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Purvis v. Board of Education of Hall High School Dist. 502

August 10, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge


Before the Court is a Joint Motion to Dismiss by the City of Spring Valley and Douglas Bernabei and Motion for More Definite Statement [#27]. For the reasons set forth below, the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Motion for More Definite Statement [#27] are DENIED.


This Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's § 1983 claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.


The Complaint arises out of an unfortunate series of events.*fn1 The Plaintiff, Gina Purvis ("Purvis"), was a tenured Biology teacher at Hall High School ("Hall") in Spring Valley, Illinois. On and after November 10, 2004, Purvis was investigated, arrested, and indicted for sexual assault against her then 15-year-old male student, Mickey Ribas ("Ribas"). Purvis was suspended by the School Board with pay pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings. On October 31, 2005, at the conclusion of a six-day bench trial, Purvis was acquitted of all charges.

Purvis and the Board subsequently settled her employment dismissal.

This sordid tale begins back in the Spring of 2004 when Purvis and Ribas, who was her student at the time, became the subject of rumors that there was a sexual relationship between them. According to the Second Amended Complaint, Ribas and other fellow students spread false rumors that they were having a consensual sexual relationship, stating that they had sex at school, at Purvis's home, in her car, and in Ribas' home. As the rumors spread, Hall Principal Patricia Lunn ("Lunn") agreed with Daniel Oest ("Oest"), Superintendent of Hall, to allow Oest and Gary Vicini ("Vicini"), Dean of Students and head football and track coach, to investigate the rumors. Lunn and Vicini failed to inform Oest that Purvis had previously reported Vicini to Lunn for allegedly sexually harassing a female student in 2003.

On November 10, 2004, Oest and Vicini met with Ribas. Ribas denied any sexual relationship with Purvis. At that time, Vicini threatened Ribas with expulsion or jail if he did not admit that the rumors were true. To avoid punishment, Ribas was persuaded to say that the rumors were true. Vicini, rather than Lunn or Oest, reported Purvis to Chief Douglas Bernabei ("Bernabei") of the Spring Valley Police. Vicini did not inform Bernabei that Purvis had previously accused him of sexually harassing a female student. In turn, Bernabei notified DCFS, despite the fact that he was aware that Oest and Vicini had persuaded Ribas to change his story.

On November 11, 2004, Bernabei attempted to entrap Purvis by directing Ribas' mother to call Purvis. Bernabei supplied Ribas' mother with questions and listened in on another line. During this conversation, Purvis categorically denied a sexual relationship between her and Ribas. Bernabei intentionally failed to record this conversation and deliberately misrepresented the contents of the conversation in his testimony before the grand jury.

On November 16, 2004, DCFS scheduled a videotape interview with Ribas. Bernabei, despite limited training, insisted on conducting the interview himself. No trained DCFS child sex abuse interrogator or other professionally trained child sexual abuse interrogator was present in the room to counsel or assist Ribas. After the interview, Bernabei informed Ribas not to speak to anyone without his knowledge or permission, including a later DCFS interview attempted by DCFS staff. Furthermore, Bernabei had agreed to keep DCFS informed of all relevant information regarding the investigation, but deliberately failed to do so.

For purposes of obtaining an indictment against Purvis, Bernabei informed the state's attorney that he had determined that the first alleged sex act between Purvis and Ribas occurred in the classroom storage room a few days after February 9, 2004. Bernabei failed to inform the state's attorney that in the DCFS interview that he conducted, Ribas stated that the first sex act did not occur until after the week of February 13, 2004. Also, Ribas informed Bernabei that he allegedly had sexual intercourse with Purvis on two occasions at her home, and that both times Ribas' father had dropped him off. Bernabei knew that Ribas's father could not corroborate those dates and times.

Bernabei failed to investigate the classroom storage area, where Ribas and Purvis allegedly had sex, until more than a year after he became aware of the matter. As a result, the alleged crime scene was altered and furniture was subsequently rearranged to be consistent Ribas' version of events. Bernabei made no attempt to collect any forensic evidence from the storage room, including hair, semen, or fingerprints. He also delayed his investigation of Purvis' home and deliberately failed to search for forensic evidence or examine Purvis' home or classroom computer to corroborate Ribas' allegations of internet communications with Purvis. It was later discovered that, after the criminal investigation had begun, the hard drive in the computer in Purvis' classroom was altered and certain unspecified information was deleted from it by the school. Bernabei deliberately failed to investigate the deletion of this information.

Furthermore, Bernabei intentionally failed to examine Ribas' home computers, despite Ribas' claim that they contained evidence of communications between him and Purvis. After Purvis' defense attorney subpoenaed those computers, Ribas' mother told Bernabei that the hard drive on one of the computers had already been replaced. Although he knew of the subpoena, Bernabei did not immediately notify ...

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