The opinion of the court was delivered by: HARRY LEINENWEBER, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Peggy Bankhead (hereinafter, "Plaintiff") filed a
complaint against Defendant Waukegan School District
(hereinafter, the "District") alleging employment discrimination
based on race under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Before the Court is the Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment. For the following reasons, the
motion is granted.
Plaintiff, an African American, was a Paraprofessional/Special
Education Assistant in the District's Alternative Behavior
Disorder Student Support/Hearing Impaired Center (the "ABDSSC").
Her employment with the District was brief. She was hired in
February 2001 and terminated on May 31, 2001. Throughout the
duration of Plaintiff's employment, Frederick Howard (an African
American) was the Associate Superintendent of Human Resources and
ultimately responsible for hiring and firing Plaintiff.
Plaintiff's supervisor, Charlene Johnson (Caucasian), and former Deputy
Superintendent, Myron Dagley (Caucasian), interviewed Plaintiff
and recommended her hiring. Both also eventually recommended
Plaintiff's termination. A Paraprofessional's principal job
duties include assisting certified classroom teachers, while
attending to the special needs of students at the ABDSSC.
Plaintiff's short tenure with the District was tumultuous. In
March, after Plaintiff began work in the ABDSSC, Johnson received
several complaints concerning Plaintiff's interaction with
students. Johnson's affidavit indicates two specific instances,
although no other documentation reflects these complaints.
(Johnson Aff. ¶¶ 8, 9). Johnson communicated these complaints to
Plaintiff, who denied any wrongdoing on her part. On April 8,
2001, however, teacher and coworker Kenneth Roznowski submitted
his required paraprofessional evaluation of Plaintiff, giving her
an excellent rating in all categories.
On April 25, 2001, Johnson wrote a supervision note (or,
write-up) concerning a specific incident involving Plaintiff and
several students, and shared the note in a meeting with
Plaintiff. Johnson did not witness the incident, but received
complaints from the students involved in the incident. The note
stated that an unnamed staff member overheard and confirmed
Plaintiff's derogatory comments specifically, "[y]our mama's a
bitch" and "[y]ou are just a sent off" aimed at the students.
In the note, Johnson stated that appropriate professional behavior "includes not
arguing with students or using inappropriate language." (Def.
56.1, Exh. G). After meeting with Johnson, Plaintiff handwrote
over the note, "Never will I sign this. This is a lie." Her
position is that she admits that an incident with the complaining
students occurred, but denies making the comments and that the
characterization of events was fabricated.
Johnson's second supervision note reprimanding Plaintiff
occurred on May 16, 2001. On that day, Plaintiff was in a
classroom with an ABDSSC student who was acting in a negative
fashion. Plaintiff and the student exchanged words and
eventually, a security guard and Johnson directed Plaintiff to
leave the classroom. Plaintiff did not leave and the security
guard carried her out of the room. (Davis Aff. ¶¶ 4-8; Pl. Dep.
at 51). Johnson's note and other testimony differ from
Plaintiff's account of the incident. In Johnson's version of the
incident, Plaintiff was observed yelling at the student. On the
other hand, Plaintiff testified that the student's behavior was
threatening, that she did not raise her voice, but instead was
terrified of the student and asked a security guard for
assistance. Johnson was in the classroom near the end of the
altercation and told Plaintiff that she had escalated the
situation between her and the student, although Plaintiff
disagreed. The note that Plaintiff received, but again refused to
sign, stated: "Your behavior today was unprofessional and unacceptable at ABDSSC. Again, I remind you
that it is my expectation that staff always maintain their
composure and be an appropriate role model for students. Another
incident of this nature could result in your termination." (Def.
56.1, Exh. H).
Following the May 16th incident, Plaintiff expressed concerns
to Dagley over several of the past incidents and alleged
mistreatment by supervisor Johnson. On May 23, 2001, Plaintiff
and her union representative met with Johnson and Dagley.
Co-workers Pipes and Roznowski also were asked to attend parts of
the meeting. The meeting did not go well. Plaintiff felt as
though her supervisors attacked her professionally and personally
by compiling evidence against her, instead of listening to her
side of the story. (Pl. Dep. at 69-76). At one point, Plaintiff
became upset and attempted to leave, but chose to stay after some
persuasion by her union representative. (Id. at 77-78).
Shortly after the meeting, Johnson and Dagley recommended in
memoranda to Howard that he terminate Plaintiff's employment.
(Def. 56.1, Exhs. K & L). Dagley's memorandum details his version
of the meeting, claiming Plaintiff "was very antagonistic in her
reaction," "hostile," "rude, and unprofessional." (Id., Exh.
L). He also stated that Plaintiff's co-workers who spoke at the
meeting "failed to substantiate any pattern of behavior by Ms.
Johnson which would resemble the allegations [of preferential treatment
Plaintiff received a standard contract renewal form sometime in
early May 2001. She signed the form on May 21, 2001 and sent it
back to the District. (Pl. Exh. B). However, on May 31, 2001,
Howard terminated Plaintiff's employment by letter. (Def. 56.1,
Exh. M). Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a grievance with her union,
whose representative sent a letter to Howard, but did not pursue
the complaint any further because Plaintiff was a probationary
employee. (Pl. Exh. D). She also filed a discrimination charge
with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC") on
September 18, 2001 alleging that she was terminated because of
II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Summary judgment is appropriate when "the 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). A genuine issue of triable fact exists only if "the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict
for the nonmoving party." Pugh v. City of Attica, 259 F.3d 619,
624 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). III. DISCUSSION
Plaintiff's complaint alleges that Defendant discriminated
against her based on race in violation of Title VII. The District
moves for summary judgment on the ground that Plaintiff has
failed to produce facts ...