The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ruben Castillo, United States District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Mary Beth Burke brings this action for damages and for
equitable and injunctive relief against Defendant Chicago School Reform
Board of Trustees ("the Board"), which operates the school where Burke
worked, as well as Board employees Paul Vallas, Barbara Moore, Patricia
Monroe-Taylor, and Loris Brown, individually and in their official
capacities. Burke's suit includes federal claims alleging: deprivations
of her free speech rights protected by the First Amendment of the United
States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I); violations of her
due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983
(Count II); race discrimination in violation of the Fourteenth
Amendment, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 1981 (Count III); and violations of
Title VII (Count IV). Burke also makes a state law claim for retaliation
in violation of Illinois law, 105 ILCS 5/34-2.4c as well as retaliatory
discharge (Count V).
The Board has moved to dismiss Counts I, II, III, and V, as well as the
claims against the individual Board employees brought against them in
their official capacities, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). The Board also moves to strike all allegations from the record
arising from incidents occurring before May 24, 1998, and to strike
Paragraph 17 of Burke's Second Amended Complaint
("the complaint"). For
the reasons set forth below, the Board's motions, (R. 26-1 and 26-2), are
denied in part and granted in part.
The following facts are drawn from the allegations of the complaint,
which we take as true for purposes of a motion to dismiss. Doherty v.
City of Chicago, 75 F.3d 318, 322 (7th Cir. 1996). Burke had been
employed as a teacher by the Board at the Julia Ward Howe Elementary
School ("Howe") in Chicago, Illinois from 1990 until January 11, 1999.
The Board is an Illinois municipal corporation, which operates the
Chicago Public School system. Moore was the principal at Howe from the
time Burke first became employed there until June 1998. Brown succeeded
Moore as Howe's principal and held that position through January 1999.
Monroe-Taylor served as assistant principal under Moore. Vallas is the
Chief Executive Officer of the Board.
Beginning in September 1997 and continuing throughout her employment at
Howe, Burke learned of sexual assaults and other sex crimes involving
Howe students. Burke reported the sex crimes to Howe's administration,
including Moore, Brown, and Monroe-Taylor. In September 1997 and November
1998, Burke contacted the Illinois Department of Children and Family
Services on behalf of foster children who were sexually assaulted on
Howe's premises. In April or early May 1998, Burke sought the assistance
of Vallas, who did not respond directly to Burke, but advised Moore of
Burke's contact with his office. Generally, Defendants did not report or
respond to the incidents of sex crimes Burke brought to their attention.
In some instances, Defendants covered up reported incidents of sex crimes
or accused Burke of fabricating or causing them.
Burke's requests for a transfer from Howe in or after February 1998
were denied. On June 4, 1998, Burke was battered by a student and her
requests for assistance were not promptly responded to. On that same
day, she was served with a notice to appear before the Board's Character
Integrity Committee. Burke was accused of, inter alia, insubordination,
job abandonment, attendance book fraud and stealing her grade book. Burke
was threatened with discipline, including termination.
On January 11, 1999, Burke came to believe that her work environment
was so intolerable that she had no choice but to resign from her teaching
position. Upon her resignation, the Board delayed Burke's final paycheck
for four months and delayed release of her pension based on a "do not
hire code" purportedly attached to her pension account. (R. 22, Second Am
Compl. ¶ 18.) In addition, Brown gave a negative reference to at
least one of Burke's prospective employers.
Presently before this Court is the Board's motion to dismiss Counts I,
II, III, and V of Burke's second amended complaint. The Board argues that
Burke has not established municipal liability in order to maintain a
§ 1983 or § 1981 suit against the Board and that Burke has not
sufficiently established a liberty interest to support a due process
claim. Defendants also argue that the suits against Vallas, Moore,
Monroe-Taylor, and Brown in their official capacities should be dismissed
as repetitive. Finally, Defendants move to strike: (1) all events
occurring before May 24, 1998 as outside the statute of limitations; and
(2) the events alleged in Paragraph 17 of the complaint because that
paragraph recites only generalized, vague and undated events. In the
alternative, Defendants move for a more definite statement as to
A motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not the
merits of the suit. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th
Cir. 1990). When considering a motion to dismiss, the court views all
facts alleged in the complaint, as well as any inferences reasonably
drawn therefrom, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Doherty,
75 F.3d at 322. This Court will grant a motion to dismiss only if it
appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts entitling
her to relief. Venture Assocs. Corp. v. Zenith Data Sys. Corp.,
987 F.2d 429, 432 (7th Cir. 1993). See also Hishon v. King & Spalding,
467 U.S. 69 (1984); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-56 (1957).
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), the court may strike
"from any pleading any insufficient defense or any redundant,
immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." "Immaterial matter is
defined as that which has no relationship to the cause of action pled."
VPHI v. National Educ. Training Group, No. 94 C 5559, 1995 WL 51405, at
*3 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 20, 1995). Motions to strike are generally not
favored, and the court will not strike matter from a complaint "unless it
is clear that it can have no possible bearing on the subject matter of
the litigation." Patel v. Board of Governors of State Colleges and
Universities, No. 92 C 8300, 1995 WL 573418, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 22,
1995). See also Tektel, Inc. v. Maier, 813 F. Supp. 1331, 1334 (N.D.
Ill. 1992). "Furthermore, pleadings are generally not stricken unless the
moving party will be prejudiced otherwise." Patel, 1995 WL 573418, at
*3. "Prejudice results when the matter complained of has the effect of
confusing the issue or where it is so lengthy and complex that it places
an undue burden on the responding party." 5 Wright & Miller, Federal
Practice and Procedure, § 1382.
I. Counts I and III - Municipal Liability under § 1983 ...