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Crumpley v. Rich Township High School District #227

September 15, 2009

DIANE M. CRUMPLEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RICH TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT #227, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Diane M. Crumpley ("Crumpley"), a teacher formerly employed by Rich Township High School District No. 227 ("District"), brought this action against the District under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1963 (42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq.), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.) ("ADEA") after the District terminated her employment. The court previously granted the District's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Crumpley's discrimination claims under Title VII and the ADEA and denied the District's motion as to Crumpley's retaliation claim. (See Dkt. No. 57.) Currently, before the court is the District's "Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's First Amendment Retaliation Claim" [61] and Crumpley's "Motion to Reconsider" the court's ruling on the District's previous motion for summary judgment [67]. For the following reasons, the District's motion is granted, and Crumpley's motion and request for leave to file an amended complaint are both denied.

BACKGROUND

On June 16, 2003, the District's Board of Education hired Crumpley as a special education teacher at the District's Rich East campus and approved a teaching contract for Crumpley for the 2003-2004 school year. (Def.'s Stmt. Undisputed Facts ¶¶ 6, 8.)*fn1 Crumpley was subsequently re-employed by the Board for the 2004-2005, 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years. (Id. ¶ 7.)

Under the collective bargaining agreement between the District and the teachers' union, the principals at each of the District's three campuses are responsible for conducting teacher performance evaluations. (Id. ¶ 9.) Additionally, each principal may select another administrator to assist them in the evaluation process. (Id. at Ex. 2, ¶ 6.) During the 2006-2007 school year, Dr. Jeff Craig was the principal of Rich East (id. ¶ 10), and he designated Kelly Gould to assist him in evaluating teacher performance (id. ¶ 11).

Teacher evaluations consisted of in-class observations by Principal Craig and Ms. Gould followed by performance review conferences. (Def.'s Stmt. Undisputed Facts, Ex. 7.) Principal Craig and Ms. Gould observed Crumpley on three separate occasions during the 2006-2007 school year. (Id.) At the end of the school year, Principal Craig and Ms. Gould prepared a "Summative Evaluation," and they assigned Crumpley an overall rating of "Unsatisfactory." (Def.'s Stmt. Undisputed Facts ¶ 15.) Subsequently, Principal Craig recommended to the District's human resources director that Crumpley be dismissed and not re-employed for the following school year due to her unsatisfactory performance. (Id. ¶ 20.) On March 19, 2007, the District's Board of Education voted to dismiss Crumpley. (Id. ¶ 23.)

On June 17, 2008, Crumpley filed this lawsuit against the District after her contract was not renewed, alleging that she had been terminated because of her white race, her female sex, and her age-at that time she was forty-two-years-old-as part of the District's policy to retain minority teachers. (Cmplt. ¶ 7.) Crumpley further alleged that her termination was in retaliation for reporting to the District's principal that minority teachers had falsified No Child Left Behind Act documents. (Id.) Essentially, Crumpley set forth three claims: 1) a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981; 2) race and sex discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (42 U.S.C. § 200 et seq.); and 3)age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.) ("ADEA").

The District filed a motion seeking summary judgment as to each of Crumpley's claims. The court granted the District's Motion as to Crumpley's discrimination claims under Title VII and the ADEA, but denied the District's Motion as to Crumpley's retaliation claim. (7/13/09 Mem. Op. & Order.) On July 16, 2009, the District filed a second motion for summary judgment addressing Crumpley's retaliation claim. On July 24, 2009, Crumpley filed a motion to reconsider the court's July 13, 2009 memorandum opinion and order. In the alternative, Crumpley requested leave to amend her complaint.

ANALYSIS

I. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

A. First Amendment Retaliation Claim

Summary judgment can be granted only when the record shows "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the nonmoving party cannot rest on that party's pleadings but must affirmatively demonstrate by specific factual evidence that there is a genuine issue of material fact requiring trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Keri v. Bd. of Trustees of Purdue Univ., 458 F.3d 620, 628 (7th Cir. 2006). Conclusory allegations, "if not supported by the record, will not preclude summary judgment." Keri, 458 F.3d at 628 (citing Haywood v. N. Am. Van Lines, Inc., 121 F.3d 1066, 1071 (7th Cir. 1997)). The failure to prove an essential element of the nonmoving party's case renders all other facts immaterial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322--23. Crumpley has not disputed any of the material facts set forth by the District. (See Pl.'s Resp. Def.'s Stmt. Undisputed Facts.) Therefore, the court only needs to determine if the District is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

The District contends that it is entitled to summary judgment as to Crumpley's First Amendment retaliation claim because the undisputed evidence establishes no recognized legal basis for the District's liability. First, the District argues that Crumpley cannot establish a First Amendment retaliation claim because respondeat superior is not a theory of liability which can be brought against a governmental body like the Board. Second, the District contends Crumpley, who bears the burden of proof, has presented no evidence demonstrating a "policy" or "custom" of retaliation by the District as is necessary for her to prevail under § 1983. The court, viewing the evidence in Crumpley's favor, agrees with the District.

Respondeat superior is a common law doctrine which allows an employer to be held liable for the wrongful actions of his employees committed within the scope of their employment. See Hansen v. Bd. of Tr. of Hamilton Se. Sch. Corp., 551 F.3d 599, 612 (7th Cir. 2008). The United States Supreme Court has rejected respondeat superior as a basis for a First Amendment retaliation claim against a governmental entity. See Jett v. Dallas Indep. Sch. Dist., 491 U.S. 701, 736 (1989); see also Darchak v. Chicago Bd. of Educ., 2009 WL 2778227 (7th Cir. Sept. 3, 2009); Horowitz v. Bd. of Educ. of Avoca Sch. Dist. No. 37, 260 F.3d 602, 619--20 (7th Cir. 2001) (holding that the board of education defendant ...


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