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Crawford v. Wilmette Public School Dist. 39

January 25, 2007

SHELLY J. CRAWFORD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WILMETTE PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT 39, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Shelly J. Crawford ("Plaintiff") sued Wilmette Public School District 39 ("WPS") for unlawful discrimination and retaliation against her on the basis of her disability in violation of the Americans with Disability Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12111 et seq. and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that WPS failed to accommodate her disability, and discharged her on the basis of her disability. Additionally, Plaintiff alleged that WPS retaliated against her by refusing to give her contract work after she filed her charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). WPS now moves for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Because there is not genuine issue of material fact that Plaintiff knowingly and voluntarily released any claims against WPS, WPS' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

Statement of Facts

Plaintiff is a certified teacher with a college education and part of a master's education. Defendant's Statement of Material Facts (hereafter "Def. SOF") at ¶ 2. She is 56 years old and suffers from multiple sclerosis, which causes her to use a motorized scooter for ambulation. Id. Plaintiff began working for WPS in the 1994-95 school year as a substitute teacher. Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Statement of Material Facts (hereafter "Pltf. Resp. SOF") at ¶ 4, Crawford Dep. at 14. She worked as a special education paraprofessional during the 1995-96 school year, and then again as a substitute teacher for the 1996-98 school years. Plaintiff worked as an English as a Second Language paraprofessional at Ramona School (elementary education) for the 1998-2002 school years. She then worked as a building paraprofessional for the Romona School during the 2002-03 school year. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 4, Crawford Dep. at 14-17. During her years at Ramona, Plaintiff received excellent or satisfactory reviews from WPS personnel. Plaintiff's Statement of Additional Facts (hereafter "Pltf. SOF") at ¶ 1. While Plaintiff was at Ramona, she informed her supervisor that the new photocopying machines installed at the school were too tall for her to reach from her motorized scooter. After that, Plaintiff testified that it was arranged that she not photocopy any longer. Pltf. SOF at ¶ 2.

During the summer of 2003, WPS offered Plaintiff a position as a seventh-grade special education paraprofessional at the Wilmette Junior High School (the "Junior High"). Def. SOF at ¶ 5. Plaintiff worked in the paraprofessional position from the start of the 2003-04 school year until she signed a resignation agreement making her resignation effective April 26, 2004. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 6. While working at the Junior High, Plaintiff worked for a "team of teachers, including Alicia Flann ("Flann"), Steve Galligan ("Galligan"), Emily Mullin, Nancy Gustafson and Sara Marcucci. Def. SOF at ¶ 7. Flann was responsible for supervising Plaintiff's schedule and daily work. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 8. As a special education paraprofessional, Plaintiff's responsibilities included accompanying students to each regular education classroom, and assisting them with materials, organization, schedules, and assignments. Plaintiff's responsibilities did not include toilet, wash-up, or dressing duties for the special education students. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 9. The teachers also assigned Plaintiff photocopying; the parties dispute the extent of photocopying that was required of a special education paraprofessional. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 9, Defendant's Response to Plaintiff's Statement of Additional Material Facts (hereafter "Def. Resp. SOF") at ¶ 5.

Meetings Concerning Plaintiff's Performance

The employees of WPS on Plaintiff's team testified that they observed problems with Plaintiff's performance - such as inappropriate socialization with the students, failure to follow the teacher's lead, and wrong direction to students - starting in the fall of 2003. Plaintiff denies that she committed any of the problematic acts. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 10. The Junior High assistant principal, Steven Smith ("Smith") instructed Flann to speak with Plaintiff about the concerns and compile documentation of the problems. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 11. On October 31, 2003, Plaintiff met with the director of the special education program, Raymond Lechner ("Lechner") regarding both Plaintiff's performance problems and an incident involving a parent in the school parking lot. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 12-15. Plaintiff admits that the meeting took place and was attended by Lechner, Smith, and teacher's union representative Lisa Winter ("Winter"), but denies the truth of any of the allegations set forth at the meeting. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 13-14. Plaintiff admits that the memorandum of the October 31, 2003 meeting, dated November 5, 2003, accurately reflects the discussion at the October 31, 2003 meeting about the school parking lot incident. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 15, Ex. J. Plaintiff also admits that Smith told her about the poor performance reports from the teachers with whom Plaintiff worked, although she denies the truth of the reports. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 16. Plaintiff told Smith that she would try to improve her performance. Def. SOF at ¶ 17. Plaintiff also claims that she told Smith, Lechner, and Winter at the October 31, 2003 meeting that she could not see the top of the photocopier because it was too tall, but does not remember their response. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 18.

Plaintiff received a memorandum addressed to her dated November 5, 2003, summarizing the October 31, 2003 meeting as it related to her performance evaluation, and containing suggestions about how to improve her performance. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 19. Plaintiff does not believe that the memorandum accurately summarized the performance discussion at the meeting, because it does not describe her concerns about photocopying. Id.

On December 18, 2003, Plaintiff met with the Director of the Human Resources Department, Alice Reardon ("Reardon"), Smith, and Winter regarding ongoing performance concerns. Plaintiff admits the meeting occurred, but denies the truth of the allegations about her poor performance. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 20. Plaintiff was informed that the teachers were reporting that Plaintiff gave incorrect information to students, did work for the students instead of assisting them, and distracted the students. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 22. Plaintiff denies that these reports are accurate. Pltf. SOF at ¶ 12-14. Plaintiff was also informed that teachers Flann and Galligan reported problems with Plaintiff's photocopying, including poor or inaccurate copies. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 23. At the meeting, Plaintiff responded that she had photocopied in a hurry and that the machine had broken down. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 24, Pltf. SOF at ¶ 14.. Plaintiff told Smith either at this meeting or a subsequent meeting that she could not see the photocopier, to which Smith responded "there are times where the photocopying is accurate, so . . . there are times when you can do it." Pltf. SOF at ¶ 10, Smith Dep. at 65-67. Smith also asked her what he could do to help her perform better, to which she responded that she would like to clarify the teachers' expectations. Def. Resp. SOF at ¶ 10, Smith Dep. at 66.

At the December 18, 2003 meeting, Plaintiff was informed that her current level of performance was not satisfactory, and that she needed to improve in order to remain in her position. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 26, Ex. O. Plaintiff was provided with a memo dated December 15, 2003 detailing the performance concerns of WPS - the truth of which Plaintiff disputes - that listed nine separate performance complaints, three of which pertain to photocopying. Pltf. SOF at ¶ 16. Plaintiff also received a memo dated December 22, 2003 summarizing the discussion at the meeting, offering suggestions to improve performance, and warning about the need for improvement. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 25, 27, Ex. O. Plaintiff admits receiving both memoranda, and agrees that the December 22, 2003 memorandum summarized the discussion at the meeting, but disputes that she had the performance problems alleged. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 27.

After the December 18, 2003 meeting, Plaintiff began meeting daily with Flann about performance concerns. Plaintiff denies that she had any performance problems, but agrees that she had daily meetings with Flann. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 29. Flann testified that Plaintiff's performance did not improve. Flann Dep. at 26-27. Also following the December 18, 2003 meeting, Plaintiff's teachers compiled a list of job expectations for Plaintiff's review. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 30. Plaintiff discussed the job expectations with Smith on January 16, 2004; one of the listed expectations involved accurate photocopying. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 31. Plaintiff told Smith that she "would do her best." Id. Plaintiff claims that photocopying was the only real performance issue she had. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 32.

On March 25, 2004, Plaintiff met again with Reardon and Smith, with Winter in attendance. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 33. As with the October 31, 2003 and December 18, 2003 meetings, WPS provided Plaintiff with a memorandum setting forth the performance concerns that prompted the meeting; after the meeting, WPS provided Plaintiff with a second memorandum summarizing the discussion at the meeting as well as the job expectations. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 34, 40. The memorandum setting forth the performance concerns listed twelve instances of performance complaints, six of which related to photocopying. Pltf. SOF at ¶ 20. At the March 25, 2004 meeting, Smith discussed reports about Plaintiff's performance concerning her interaction with the students, providing guidance to students rather than answers, accurate photocopying, and professional judgment. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 36. Plaintiff denies that she had any performance concerns other than photocopying issues. Id., Pltf. SOF at ¶¶ 17-19. Plaintiff might have told Smith and Reardon at the March 24, 2004 meeting that she could not see the top of the photocopier. Crawford Dep. at 80. At the meeting, Smith and Reardon both informed Plaintiff that she could not continue in her position if her performance remained unsatisfactory, but that substitute teaching was an option for Plaintiff. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 36.Plaintiff did not suggest alternatives to being a special education paraprofessional. Id. Plaintiff was given several days to consider her options. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 38.

On March 30, 2004, Plaintiff told Reardon that she wanted to remain a special education paraprofessional, and that she understood that she would be terminated if she did not improve her performance. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 39. On April 19, 2004, after further concerns from teachers, Smith told Reardon that the teachers reported Plaintiff inappropriately looked through a test booklet, inappropriately talked to students, required teacher directions to be repeated, and failed to give one of the teachers items left by a parent. Pltf. Resp. SOF at ¶ 41. Plaintiff denies these allegations. Id. On April 20, 2004, Smith gave a memorandum to Plaintiff notifying her that there would be a meeting on April 26, ...


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