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Aslam v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago

August 25, 2008

MUHAMMAD ASLAM, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO AND BEVERLY MARTIN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan H. Lefkow

Magistrate Judge Schenkier

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This is an employment discrimination and civil rights case brought by plaintiff Muhammad Aslam against defendants Board of Education of the City of Chicago ("the Board") and Beverly Martin pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and Illinois common law. Aslam's verified amended complaint contains seven counts: (1) race discrimination and hostile work environment in violation of Title VII against the Board; (2) national origin discrimination and hostile work environment in violation of Title VII against the Board; (3) religious discrimination and hostile work environment in violation of Title VII against the Board; (4) retaliation for engaging in protected conduct in violation of Title VII against the Board; (5) race discrimination and hostile work environment under Section 1981 against Martin; (6) intentional interference with prospective economic advantage under Illinois law against Martin; and (7) retaliation under Section 1981 against Martin. Aslam also requests reasonable attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and 1988 and Title VII. Now before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment [# 86]. For the following reasons, their motion will be granted as to Count VI and and denied as to all other counts.

I. Background

In the summer of 2003, defendant Beverly Martin was selected to be the principal at Swift Elementary School, a Chicago Public School, for the term of 2003-2007. Martin nominated Aslam, who had been a teacher in the Chicago Public School system for 12 years, to be her assistant principal. Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Joint Statement of Uncontested Facts Under Local Rule 56.1 ("56.1 Response") at ¶¶ 4, 6. Aslam is Asian, from Pakistan, and a Muslim. Aslam had assisted Martin in her campaign to become principal. Defendants' Joint Statement of Uncontested Facts Under Local Rule 56.1 ("56.1 Statement") at ¶ 2.*fn1 He was hired into a 210 funded Assistant Principal position. 56.1 Statement ¶ 8. This funding allows for the assistant principal to be assigned a regular classroom teaching assignment in addition to administrative duties. Id. Assistant principals under 210 funding are retained for the four-year term of the principal's contract, subject to renewal provisions. Id.

With the opening of the school year in September 2003, Martin assigned Aslam to a number of administrative duties. 56.1 Statement ¶ 9. Aslam participated to some extent in making staffing decisions, arranging for substitute teachers, making budgetary decisions, and generally doing what needed to be done. Id. On November 17, 2003, however, Martin told Aslam that due to overcrowding at Swift, she was creating a new sixth grade class and assigning him to teach it. 56.1 Statement ¶ 11. Aslam was to fulfill any administrative duties after the instructional time of the day. Id. Martin told Aslam that there were no funds in the budget for an additional teacher. 56.1 Statement ¶ 14. Principals in elementary schools commonly use their one assistant principal as a classroom teacher with a variety of duties, both executive and clerical, to be done either before or after the instructional portion of the school day. 56.1 Statement ¶ 12. Aslam was given an area of the auditorium balcony for his class space. 56.1 Statement ¶ 15.

Also in November 2003, Martin began reassigning Aslam's administrative duties to others. 56.1 Statement ¶ 17. Martin assigned Xavier Owens, an African-American male, to handle disciplinary matters and made him the Dean of Students. 56.1 Statement ¶ 18. Owens had been teaching a seventh-grade class until November 18, 2003. 56.1 Response ¶ 18. He was removed from that position and two substitutes were used to teach his class for the rest of the year. Martin Deposition, Ex. 2 to 56.1 Response, at 76-77; Gallo Deposition, Ex. 3 to 56.1 Response, at 65. Martin took the assistant principal's walkie-talkie from Aslam and gave it to Owens. Plaintiff's Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) Additional Facts that Require Denial of Summary Judgment ("Additional Facts") ¶ 10. She referred to Owens as an "Administrator" and listed him underneath her own name on the cover of the 2004 Commencement Program instead of listing Aslam. Additional Facts ¶ 12. She also took away Aslam's keys to the school office, the assistant principal desk, and the school building. Additional Facts ¶ 7.

In his deposition, Aslam testified that Martin made several inappropriate comments to him during the time that he was performing the assistant principal's duties (i.e., during the Fall of 2003). First, in the context of resolving a disciplinary matter with some students and their parents, Martin told Aslam that he didn't "know how to deal with black parents." Aslam Deposition, Ex. 1 to 56.1 Response, at 65. She also said, "I need a black role model person in your place." Id. Defendants dispute that Martin made these statements. In Martin's deposition, she denied making them and said, "That's an absolute lie. [Aslam] should be ashamed to even say." Martin Deposition, Ex. 2 to 56.1 Response, at 54. In relation to another disciplinary incident, in which a parent complained about her child being suspended, Aslam testified that Martin said, "I think some parents are right. I have hired a Muslim in this school." Aslam Deposition, Ex. 1 to 56.1 Response, at 68. Defendants deny this. Finally, Aslam testified that on the day that Martin took away his keys, she said, "you're not from the same culture... you stink." Aslam Deposition, Ex. 1 to 56.1 Response, at 124. Defendants deny this statement also.

Martin never allowed Aslam to attend any of the Area 2 Assistant Principal Meetings, sending instead Owens, Lisa Wickell (the Swift school counselor), and other staff members. Additional Facts ¶ 13. She also stopped sending Aslam to represent the administration at student Individual Education Plan meetings. Additional Facts ¶ 14. At least after the Spring of 2004, Martin did not refer to Aslam as the assistant principal. Defendants' Response to Additional Facts ¶ 25. Martin made Aslam spend the 2004-2005 spring vacation sitting at the security desk in the school's front entrance until 3:00 p.m. every day despite the school being closed. Additional Facts ¶ 31. Aslam continued to be paid an assistant principal's salary, between $80,000 and $90,000, each of the four years he was at Swift. 56.1 Statement ¶ 37.*fn2

Defendants contend that Martin took away Aslam's administrative duties because she was dissatisfied with his performance, including his ability to resolve disciplinary matters. In support of this argument, they cite to Martin's deposition. See 56.1 Statement ¶¶ 10, 17. Aslam testified in his deposition that while he was performing administrative duties, Martin never expressed any dissatisfaction with his ability to resolve disciplinary matters. Aslam Deposition, Ex. 1 to 56.1 Response, at 57. During the time that Aslam was a full time teacher, Martin received complaints from students and parents regarding Aslam's demeanor, attitude, and teaching performance. 56.1 Statement ¶ 21. She gave him an itemized list of improvements for his personal behavior. Id.

It is apparent from the record that Martin had her own interpersonal issues with her superiors. Jeannie Gallo was the Area Instructional Officer, or supervisor of the geographic region in which Swift is located. 56.1 Statement ¶ 24. Gallo perceived that Swift had a high teacher turnover rate and that Martin was generally difficult to get along with and did not treat people with respect (including Gallo herself). 56.1 Statement ¶ 25. In the Spring of 2004, Martin was issued a Principal Corrective Action Plan. Ex. 9 to 56.1 Response. The Plan said, "Based on an examination of a variety of factors, it has been determined that deficiencies exist in your principalship of the Swift School that have adversely affected the school's academic performance." Id. at 239. Among the "conditions in need of change" that were outlined in this Plan was "Interpersonal Effectiveness," and it was suggested that Martin "[d]evelop a working relationship with the A.P. Treat the A.P. with dignity by making him part of the team." Id. at 242. In an addendum to the Plan, dated March 31, 2004, it was also noted that "[y]ou have a teacher working as a disciplinarian and Assistant Principal." Id. at 237.

Gallo wrote a letter to Martin dated March 30, 2004 "in response to your letter dated March 25, 2004 in which you [Martin] make several allegations that are misguided, false and a misrepresentation of the truth." Ex. 22 to 56.1 Response, at 244. Gallo said, among many other things,

As your supervisor, I believe your leadership ability is questionable as evidenced by some of your decisions. You practice unsound pedagogy as evidenced in sacrificing the children for personal vendettas. You do not follow Board of Education rules and policies as evidenced in your repeated failure to ...


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