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Sterling v. Board of Education of the Rockford Public Schools

July 2, 2010


Name of Assigned Judge Sitting Judge if Other or Magistrate Judge Philip G. Reinhard than Assigned Judge



For the reasons stated below, defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted as to the sex (Count I) and race (Count II) discrimination claims and judgment is entered in favor of defendant and against plaintiff on these claims. The state law breach of contract claim (Count III) is dismissed without prejudice. Defendant's motion to strike is denied.

O[ For further details see text below.] Electronic Notices.


Plaintiff, Mark Sterling, brings this action against defendant, The Board of Education of the Rockford Public Schools, District 205, alleging sex discrimination (Count I) and race discrimination (Count II) both in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and a state law breach of contract claim (Count III). Jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367. Defendant moves for summary judgment and to strike certain matter submitted by plaintiff in response to defendant's summary judgment motion.

Defendant moves to strike plaintiff's affidavit, plaintiff's attorney's affidavit, plaintiff's LR56.1 statement of additional facts and plaintiff's response to defendant's statement of facts. Motions to strike are disfavored. See Sherden v. Cellular Advantage, Inc., No. 07-CV-1006, 2009 WL 1607598, * 2 (N.D. Ill. June 9, 2009) (Dow, J.). In the course of ruling on a summary judgment motion the court will review the parties' statements of material fact and not consider "any arguments, conclusions, and assertions that are unsupported by the documented evidence," id. at * 1, where a party has noted its objection in its response to the proffered "undisputed fact." See LR56.1(b)(3)(A) and (a)(3).

Plaintiff is a white male. He was a non-tenured teacher at defendant's Auburn High School. His contract was not renewed at the end of the 2005-06 school year. Plaintiff was a special education teacher. At the beginning of the 2005-06 school year Janice Hawkins, an African-American woman, became Auburn's principal. During this school year Roger Buswell, Jamie Cadengo and Joanna Sharp served as assistant principals at Auburn.

On February 14, 2006, Theresa Harvey, a special education administrator for defendant, issued a memorandum to plaintiff notifying him that ten of his individual education plans ("IEP") for special education students were past due. On March 6, 2006, Harvey issued plaintiff a letter of reprimand for failure to complete the necessary IEPs. On March 8, 2006, Harvey notified plaintiff that the IEPs of two additional special education students were past due.

Of the non-tenured special education teachers at Auburn in the 2005-06 school year, Jill Mellnick completed 12 of 12 of her IEPs by the initial deadline established by the defendant, Stamatia Fanopolou timely completed 12 of 14 of hers, Kristen Orde Rademaker timely completed 7 of 8 of hers, Matt Theisen timely completed 8 of 18 of his, plaintiff timely completed 2 of 15 of his and Kent Griswold timely completed 0 of 14 of his. Of these non-tenured special education teachers at Auburn, Fanopolou, Theisen, Griswold, and plaintiff did not get rehired. Mellnick and Orde Rademaker did get rehired.

Buswell was in plaintiff's classroom on February 6, 7, and 15, 2006. Buswell prepared an evaluation form for plaintiff in conjunction with these classroom visits. Buswell found plaintiff did not have a lesson plan prepared for February 6, 2006. On the next day, February 7, 2006, Buswell found the lesson plans to be inadequate because the lessons specified for each day did not include learning goals/objectives, did not indicate what material was going to be taught, how it would be taught, or the manner in which student understanding of the material would be assessed.

Hawkins's original list of non-tenured teachers not to be rehired included five women and five men.

She later added plaintiff once she learned he was not tenured. Four of the teachers on the original list were, like plaintiff, special education teachers. One of the women was removed from the list when it was determined she was tenured.

Hawkins testified in her deposition that she had seen plaintiff yelling at kids "[f]ace to face, spit flyin', red-faced, in front of others." Def. LR56.1, Exh. J., p. 14. She testified he was "a person who keeps conflict going." Id. As an example she cited his being "confrontational and unsupportive" concerning Theresa Harvey's directives relating to the IEPs. Id. at 15. When Hawkins and her assistant principals discussed plaintiff in a meeting on the subject of which non-tenured teachers should not be renewed, Hawkins testified Cadengo's concern "was that he was not good for kids, he doesn't know how to handle kids or talk to kids." Id. at 74. Hawkins's "issues him were lack of respect for ...

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