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Lewis-Eazell v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago

December 1, 2008

SONJA LEWIS-EAZELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, WILLIAM JOHNSON, THOMAS JOHNSON, JAMES WILSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES AS EMPLOYEES OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, 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 Board of Education of the City of Chicago ("Board") for summary judgment in its favor on the complaint of Plaintiff Sonja Lewis-Eazell ("Eazell"). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

Eazell is employed as a school security aide at Christian Fenger Academy High School in Chicago, Illinois.*fn1 She has worked in that capacity since approximately September 2003. School security aides perform duties such as monitoring halls during school hours, ensuring the safety of the staff and student body from threats, and reporting security violations to supervisory staff. Eazell's immediate supervisors at Fenger are William Johnson, the school's principal; and Thomas Johnson, the school's security supervisor. James Wilson assisted Thomas Johnson by training security personnel and assisting schools with their security staff.

In September 2006, Eazell had an altercation with a student while working at the school's metal detectors. She claimed that the student hit her. Though Eazell believed that the student should be arrested by the Chicago Police Department, she was not. Eazell requested to be provided with the investigative reports related to the incident, but that request was denied.

In early October 2006, Principal Johnson noted that Eazell had been absent from work for 13 consecutive days. On October 2, he inquired of the Board's Labor and Employee Relations department as to whether Eazell had taken a leave of absence. After receiving a letter requesting an explanation for her absence, Eazell informed the principal through a third party that she wished to return to work later that month. He agreed to this arrangement and Eazell returned to work at the specified time.

On November 6, 2006, Eazell filed a grievance, claiming that the Board had failed to provide her with a safe environment and that Wilson had created an uncomfortable work environment. A hearing was scheduled, but on the morning of the day when it was to occur, Eazell called it off. She stated that she would make an appointment at a later date to meet with Principal Johnson, who was in charge of investigating grievances, but the record does not reflect that she ever did so.

In the early part of February 2007, Eazell sent a letter to Wilson regarding an incident with another student. The letter was copied to seven other recipients, including Homeland Security, the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, and Principal Johnson. According to Eazell, after she told the student that he could not go to his locker, he threatened to throw a bomb through a school window in her direction. The letter stated that Eazell feared for her safety and believed that school officials had not handled the incident properly.

On February 7, 2007, Principal Johnson asked Eazell to make sure that she checked students' hall passes, a process geared toward maintaining order at the school. The same day, he found that she was not checking passes as he had instructed. When he confronted her about this, she answered him in a flippant way. Also on February 7, he saw her using her cell phone while on duty at her post. Security guards at Fenger were not permitted to use a cell phone while on duty because it reduces their attention to their duties.

Later on the 7th, Principal Johnson asked Eazell to report to his office. When she did not comply, he asked Thomas Johnson to escort her to his office. When she arrived, she refused to sit down and stated that she would not talk to the principal without an attorney or union representative. She then left the room and clocked out for the day.

Eazell came to work the next day; when she arrived, Thomas Johnson escorted her to the principal's office at the principal's behest. She again refused to participate in any meeting with him without a lawyer to represent her. Principal Johnson then informed her that he was issuing her a prediscipline hearing notice based on her behavior the day before. The notice indicated that Eazell could be represented by one individual at the hearing. Eazell refused to sign the notice to indicate that she had received it; the principal then told her that she could either sit down and talk to him or leave the building. Eazell chose the latter option. She has not returned to Fenger since that time.

The discipline hearing was scheduled for February 22, 2007. Two days before the hearing, Eazell requested permission to take a leave of absence until March 27, 2007. The request was granted. Later, she requested that the leave be extended indefinitely; the Board granted the extension but set an end date of May 22, 2009. To date, the hearing has not taken place and no discipline has been imposed.

On September 19, 2007, Eazell filed a six-count complaint, asserting age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act by the Board, sex discrimination in violation of Title VII by the Board, retaliation in violation of Title VII by the Board, a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 for violation of her First Amendment rights against all defendants, a common law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress against all defendants, and a claim of negligent supervision against ...


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