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Lemuel Washington v. Chicago Public Schools and Catherine

March 17, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer


Plaintiff Lemuel Washington ("Washington") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C § 1983 against Catherine Saccomando, in her official and individual capacity, and the Chicago Public Schools, claiming a violation of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights against unreasonable seizure. Plaintiff also brings state law claims against the same Defendants for false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, as well as claims of corporal punishment and physical restraint in violation of the Illinois School Code. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that while he was a student at Von Steuben High School, Defendant Saccomando, who was one of his teachers, placed him in a small room attached to the classroom, locking the door behind her as a response to Plaintiff's behavior in the classroom. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all claims. For the reasons set forth below, the court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment as to the federal claims and dismisses the state law claims without prejudice.


Factual Background

In 2007, Plaintiff Lemuel Washington ("Washington") was a junior at Von Steuben High School. (Compl. ¶ 11.) On November 15 of that year Washington was in Defendant Saccomando's environmental sciences class. (Compl. ¶ 12.) Saccomando was lecturing about the fatal consequences of smoking and Washington stated out loud that someone from his church had lung cancer and was healed through prayer, a comment that seemed to amuse his classmates. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts [65] [hereinafter Pl.'s Resp.] ¶ 13.) Saccomando considered this to be an inappropriate disruption of the class (Compl. ¶ 14), and directed Washington to step into the hallway and complete his work outside the classroom. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 17.) At some point while Washington was in the hallway, Saccomando stepped into the hallway and asked him if he was ready to discuss his behavior. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff claims she had an "apologetic" tone as if trying to "smooth things over." (Washington Aff. ¶ 7, Ex. A to Pl.'s Resp.) Washington refused to respond to Saccomando's overture and instead stated, "I don't want to talk to you." (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 19.) When Washington finished his work, he entered the classroom and Saccomando directed him to sit in a small room attached to the classroom, with the door open so that she could keep an eye on him. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 20, 24; Compl. ¶ 14.)

Defendants assert that this small room was used as an office for one of the teachers (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts [60] ¶ 20, 21); Washington denies this, but he admits the office was often used for teacher-student discussions. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 21.) A few minutes after Washington took a seat in that room, Saccomando again walked over to him and asked him if he was ready to discuss what had happened in the classroom. Washington appeared indignant and again refused to speak with her. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 25.) Saccomando told him that because he and she would be in class together all year, it would be a good idea to talk about what had just happened. While Saccomando was standing in front of him, Washington looked past her into the classroom. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 26.) Defendant asserts that at this point, Washington mouthed words to another student who was seated across the room, laughing (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ¶ 26), but Washington denies that he mouthed any words to another student. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 26.) At that time, Saccomando walked out of the office, closing the door behind her. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 28.) Saccomando asserts she did so in order to block Washington's view of other students and stop the interaction (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ¶ 28), but Washington contends that Saccomando closed the door to inflict informal punishment on him. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 28.) The small room where Washington remained has a thick door with a combination lock and no other doors or windows. (Def.'s Answer ¶ 15.)

Washington asserts a number of additional facts, all of which Defendants deny: that the room was used as a storage closet for chemicals (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 23); that Saccomando shut the door with Washington locked inside (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 28); that Washington began to panic and feel claustrophobic (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 29); that Plaintiff kicked and banged on the door, indicating he felt trapped and wanted to be let out (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 29); that after approximately ten minutes, a maintenance worker assisted him in opening the door; (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 31); and that Washington has suffered from nightmares, sleeplessness, social tension, and decreased concentration since the incident. (Pl.'s Resp ¶ 50; Washington Aff. ¶ 30.) Defendants assert that the door was not capable of being locked (Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Additional Undisputed Facts [70] at 2), and Washington admits that the combination lock may have been in some manner faulty or not operational. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 21.) Washington nevertheless disputes that the door could not be locked and insists that he was in fact locked in the room for roughly ten minutes. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 22, 31.) In deposition testimony, given prior to his affidavit, Washington said that he believed a janitor opened the door because he "heard [Defendant Saccomando] fiddling at the door when the bell had rung, and [Saccomando] couldn't open the door." (Washington Deposition, Ex. I to Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Additional Undisputed Facts at 55-56.) He claims his "release required assistance from a maintenance worker" and that the next day he "heard a maintenance person stating to [the] principal [ ] that 'a student' . . . had been locked in the room the previous day." (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 31.) When he exited the room, three minutes after the bell signaled the end of class, Defendant Saccomando was the only person remaining in the classroom. (Washington Deposition at 55-56.)


Summary judgment is appropriate if the materials in the record demonstrate that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court views the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in its favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Lewis v. Downey, 581 F.3d 467, 472 (7th Cir. 2009). The mere existence of an alleged factual dispute between the parties, however, will not defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment where there is no genuine issue of material fact-a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under applicable substantive law. See East-Miller v. Lake County Highway Department, 421 F.3d 558, 561-62 (7th Cir. 2005) (citing Anderson).

I. Jurisdiction

Washington brings his claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which creates a federal cause of action for violations of federal Constitutional rights, perpetrated under color of state law, of rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 1343(a)(3); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."). He also brings several state claims in addition to its § 1983 claim over which the court has supplemental jurisdiction.

II. Claims Against Catherine Saccomando

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Saccamondo violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure. Saccamondo seeks summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim, arguing that ...

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