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Winfield v. Chicago State University

August 30, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan, District Judge


This matter is before the court on Defendant Centers for New Horizons' ("New Horizons") and Defendant Chicago State University's ("CSU") motions to dismiss. For the reasons stated below, we grant both motions to dismiss.


Plaintiff Varnziel Winfield ("Winfield") claims that he was admitted to CSU's Masters in Social Work program in 2001, which "requires each student to complete a field practicum in a community based organization . . . ." (A. Compl. Par. 6). According to Winfield, he was assigned by CSU to New Horizons for his practicum, where he claims his three female supervisors ("Supervisors") "refused to supervise" him because of his gender. (A. Compl. Par. 11). Winfield alleges that from October 2002 through December 2003, Winfield was subjected to "a hostile learning environment" because he was a male. (A. Compl. Par. 13). Winfield also alleges that he was required to complete an additional eighty hours of work for his practicum, that CSU's actions caused him "to lose his veteran educational benefits in 2003 and 2004," and that his graduation from CSU was delayed from May 2004 to May 2005, due to the actions of New Horizons and CSU. (A. Compl. Par. 14-16). Winfield was granted leave to file an amended complaint on June 20, 2006, and he included in the amended complaint one claim against New Horizons and CSU alleging a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. ("Title IX").


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) ("Rule 12(b)(1)") requires a court to dismiss an action when it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. United Phosphorus, Ltd. v. Angus Chemical Co., 322 F.3d 942, 946 (7th Cir. 2003). If the concern of the court or party challenging subject matter jurisdiction is that "subject matter jurisdiction is not evident on the face of the complaint, the motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) would be analyzed as any other motion to dismiss, by assuming for purposes of the motion that the allegations in the complaint are true." Id.; see also Ezekiel v. Michel, 66 F.3d 894, 897 (7th Cir. 1995)(stating that when reviewing a motion to dismiss brought under Rule 12(b)(1), this court "must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations, and draw reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff"). However, if the complaint appears on its face to indicate that the court has subject matter jurisdiction, "but the contention is that there is in fact no subject matter jurisdiction, the movant may use affidavits and other material to support the motion." United Phosphorus, Ltd., 322 F.3d at 946 (emphasis in original). For the purpose of determining subject matter jurisdiction, this court "may properly look beyond the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists." Ezekiel, 66 F.3d at 897 (quoting Capitol Leasing Co. v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., 999 F.2d 188, 191 (7th Cir. 1993)). The burden of proof in a Rule 12(b)(1) motion is "on the party asserting jurisdiction." United Phosphorus, Ltd., 322 F.3d at 946.

In ruling on a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must draw all reasonable inferences that favor the plaintiff, construe the allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and accept as true all well-pleaded facts and allegations in the complaint. Thompson v. Ill. Dep't of Prof'l Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002); Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 466 (7th Cir. 1991). The allegations of a complaint should not be dismissed for a failure to state a claim "unless it appears beyond doubt that plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Nonetheless, in order to withstand a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege the "operative facts" upon which each claim is based. Kyle v. Morton High Sch., 144 F.3d 448, 454-55 (7th Cir. 1998). Under the current notice pleading standard in federal courts, a plaintiff need not "plead facts that, if true, establish each element of a 'cause of action . . . .'" Sanjuan v. Am. Bd. of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc., 40 F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1994)(stating that "[a]t this stage the plaintiff receives the benefit of imagination, so long as the hypotheses are consistent with the complaint" and that "[m]atching facts against legal elements comes later"). The plaintiff need not allege all of the facts involved in the claim and can plead conclusions. Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir. 2002); Kyle, 144 F.3d at 455. However, any conclusions pled must "provide the defendant with at least minimum notice of claim," id., and the plaintiff cannot satisfy federal pleading requirement merely "by attaching bare legal conclusions to narrated facts which fail to outline bases of [his] claims." Perkins, 939 F.2d at 466-67. The Seventh Circuit has explained that "[o]ne pleads a 'claim for relief' by briefly describing the events." Sanjuan, 40 F.3d at 251.


Pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a) of Title IX it is unlawful for an individual to be "excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance" because of the individual's gender. 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a).

I. Centers for New Horizons

New Horizons argues that any claims against it should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because New Horizons is not an "education program or activity" covered by Title IX. 20 U.S.C. § 1681. New Horizons does not deny that it receives some federal funding, which is a prerequisite under Title IX. 20 U.S.C. § 1681. New Horizons also admits that it administers some "educational" programs. ( C Mot. Ex. 1, 8). New Horizons, however, argues that it is a "human services organization," rather than an educational institution, and that the only educational programs it administers, such as early education services, are incidental to its mission of serving families. ( C Mot. Ex. 1, 7-8).

In order for a defendant to fall under the purview of Title IX, "an entity must have features such that one could reasonably consider its mission to be, at least in part, educational." O'Connor v. Davis, 126 F.3d 112, 117 (2nd Cir. 1997). In the instant action, New Horizons clearly states in an affidavit attached to its motion to dismiss that its mission is "to help families develop the capacity to become self-sufficient, to improve the quality of their lives, and to encourage them to participate in the rebuilding of the Bronzeville[, Illinois] neighborhood." ( C Mot. Ex 1, 7). New Horizons also states that it is not a degree-conferring institution, that it has no affiliation with CSU, and that Winfield is the only CSU intern that New Horizons has had since at least 2001. See O'Connor, 126 F.3d at 118 (stating that "[w]e decline . . . to convert [the defendant's] willingness to accept volunteers into conduct analogous to administering an 'education program' as contemplated by Title IX"). Winfield does not dispute any of these statements, except to state that "Plaintiff s [sic] amended complaint contains a broad description of the services provided by the agency, [that is] broad enough to suffice for Title IX educational program [sic] or activity receiving federal assistance." ( C Mot. Rep. 3-4). Such a vague response, however, is not sufficient to survive a motion under Rule 12(b)(1), when New Horizons has provided evidence showing that it does not fall under Title IX. See United Phosphorus, Ltd., 322 F.3d at 946 (stating that the burden of proof in a Rule 12(b)(1) motion is "on the party asserting jurisdiction"). Accordingly, we find that New Horizons is not covered by Title IX in this case and we grant New Horizons' motion to dismiss.

II. Chicago State University

CSU argues that Winfield has failed to adequately plead a Title IX claim against CSU because CSU cannot be held liable for the conduct of New Horizons. As is indicated above, New Horizons is not an entity that is covered by Title IX. Winfield brought a hostile learning environment claim and discrimination claim against CSU, but he has failed to present any allegations that would enable a reasonable jury to infer that CSU took any part in establishing the work ...

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