains four counts *fn8" that allege that the repeated suspensions and psychiatric evaluation requirements constituted:


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