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JUNIEL v. PARK FOREST-CHICAGO HEIGHTS DIST. 163

December 18, 2001

LEONARD JUNIEL, SR., PLAINTIFF,
V.
PARK FOREST-CHICAGO HEIGHTS SCHOOL DISTRICT 163, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alesia, District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the court is defendant Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). For the following reasons, the court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

Beginning February 1996, plaintiff Leonard Juniel, Sr. ("Juniel"), an African-American, was employed in an educational support or administrative personnel position as the Director of Technology for defendant Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163 ("the District"). Juniel was not a certified teacher. Rather, his duties included: (1) planning, organizing, and controlling the overall activities of electronic data processing, including systems analysis, programming, and computer operation activities as related to the District's business operations, instructional programs, and pupil and personnel record-keeping; (2) assisting the superintendent in keeping personnel informed as to the applications and developments in the fields of electronic data processing in education; (3) maintaining a cooperative relationship and open communication with those holding similar positions in other districts in the region and state, to investigate and implement feasible data-processing programs on a multi-district basis; (4) evaluating the District's use of data processing, and recommending modification, direction, and expansion as necessary; (5) supervising feasibility and procedural studies; (6) directing, planning, and coordinating the programming and operation of all data-processing and technology activities; (7) directing development of new software and coordinating testing, implementation and documentation; (8) providing guidance and assistance to all potential users of data-processing equipment; (9) supervising installation of equipment; (10) monitoring the utilization of equipment and providing for scheduled maintenance to hold downtime to a minimum; (11) keeping continually informed of the development of data-processing functions in the educational field, and advising the administration of these developments, together with recommendations for possible implementation in the District; (12) assisting in preparation and administration of the budget for the data-processing department; (13) reporting to management on progress and data-processing development projects, resource utilization and production performance; (14) projecting data-processing resource requirements, including personnel, equipment and housing with associated costs, and coordinating with the planning and budgeting cycle of the District; (15) evaluating new technical developments in view of the District's plan and objective; (16) maintaining inventory records of software, hardware, and peripherals by serial number and location for insurance and security reasons; (17) maintaining district-wide student data and the nature of enrollment, test results and demographics; (18) installing software, set-up menus, maintaining back-up and advising and assisting with hard disk management; (19) working cooperatively with the testing coordinator in the development and analysis of district norm referenced and criterion reference material; (20) developing, implementing and enforcing procedures and security standards for software access and modifications that ensure the integrity of programs and data; (21) documenting current systems; and (22) fulfilling additional administrative reporting requirements as assigned. While working for the District, Juniel also assisted in obtaining a $152,888 technology grant as part of the Technology Integration Program Initiative.

In the Spring of 1998, the Board of Education of the District ("the Board"), which was at the time comprised of four African-Americans and three Caucasians, determined that it was necessary to cut $300,000 from its budget. The Board consulted with Dr. Elizabeth Reynolds ("Reynolds"), Superintendent of the District. Reynolds, an African-American, recommended that the Board eliminate the Director of Technology position. Shortly before March 30, 1998, a meeting was held wherein Juniel was notified that his position was targeted for elimination. Reynolds told Juniel that the Board action to terminate his employment was part of a reduction-in-force ("RIF") and that the elimination of his position was not due to his performance. However, the District claims that Juniel's performance — specifically his failure to develop a district-wide technology plan, his failure to spend sixty percent of his time meeting with staff and students, and his failure to publish a periodic technology newsletter for the District — contributed to Reynolds's recommendation and the Board's decision to terminate the position of Director of Technology. Juniel received informal notice of the RIF between March 30, 1998 and April 15, 1998. Then, on April 10, 1998, Juniel received formal notice of the RIF in the form of a certified letter notifying him of his honorable dismissal effective May 30, 1998. Juniel alleges by affidavit that at some indeterminate time after his dismissal, his wife "saw a directory of the school district for the fall of 1998, where Mike Nicolai, (Caucasian) and Robert Thomas (Caucasian) are listed as `District office technology' staff." (Juniel Aff. ¶ 3.)

The position of Director of Technology was discontinued and still does not exist in the District. Rather, the District reorganized its technology program to focus on teaching technology to teachers in the classroom. Some of the twenty-two duties and responsibilities of the Director of Technology position were spread among numerous individuals at the District.*fn2 Reynolds herself personally assumed many of the duties, and the remaining duties were either unassigned or were assigned to the business manager, a consultant in Tennessee, or various teachers and administrators, including Mike Nicolai ("Nicolai") and Bob Thomas ("Thomas"). Nicolai and Thomas were Caucasian teachers who worked with technology in the District prior to Juniel's termination. No single Director of Technology duty was reassigned exclusively to Nicholai or Thomas without the help of other teachers and administrators, and Nicolai and Thomas were not solely assigned all of Juniel's duties.*fn3

Seventeen other employees — twelve Caucasians and five African-Americans — lost their jobs in the alleged RIF during the 1997-98 school year. However, during the 1998-99 school year, the District hired sixty-seven new employees — thirty Caucasians and thirty-seven African-Americans.*fn4 Of the four administrators hired during this time period, two were African-American and two were Caucasian. During both the 1997-98 school year and the 1998-99 school year, the District employed twelve management employees — seven African-Americans and five Caucasians.*fn5 Reynolds also recommended that the positions of Jacquelyn Davis ("Davis"), an African-American, and Karen Eisenbart ("Eisenbart"), a Caucasian, be eliminated as part of the budget cuts. The Board decided to eliminate Davis's job position but not Eisenbart's.*fn6 At the time, Davis was the Director of Curriculum at the District, and Eisenbart was the Grants Administrator. As Grants Administrator, Eisenbart brought in millions of dollars worth of general grants to the District.

On April 21, 1999, Juniel filed a charge with the EEOC alleging that the District discriminated against him based on his race in regard to his dismissal, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. On December 29, 1999, Juniel received a right to sue letter from the EEOC. On March 24, 2000, Juniel filed a pro se complaint of employment discrimination, alleging that the District discriminated against him because of his race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and 1983. Juniel subsequently retained an attorney to represent him in this case, but his counsel did not amend the pro se complaint. On September 20, 2001, the court granted the District's motion for summary judgment on Juniel's Title VII claim because it was time-barred. See Juniel v. Park Forest-Chicago Heights Sch. Dist. 163, 161 F. Supp.2d 910 (N.D.Ill. 2001). The District now moves for summary judgment on Juniel's §§ 1981 and 1983 claims.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Summary judgment standard

Summary judgment is appropriate only where "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); see Funeral Fin. Sys. v. United States, 234 F.3d 1015, 1017 (7th Cir. 2000) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). A genuine issue of material fact exists when, viewing the record and drawing all reasonable inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-movant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 425 (7th Cir. 1997).

The moving party bears the burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548. Once the moving party makes a prima facie showing that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the non-moving party must set forth specific facts showing that a genuine issue for trial exists. Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548; Schroeder v. Lufthansa German Airlines, 875 F.2d 613, 620 (7th Cir. 1989). The non-moving party cannot rest on the pleadings alone, but must designate specific facts in affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories or admissions that establish that there is a genuine triable issue. Selan v. Kiley, 969 F.2d 560, 564 (7th Cir. 1992). The non-moving party "`must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.'" Id. (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986)). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party]." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

The District argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on Juniel's §§ 1981 and 1983 claims because Juniel cannot establish a prima facie case of race discrimination. Although the District has not attacked the sufficiency of Juniel's claim on the basis that he has not set forth elements necessary to establish §§ 1981 and 1983 municipal liability against the District under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978), the court still must address this issue. See Jett v. Dallas Indep. Sch. Dist., 491 U.S. 701, 736-37, 109 S.Ct. 2702, 105 L.Ed.2d 598 (1989) ("[T]o prevail on his claim for damages against the school district, petitioner must show that the violation of his `right to make contracts' protected by § 1981 was caused by a custom or policy within the meaning of Monell and subsequent cases."). See also Smith v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Trs., 165 F.3d 1142, 1148 (7th Cir. 1999) ("Monell does not create a `defense.' It identifies an element of a plaintiff's claim, so the burden is on the plaintiff to demonstrate the essential policy or custom.") (citing Bd. of County of Comm'rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403, 117 S.Ct. 1382, 137 L.Ed.2d 626 (1997) ("[I]n Monell and subsequent cases, we have ...


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