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Bryant v. Oak Forest High School District 228

September 12, 2007

EARNEST A. BRYANT, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS PARENT AND NEXT FRIEND OF MINOR, CHORI BRYANT, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
OAK FOREST HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT 228, BOARD OF EDUCATION, DAVID WILSON, KEVIN DONEGAN, DAVID CORBIN, DR. RICHARD MITCHELL, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles P. Kocoras, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the court on the motion of Defendant Dr. Richard Mitchell ("Mitchell"), superintendent of the Bremen High School District 228, to dismiss Counts I and II of the Complaint of Plaintiff Earnest Bryant ("Earnest"), individually and as next friend of Plaintiff Chori Bryant ("Chori"), a minor. For the reasons set forth below Mitchell's motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

Because this case comes to us in the context of a motion to dismiss, we take all well-pleaded facts alleged in the complaint as true. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). As the Bryants appear pro se, we will construe their complaint liberally. Anderson v. Hardman, 241 F.3d 544, 545 (7th Cir. 2001).

Chori enrolled as a freshman at Oak Forest High School ("OFHS") in August of 2004. On October 4, 2004, Chori was written up on a disciplinary referral for gross misconduct and helping to antagonize a fight between two other individuals. The Bryants allege that this fight was witnessed by a large group of students, the majority of whom were white. Chori, who is black, and two other minority students were given referrals and awarded detention as a result of the incident.

According to the Bryants, this event began a series of efforts by OFHS Dean of Students Kevin Donegan ("Donegan") to harass Chori and write him up for disciplinary referrals in an effort to get him expelled. In November 2005, David Wilson ("Wilson"), an OFHS employee, allegedly refused to investigate Earnest's complaints about Donegan's actions, and referred him to "the district." Furthermore, the Bryants allege that in April 2006, Wilson, Donegan, and David Corbin, another employee of the District, falsely questioned Chori's residency and demanded excessive proof before Chori was allowed to register for school in August of that year. After the Illinois State Board of Education forced OFHS to register Chori for the 2006-2007 school year, the Bryants allege that OFHS and the District refused to let him play football while they investigated his residency. The Bryants attribute this treatment to Chori's race.

The Bryants' direct allegations against Superintendent Mitchell are as follows. The Bryants allege that Earnest wrote more than four letters to the District requesting that they address the alleged racial discrimination against Chori - they does not specify, however, to whom those letters were sent. The Bryants contend that none of their complaints were acted upon by Mitchell or the District. Furthermore, Earnest alleges that he spoke with Defendant Dr. Richard Mitchell on two occasions. The two met in October 2004 when Earnest alleges he apprised Mitchell of the situation concerning Chori's discipline referral, threats of expulsion, and his impression that he was singled out because of his race. Earnest alleges that Mitchell failed to act in response to his complaints. In August of 2006, Mitchell allegedly asked Earnest, "wouldn't Chori Bryant feel better at another school?"

On March 15, 2007, Earnest filed suit on his own behalf and as next friend of Chori in this Court against Wilson, Donegan, Mitchell, Corbin, and the Board of Education of Bremen High School District 228 ("the Board").*fn1 The Bryants' amended complaint purports to be brought under "42 U.S.C. 1964" and alleges "racial discrimination and deprivation under the color of law of Plaintiff's rights as secured by the Constitution." Count I of the Bryants' amended complaint alleges that Chori was subjected to "disparate treatment" by the Defendants and denied his due process rights. Further, the Bryants allege that Defendants intentionally denied Chori "equal protection under the law," treated him differently from white students, and refused to address his complaints of discrimination or cease the discrimination. Count II alleges that Defendants' actions, taken on the basis of his race, denied Chori his constitutional rights. The amended complaint also contains state law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and liability for the Board under the doctrine of respondeat superior.

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), Mitchell moved to dismiss Counts I and II. Mitchell is not named in the remaining counts of the Bryants' amended complaint.

LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). The purpose of this minimum requirement is to provide the defendant with fair notice of the plaintiff's claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Brown v. Budz, 398 F.3d 904, 908 (7th Cir. 2005).

The court must consider a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss in the context of the liberal federal rules for notice pleading. Hefferman v. Bass, 467 F.3d 596, 598-99 (7th Cir. 2006). The claimant's factual allegations must be accepted as true and all reasonable inferences shall be drawn in the plaintiff's favor. Cole v. U.S. Capital, 389 F.3d 719, 724 (7th Cir. 2004).

Recently, the Supreme Court clarified the general standards applied to a 12(b)(6) motion. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007). Under Bell Atlantic, the complaint must describe the claim "in sufficient detail to give the defendant 'fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.' Second, its allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a 'speculative level'; if they do not, the plaintiff pleads itself out of court." Id. at 1964-65. Finally, a complaint alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, whether directed towards an individual or a municipality, is not subject to a heightened pleading standard of factual specificity. Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 165, 170 (1993). Legal conclusions can suffice. McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 324 (7th ...


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