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Silverman v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago

July 26, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Blanche M. Manning


Amy Silverman alleges that the Board of Education of the City of Chicago and principal Bessie Karvelas, in her individual capacity, discriminated against her on the basis of her pregnancy and retaliated against her when she complained. Silverman also alleges claims under the Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2901 et seq., and tortious interference with contract against Karvelas only. Silverman voluntarily dismissed her religious discrimination claim. Both defendants have moved for summary judgment as to all claims against them. For the reasons stated herein, the motions are granted.

I. Miscellaneous Issues

The court's resolution of this motion was made vastly more difficult for several reasons. First, the plaintiff's additional statements of material facts do not comply with Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C), which requires short numbered paragraphs. Each of the plaintiff's additional statement of facts is lengthy. For instance, her additional statement of fact number 23 is 18 sentences long and not every one of those 18 sentences includes a citation to the record. The local rules contain a limit on the number of statements of fact for a reason. As noted in the Committee Comment for Local Rule 56.1:

Local Rule 56.1 is revised to set forth limits on the number of statements of fact that may be offered in connection with a summary judgment motion. The judges of this Court have observed that parties frequently include in their LR56.1 statements of facts that are unnecessary to the motion and/or are disputed. The judges' observation is that in the vast majority of cases, a limit of 80 asserted statements of fact and 40 assertions of additional statements of fact will be more than sufficient to determine whether the case is appropriate for summary judgment. The number of statements of fact has been set in light of the requirement of section (a) (3), which requires that only "material facts" be set down. A party may seek leave to file more asserted statements of fact or additional fact, upon a showing that the complexity of the case requires a relaxation of the 80 or 40 statement limit.

Local Rule 56.1 (emphasis added).

Silverman has included numerous facts that are not material to the resolution of the instant motions or are not properly supported by citations to the record. As a result of the plaintiff's failure to abide by the local rules, the court will provide only a brief overview of the facts and discuss additional specific facts as necessary in its analysis of the relevant issues. Any future failure to abide by the local rules will lead to the offending statements of fact being stricken.

Second, the court notes that both parties incorporate by reference sections of the summary judgment briefs that they filed with respect to the other defendant. Again, the local rules contain page limits on motions, which may only be exceeded upon prior approval by the court. Skirting these limits through "incorporation by reference" is impermissible. The court has resolved such incorporations as necessary throughout the body of the order.

Finally, the court notes that the plaintiff did not provide exhibits with protruding tabs, an index of the attached exhibits or even a cover page identifying the attached exhibits as the plaintiff's. The court acknowledges that these particular failures are not necessarily in contradiction to the local rules or this court's standing order. Nevertheless, the issues could have been easily rectified by the plaintiff but have added significantly to the time and effort required by this court in addressing the motions. The court raises all of these issues with the expectation that they will not occur again.

Before proceeding to the merits of the defendants' motions, the court denies the plaintiff's motion for leave to file a sur-reply. The plaintiff asserts that the defendants raised for the first time in their reply brief the argument that the plaintiff did not prove a prima facie case of pregnancy discrimination. The court agrees with the plaintiff, however, that the defendants conceded this fact in their opening brief and therefore a response to any argument regarding the plaintiff's prima facie case of pregnancy discrimination is unnecessary.

II. Facts

Silverman has been employed by the Board since August 2000. During the 2004-2005 and 2005-06 school years, she was a probationary assigned teacher ("PAT") at Lincoln Park High School ("LPHS"). At that time, she held a teaching certificate that qualified her to teach any child with a disability from the kindergarten level to age 21, including children with autism, but excluding deaf, blind or speech/language-impaired children. Karvelas is employed by the Board and is currently and at all relevant times was the principal of LPHS.

Illinois law provides that appointed teachers hired after January 1, 1998, must satisfactorily complete a probationary period of four years after which the teacher becomes tenured. PATs are employed on an annual basis and each year a principal and the Board must decide whether to renew a PAT for the following school year. If the decision is made to "non-renew" a PAT, a procedure must be followed and all non-renewed PATs must be notified of the non-renewal at least 30 days prior to the end of the school year. When a PAT is non-renewed, a reason for the non-renewal of the teacher's employment does not have to be provided unless the PAT is in her last year of service.

During the 2004-05 school year, Silverman co-taught students with disabilities in the general education classrooms. As a co-teacher in the general education classrooms, Silverman was required to teach students with disabilities along with the general education teacher. As part of the budget-planning process for the 2005-06 school year, Karvelas learned from the Board that 1.2 special education positions would be cut from LPHS. On March 29, 2005, Karvelas identified Silverman to the Board as the least effective special education PAT and recommended her for non-renewal.

While the parties dispute when Karvelas learned of Silverman's pregnancy, Silverman contends that she told Karvelas that she was pregnant in "early" March 2005 and Karvelas concedes for purposes of this motion (although otherwise denies) that she knew that Silverman was pregnant when she recommended her for non-renewal. On May 9, 2005, Arne Duncan, then the Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools, submitted to the Board a written recommendation for the dismissal of 1,099 PATs. This list included Silverman. On May 25, 2005, the Board adopted Duncan's recommendation to non-renew 1,099 PATs including Silverman.

On May 13, 2005, Karvelas met with Silverman and informed her that her employment was not going to be renewed for the 2005-06 school year. During this meeting, Karvelas explained to Silverman that if LPHS were to get funding for a new special education position for the 2005-06 school year, Karvelas would offer Silverman the position. Indeed, during the summer of 2005, the Office of Specialized Services opened and funded a new special education class for students with autism at LPHS. Karvelas interviewed several individuals for the position, but was informed by the CPS Law Division that she was required to recommend Silverman because Karvelas had offered the position to her first. Karvelas offered Silverman the position on July 28, 2005. Silverman expressed "enthusias[m]" about the "exciting new opportunity," which she believed would allow her to "expand [her] successful work with students with autism" and accepted the position on August 11, 2005. Silverman gave birth on September 1, 2005, and began teaching in the new position when she returned to LPHS in November 2005 after having taken maternity leave.

Silverman filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC on or about May 31, 2005, which she apparently amended on July 28, 2005 (although the court could not locate the amended charge in the record). Silverman filed a second charge on October 13, 2006, to include charges of retaliation.*fn1

During the 2005-06 school year, Silverman was in her final year as a PAT. According to the Board, one of the Board's psychologists at the relevant time, Dr. Sylvia Love, observed Silverman's autism class numerous times during the course of the year. Silverman disputes this and denies ever having seen Love in her classroom during the 2005-06 school year. As a result of her observations, Dr. Love developed concerns that Silverman's instruction and classroom management were deficient. Again, Silverman denies that Love ever observed her and denies that her classroom management was deficient.

Love attests that she shared her concerns with Karvelas early in the second semester of the 2005-06 school year. Silverman denies this. According to the Board, Karvelas observed Silverman's class in Spring 2006 and saw the deficiencies described by Love. Karvelas concluded that Silverman had poor teaching methods, provided a minimal level of instruction and did not have any lesson plans. Silverman denies that her performance was deficient.

Based on her own observations as well as those by Love and an assistant principal at LPHS, Karvelas chose not to renew Silverman for the following school year, 2006-07. Karvelas notified Silverman of her non-renewal on or about April 26, 2006. Karvelas recommended that Jon Goldstein, who had been a special education teacher at LPHS, be placed in Silverman's classroom the following year. Karvelas had rated Goldstein "superior" for the 2005-06 school year. By August 2006, Silverman had obtained another teaching position at Smyth Elementary School, a Chicago Public School, making more money than she had at LPHS. Each year since, Silverman has continued to receive a higher salary and the Board still employs her. Silverman suffered no break in service from the Board at any time and never lost medical or other benefits. She achieved tenure on August 2006.

III. Standard

Summary judgment is proper when the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of any material fact." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The court construes all of the facts and the reasonable inferences drawn from those facts in favor of the non-movant. See Warren v. Solo Cup Co., 516 F.3d 627, 629 (7th Cir. 2008). The non-movant, however, may not merely rest upon the allegations or details in their pleadings, but instead, ...

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