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LOVE v. CITY OF CHICAGO BD. OF EDUC.

May 28, 1998

VASHTI LOVE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO BOARD OF EDUCATION, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ALESIA

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

 Before the court is defendant Milton Albritton's motion to dismiss plaintiffs Vashti Love, Dr. Claudine Moore, and Willie Edwards' complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, the court denies defendant's motion.

 I. BACKGROUND

 Plaintiffs Vashti Love ("Love"), Dr. Claudine Moore ("Moore"), and Willie Edwards ("Edwards") have filed suit against two defendants: Milton Albritton ("Albritton") and the City of Chicago Board of Education *fn1" ("the Board"). All three plaintiffs are employees of Wadsworth Elementary School ("Wadsworth"). The Board is the governing body of the school district. See 105 ILL. COMP. STAT. § 5/34-1. Albritton is the Principal of Wadsworth.

 Plaintiffs' complaint makes the following allegations which, for the purpose of ruling on this motion, are assumed to be true. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 81 L. Ed. 2d 59, 104 S. Ct. 2229 (1984). During the years of 1996 and 1997, plaintiffs made comments and complaints regarding defendants' improper operation and implementation of the special education inclusion program and the treatment and segregation of disabled students at Wadsworth. Plaintiffs also complained that Albritton was interfering with their ability and efforts to implement special education programs and to perform their duties and assignments with the learning disabled students.

 In response to plaintiffs' comments and complaints and in an effort to keep plaintiffs from continuing to speak out, defendants retaliated against plaintiffs. The acts of retaliation included: (1) using inaccurate and false performance evaluations or complaints; (2) reprimanding and disciplining plaintiffs; (3) canceling programs or preventing some plaintiffs from teaching summer school; (4) making false accusations; and (5) encouraging other teachers and students to act hostilely toward plaintiffs.

 In response to defendants' alleged acts of retaliation, plaintiffs filed a three-count complaint in this court, alleging that defendants' conduct violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Count I of the complaint is Love's claim against defendants; Count II is Moore's claim against defendants; and Count III is Edwards' claim against defendants. *fn2" The court has subject matter jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

 This matter is currently before the court on defendant Albritton's motion to dismiss the case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Albritton argues that plaintiffs have failed to state a claim because they have failed to allege that their speech was constitutionally protected.

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. Standard for deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss

 When deciding a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Cromley v. Board of Educ. of Lockport, 699 F. Supp. 1283, 1285 (N.D. Ill. 1988). If, when viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must dismiss the case. See FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6); Gomez v. Illinois State Bd. of Educ., 811 F.2d 1030, 1039 (7th Cir. 1987). However, the court may dismiss the complaint only if it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957).

 B. § 1983 First Amendment retaliation claims

 In the complaint, each of the plaintiffs alleges that defendants violated § 1983 by retaliating against plaintiffs for exercising their First Amendment rights. Albritton has moved to dismiss each of the claims, arguing that plaintiffs have failed to allege that their speech was constitutionally protected.

 For the sake of clarity, the court's opinion on this issue will be in four parts. Part 1 lays out the general law that the court must apply in analyzing whether plaintiffs have stated a § 1983 First Amendment retaliation claim. Part 2 applies that law to Love's claim against defendants. Part 3 applies that law to Moore's claim ...


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