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Williams v. Board of Education

July 30, 2010

TAMMY WILLIAMS, PATRICIA SCHMIDT, JENNIFER DOUGHERTY, RICHARD TRAU, BONNIE WILSON, CATHY BEHRLL, KIT ZINSER, AND GERALDINE WARNER. PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION, PEORIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS DISTRICT 150, KEN HINTON, CHERYL ELLIS, CHARLES WARR, AND ERIC THOMAS DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge

ORDER

This matter is now before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Complaint. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion [#12] is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

JURISDICTION

This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and § 1334, as the claims asserted arise pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 1983, and 1988.

BACKGROUND*fn1

Plaintiffs are white teachers who have worked for Peoria Public Schools District 150 ("District 150"). They are either currently employed by District 150 or have recently retired. Ken Hinton ("Hinton") served as the Superintendent or interim Superintendent of District 150 from 2004-2010. Cheryl Ellis served as the Principal of Trewyn Middle School from 2006 until 2008 when Eric Thomas assumed the position. Charles Warr was the Assistant Principal at Trewyn Middle school.

During this period, District 150 and the Board of Education allegedly adopted certain policies meant to: 1) avoid lawsuits by black employees and citizens; 2) appease the district's large black community; and 3) increase the number of black teachers and staff in District 150. Plaintiffs allege that they were discriminated and retaliated against as a result of these policies. On December 17, 2009, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint alleging that Defendants discriminated against them due to their race and retaliated against them when Plaintiffs attempted to correct the discriminatory practices.

DISCUSSION

Courts have traditionally held that a complaint should not be dismissed unless it appears from the pleadings that the plaintiff could prove no set of facts in support of her claim which would entitle her to relief. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957); Gould v. Artisoft, Inc., 1 F.3d 544, 548 (7th Cir. 1993). Rather, a complaint should be construed broadly and liberally in conformity with the mandate in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(f). More recently, the Supreme Court has phrased the standard as requiring a showing sufficient "to raise a right to relief beyond a speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007).

For the purposes of a motion to dismiss, the complaint is construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff; its well-pleaded factual allegations are taken as true, and all reasonably-drawn inferences are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. See Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69 (1984); Lanigan v. Village of East Hazel Crest, 110 F.3d 467 (7th Cir. 1997); M.C.M. Partners, Inc. v. Andrews-Bartlett & Assoc.,, 62 F.3d 967, 969 (7th Cir. 1995); Early v. Bankers Life & Cas. Co., 959 F.2d 75 (7th Cir. 1992).

Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that any complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). "Each averment of a pleading shall be simple, concise, and direct." Fed R. Civ. P. 8(e)(1). The Supreme Court has also clarified that "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007). Furthermore, the claim for relief must be "plausible on its face." Id.; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct 1937, 1953 (2009). "Nonetheless, a plaintiff must provide only enough detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, and, through his allegations, show that it is plausible, rather than merely speculative, that he is entitled to relief." Reger Development, LLC v. National City Bank, 592 F.3d 759, 764 (7th Cir. 2010) (internal quotations omitted). The Seventh Circuit has summarized these requirements in a two-part test: 1) the complaint must have "sufficient detail to give the defendant 'fair notice' of the grounds the claim is based upon, and 2) the complaint must suggest that the party has more than a 'speculative' right to relief." EEOC v. Concentra Health Services, Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007).

Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' Complaint does not create a plausible claim for relief. Defendants contend that the Complaint is fundamentally flawed due to its composite nature. They assert that that the Complaint's composition makes it insufficiently detailed to provide notice and undermines the Complaint's plausibility. Defendants also allege that the Complaint does not adequately establish a hostile work environment or an adverse employment action.

Finally, Defendants assert that Plaintiffs fail to meet the Monell standard for the claims ...


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