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Blazquez v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago

November 14, 2006

ALMA BLAZQUEZ, PLAINTIFF
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO; BARRY FRAZIN, PERSONALLY AND AS FORMER VICE PRINCIPAL OF JOHN COONLEY SCHOOL; EDWARD RUYACK, PERSONALLY AND AS FORMER PRCINCIPAL OF JOHN COONLEY SCHOOL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable David H. Coar

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before this Court is a motion to dismiss filed by the Board of Education of the City of Chicago ("Board of Ed"), Barry Frazin ("Frazin"), and Edward Ruyack ("Ruyack") (collectively "Defendants") against Alma Blazquez ("Plaintiff") pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 12. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

FACTS*fn1

The "facts" alleged in the complaint are assumed true for purposes of this motion. Plaintiff was hired by the Board of Ed in August of 1999 to work within the Chicago Public Schools ("CPS") system as a special education teacher at John Coonley Elementary School ("Coonley"). Seemingly throughout her professional tenure, Plaintiff was faced with a difficult teaching environment in which students would frequently misbehave, and where essential teaching resources were lacking. The administration of the school, particularly Defendants Frazin and Ruyack, did little to nothing to improve the classroom environment. Their negligent or reckless actions included: failing to provide Plaintiff with a teacher's aide; placing a disruptive student in the classroom and failing to discipline him subsequently; ignoring and/or engaging in racial and sexual harassment against the students; failing to provide proper funding and supplies; and excluding special education students from school field trips. Plaintiff complained about these problems multiple times, to Coonley and CPS administrators. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 38, 46, 48, 96.

These failings were made all the worse by the fact that Plaintiff's students, due to their special education status, were supposed to be afforded special protections and accommodations under federal law and general school policy. According to internal policies and state law, Defendants are responsible for providing these students with accommodations, as well as full and equal access to public education such as school facilities, support personnel, and extracurricular activities. Id. ¶¶ 6, 11, 17. The Board of Ed, and Defendants Frazin and Ruyack in their capacities as Coonley administrators, also received federal financial assistance and were therefore subject to federal laws protecting disabled students' equal access to educational resources. Id. ¶ 45. Defendants were aware that in the case of Plaintiff's students, equal access required additional accommodations, such as special supplies and support personnel. Id. ¶¶ 12, 18. Plaintiff repeatedly complained to CPS and Coonley administrators that these accommodations were not being made, and that her students were being discriminated against because of their disabilities. Id. ¶¶ 38, 46, 48, 96. No remedies were provided.

Over Plaintiff's protests, a disruptive and abusive student referred to as "D.R." was placed in her classroom in 2002. D.R. did not qualify for special education status, and he consistently harassed the other students, interrupted Plaintiff's lessons, and generally undermined the educational environment of the special education class. Id. ¶¶ 34-37. Plaintiff gave administrators numerous notices of the disruptions and threats D.R. brought to the classroom, but the student was not removed or disciplined. Id. ¶ 38. Because of the time Plaintiff was forced to spend trying to control this misbehaving student, her ability to provide for the educational and general support needs of her special education students was greatly hindered. Id. ¶ 46.

In December of 2002, D.R. assaulted Plaintiff. Plaintiff responded by filing a complaint in January of 2003, and by requesting "assault leave," a break from work responsibilities typically granted to teachers and other school staff following a confrontation. State Am. Compl. ¶ 6. After the Coonley administration refused to grant this leave, Plaintiff sought remedy through mediation administered by her union, the Chicago Teachers Union ("CTU"). Id. ¶¶ 6-7; Am. Compl. ¶ 39, 78-79. Two mediation meetings, intended to resolve the dispute, were cancelled by the Defendants. State Am. Compl. ¶ 6. As a result of the third mediation, Plaintiff was granted her assault leave retroactively. Despite this resolution, Plaintiff had a difficult time attaining recompense for her lost wages and health care expenses, and suffered adversely upon her return to the school in March of 2003. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 84-85.

Plaintiff claims that these problems stemmed in large part from the fact that Defendants Frazin and Ruyack were operating a private magazine distribution business, "Barry Frazin Distributions," using school time, staff, and resources. Id. ¶ 20. This private business took Defendants' attention away from the proper instruction of Coonley students, particularly the special education class. Id. ¶¶ 46-47. Plaintiff made several attempts to notify authorities about what was happening at the school, id. ¶¶ 94-96, and the Defendants retaliated against her as a result, id. ¶ 111. It wasn't until an investigation into the private business activities was launched in spring of 2004 that the truth of the matter came out and Frazin and Ruyack were terminated from their positions. Id. However, by this time Plaintiff had already lost her position at Coonley.

Plaintiff finished out the 2002-2003 academic school year at Coonley, but was fired thereafter. The school's administration apparently terminated Plaintiff at some point during the following summer, and as a result her medical coverage ceased in July of 2003. State Am. Compl. ¶ 94. Plaintiff maintains that school policy required that she receive official notice of her termination by July 15th, 2003, State Am. Compl. ¶ 29, but that she did not receive any such communication, Am. Compl.¶ 63. Instead, Plaintiff was given notice when she returned to Coonley that fall, at which point Frazin handed her a letter referencing her change in job status. Id. ¶ 65.

Plaintiff first sought legal remedy in state court, but on August 1, 2005, Defendants removed the case from the Circuit Court of Cook County to this court. On December 16, 2005, all state claims were dismissed as more appropriately dealt with in the state courts. Though less than a model of clarity, the Plaintiff's current Amended Complaint seeks remedial action based on the following nine counts:

Count 1. General abrogation of duties, under Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 701-96.

Count 2. Retaliation, under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 701-96.

Count 3. Due process violation, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

Count 4. Equal Protection violation, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

Count 5. Conspiracy, under "Federal law"

Count 6. First Amendment violation, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

Count 7. Retaliation, under Federal Whistleblowers Protection Act, 31 U.S.C. ยง 3730(h); Federal False ...


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