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Jordan v. Northern Kane Educational Corp.

March 2, 2009

DOROTA JORDAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NORTHERN KANE EDUCATIONAL CORP. AND LARRY FUHRER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. Holderman Chief Judge

Chief Judge James F. Holderman

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

Dorota Jordan filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against her former employer, Northern Kane Educational Corporation (NKEC) and its Chief Executive Officer, Larry Fuhrer, (collectively "defendants"), after NKEC terminated Jordan's employment. Pending before the court is the defendants' motion to dismiss [15]. For the reasons stated below, the motion is denied.

Background

NKEC is a not-for-profit organization located in Warrenville, Illinois. NKEC owns and initiated the charter for Cambridge Lakes Charter School ("School"), located in Pingree Grove, Illinois. Illinois School District 300 holds the charter for the School.

On January 29, 2007, NKEC hired Jordan to serve at-will as the executive director of the school. On August 14, 2007, NKEC and Jordan entered into a written contract to employ Jordan at the School for a two-year term starting September 1, 2007, which is Exhibit A to Jordan's complaint [1].

According to Jordan's complaint, on March 1, 2008, NKEC relieved Jordan of her responsibilities as executive director and made her a full-time Social Science teacher for seventh and eighth grades. On March 18, 2008, Jordan and NKEC signed an addendum, Exhibit B to Jordan's complaint, which provided that Jordan would teach seventh grade until August 31, 2009. On June 11, 2008, NKEC terminated Jordan's employment.

On August 7, 2008, Jordan filed her complaint in this case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against NKEC alleging that NKEC wrongfully terminated her employment without a hearing in violation of her Fourteenth Amendment due process rights and in violation of her contractual rights with NKEC. Defendant NKEC has moved to dismiss Jordan's complaint [15].

Analysis

In its motion to dismiss, NKEC contends that it is entitled to dismissal of Jordan's claims because the defendants are not state actors and thus cannot be held liable under section 1983. A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint. Christensen v. County of Boone, 483 F.3d 454, 458 (7th Cir. 2007).When considering a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and draw all inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Sigsworth v. City of Aurora, 487 F.3d 506, 508 (7th Cir. 2007). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court may consider documents attached to the complaint that are consistent with the allegations of the complaint. Help at Home, Inc. v. Med. Capital, LLC, 260 F.3d 748, 752-53 (7th Cir. 2001).

To properly state a claim under section 1983, Jordan is required to allege that a state actor or government official, acting under color of state law, deprived her of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. See Christensen, 483 F.3d at 459. The defendants do not dispute at this juncture Jordan's allegation that NKEC terminated Jordan's employment without a hearing or that such termination might violate Jordan's constitutional rights if the defendants were state actors. Therefore, the only issue the court must address is whether the defendants are state actors for the purpose of this lawsuit.

The parties devote the majority of their briefs to contesting whether Cambridge Lakes Charter School is a public school. Under the Illinois Charter School Act, "[a] charter school shall be a public, nonsectarian, non-religious, non-home based, and non-profit school." 105 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/27A-5(a) (2005) (emphasis added). As a public school, Cambridge Lakes Charter School is a state actor. See Jones v. Sabis Educ. Sys., Inc., 52 F. Supp. 2d 868, 876 (N.D. Ill. 1999).The School, however, is not a party to the current litigation.

The employment contract at issue in this litigation is between Jordan and NKEC, an Illinois Corporation which is the School's owner. The Illinois Charter School Act instructs that a charter school "shall be organized and operated as a nonprofit corporation or other discrete, legal, nonprofit entity authorized under the laws of the State of Illinois." 105 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/27A-5(a). Although the Act provides that a charter school shall be a public entity, the Act does not explicitly address whether the entity that owns the charter is a "public" entity. The language of the Act provides, however, that "[a] charter school shall be administered and governed by its board of directors or other governing body in the manner provided in its charter." 105 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/27A-5(c). The governing body shall propose and control:

(4) The mission statement of the charter school, which must be consistent with the General Assembly's declared purposes; provided that nothing in this Article shall be construed to require that, in order to receive favorable consideration and approval, a charter school proposal demonstrate unequivocally that the charter school will be able to meet each of those declared purposes, it being the intention of the ...


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