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Roger C. v. Valley View Public School District No. 3665-U

June 23, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge


Plaintiff Roger C., a minor, through his next friend Shelley Gilbert, filed the present fifteen-count Second Amended Complaint against Defendant Valley View Public School District, as well as individual Defendants Dan Laverty, Timothy Gavin, Steven Prodehl, and Alan Hampton, in their individual and official capacities, based on his expulsion from Bolingbrook High School. Before the Court is Defendant Hampton's Partial Motion to Dismiss and the remaining Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motions.


"A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint." Christensen v. County of Boone, Ill., 483 F.3d 454, 458 (7th Cir. 2007). Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), a complaint must include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." This statement must "give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which is rests." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 506, 122 S.Ct. 992, 152 L.Ed. 2d 1 (2002) (quotation omitted). Under the federal notice pleading standards, a plaintiff's "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1959 (2007). Put differently, a complaint must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic, 127 S.Ct. at 1974; see also Limestone Dev. Corp. v. Village of Lemont, Ill., 520 F.3d 797, 803 (7th Cir. 2008) (amount of factual allegations required to state a plausible claim for relief depends on complexity of legal theory). "[W]hen ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint." Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007). Finally, "[t]he consideration of a 12(b)(6) motion is restricted solely to the pleadings, which consist generally of the complaint, any exhibits attached thereto, and supporting briefs." Thompson v. Illinois Dep't of Professional Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002).


In his Second Amended Complaint, Roger alleges that he was wrongfully expelled from Bolingbrook High School, which is within the Valley View Public School District. (R. 63-1, Sec. Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 3.) More specifically, the school district expelled Roger due to his alleged participation in a confrontation between several black and Latino students. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 9, 29.) During the relevant time period, Defendant Don Laverty was Bolingbrook High School's assistant principal and Timothy Gavin was a security officer at the high school. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 5.) Roger alleges that Defendant Steven Prodehl was a hearing officer for the school district and that Defendant Alan Hampton is a Bolingbrook police officer. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 7.) In late March 2008, Judge Darrah of this district held an evidentiary hearing regarding Roger's motion for a preliminary injunction and denied the motion on April 3, 2008. (R. 43-1, Prelim. Injunction Order.) Roger's appeal of that preliminary injunction order is pending in front of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Roger's Second Amended Complaint contains multiple claims against the Defendants. Specifically, Roger alleges a First Amendment claim, a Fourth Amendment false imprisonment claim, procedural and substantive due process claims under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, a Title VI discrimination claim, Fifth and Sixth Amendment claims, a Rehabilitation Act claim, and state law claims.


I. Statutory Standards

A. Section 1983

Roger brings the majority of his claims under Sections 1983 and 1985 of Title 42. To state a claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must allege that a government official (1) acting under color of state law, (2) deprived him of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Christensen v. County of Boone, Ill., 483 F.3d 454, 459 (7th Cir. 2007). Because Section 1983 provides a mechanism for enforcing rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, an individual "cannot go into court and claim a violation of § 1983 -- for § 1983 by itself does not protect anyone against anything." Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 285, 122 S.Ct. 2268, 153 L.Ed.2d 309 (2002) (citation and internal quotations omitted); see also McCready v. White, 417 F.3d 700, 703 (7th Cir. 2005) (Section 1983 provides a remedy only for the violation of "rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws" of the United States).

B. Section 1985

Section 1985 is the statutory provision for bringing claims based on a conspiracy to interfere with civil rights. See 28 U.S.C. § 1985; Green v. Benden, 281 F.3d 661, 666 (7th Cir. 2002). To bring a claim under Section 1985, "a complaint must indicate the parties, the general purpose, and approximate date of the agreement to form a conspiracy so that the defendant has notice of the charges against him." Estate of Sims ex rel. Sims v. County of Bureau, 506 F.3d 509, 517 (7th Cir. 2007). As the Seventh Circuit explains, the "minimum ingredient of a conspiracy [] is an agreement to commit some future unlawful act in pursuit of a joint objective." Redwood v. Dobson, 476 F.3d 462, 466 (7th Cir. 2007). Accepting Rogers allegations as true, he has failed to allege any facts remotely related to a conspiracy to commit a future unlawful act. Therefore, Section 1985 is not a basis for liability under the circumstances.

II. First Amendment Claim -- Count I

In Count I of the Second Amended Complaint, Roger alleges that Defendants violated his First Amendment right to "stand." Roger explains that on February 4, 2008, he was in the cafeteria eating lunch during his scheduled lunch hour and certain gang members who were not authorized to be there were also in the cafeteria. When some of the gang members stood up from their chairs, Roger alleges that he also stood up. Based on his standing up, Roger alleges that Valley View School District personnel thought he was involved in a "mob action" and expelled him from Bolingbrook High School for a year.

The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech and expressive conduct, and generally prevents the government from proscribing such activities. R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, Minn., 505 U.S. 377, 382, 112 S.Ct. 2538, 120 L.Ed.2d 305 (1992). "First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students. It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." Tinker v. Des Moines Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 506, 514, 89 S.Ct. 733, 21 L.Ed.2d 731 (1969); see also Morse v. Frederick, 127 S.Ct. 2618, 2621 (2007). At the same time, the Supreme Court has held that "the constitutional rights of students in public school are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings." Morse, 127 S.Ct. at 2621 (quoting Bethel Sch. Dist. No. 403 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675, 682, 106 S.Ct. 3159, 92 L.Ed.2d 549 (1986)). Moreover, the rights of students "must be applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment. " Hazelwood Sch. Dist. v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260, 266, 108 S.Ct. 562, 98 L.Ed.2d 592 (1988) (citation and internal quotations omitted).

The First Amendment protects conduct, symbols, and non-verbal speech which express ideas or convey a message that would likely be understood by the viewer. Clark v. Community for Creative Non-Violence, 468 U.S. 288, 296, 104 S.Ct. 3065, 82 L.Ed.2d 221 (1984); Spence v. State of Washington, 418 U.S. 405, 409-11, 94 S.Ct. 2727, 41 L.Ed.2d 842 (1974). In Tinker, for example, the Supreme Court recognized that the expressive nature of students wearing black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War was protected speech. See Tinker, 393 U.S. at 505-06. Other examples of protected expressive conduct include the burning of the American flag during a political demonstration at the 1984 Republican National Convention, see Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 406, 109 S.Ct. 2533, 105 L.Ed.2d 342 (1989), and the taping of a peace sign on an American flag in protest of the invasion of Cambodia and the Kent State tragedy, see Spence, 418 U.S. at 410. In short, the First Amendment protects conduct that is inherently expressive. See Rumsfeld v. Forum for Acad. & Inst. Rights, Inc., 547 U.S. 47, 66, 126 S.Ct. 1297, 164 L.Ed.2d 156 (2006).

Construing Roger's allegations and all reasonable inferences as true, when he stood up in the cafeteria, his conduct was not expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment because there is no indication from Roger's allegations that he intended to convey a particularized message or that there was a likelihood that the message would be understood by those who viewed it. See Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. at 404. In other words, Roger's standing up is not an expression of an idea or opinion. See Brandt v. Board of Educ. of City of Chicago, 480 F.3d 460, 465-66 (7th Cir. 2007). As such, Roger's First Amendment claim based on standing up in the school cafeteria fails as alleged. The Court dismisses this aspect of Roger's First Amendment claim without prejudice.

Roger also alleges that Officer Hampton made him sign an admission of wrongdoing that violated his First Amendment right to free speech -- an allegation that Officer Hampton fails to address in his legal memoranda. Indeed, the "First Amendment securely protects the freedom to make -- or decline to make -- one's own speech." Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 186, 221, 123 S.Ct. 769, 154 L.Ed.2d 683 (2003). Put differently, the "First Amendment guarantees 'freedom of speech,' a term necessarily comprising the decision of both what to say and what notto say." Riley v. National Fed. of the Blind of NC, Inc., 487 U.S. 781, 796-97, 108 S.Ct. 2667, 2677 (1988) (emphasis in original). As such, Officer Hampton, as a government actor, cannot force Roger to say something he would not otherwise say. Id. at 795; Rumsfeld, 547 U.S. at 63 (compelled-speech cases include the government forcing one speaker to accommodate another speaker's message). Therefore, Roger has stated a First Amendment claim based on Officer Hampton allegedly forcing him to sign a confession. The Court thus denies Officer Hampton's motion to dismiss this aspect of Count I.

III. Fourth Amendment Claim -- Count II

Next, Roger alleges that Officer Hampton violated his Fourth Amendment rights because Officer Hampton falsely imprisoned him. Specifically, Roger alleges that three days after the altercation in the cafeteria, he was taken from his first period class and handed over to Officer Hampton based on Defendant Gavin's complaint of the cafeteria incident. (Sec. Amend. Compl. ΒΆΒΆ 10, 11.) While at the ...

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