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Michael C. Day v. Des Plaines School District 62

August 11, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joan Humphrey Lefkow United States District Judge

Judge Joan H. Lefkow


Michael Day filed an amended complaint against Des Plaines School District 62 ("the District"), alleging race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 et seq., 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1 Before the court is the District's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the following reasons, the motion [#82] is granted.


Day, an African-American male, has a master's degree in physics and three years of experience teaching math. In June 2007, he submitted an online application for a position with the District as a math teacher for grades six through eight.*fn3 The application listed his prior teaching experience, which included short term positions as a substitute and reading teacher and three years as a full time high school math teacher with the Chicago Public Schools. His last employment as a full time math teacher ended in June 1987. On the application, he listed having attended Olive-Harvey College, the University of Illinois (from which he obtained his bachelor's degree), and Northeastern Illinois University (from which he obtained his master's degree). Day gave one-sentence answers to questions about his reasons for wanting the position and his approach to teaching. His application contained numerous spelling and typographic errors. For example, Day wrote "I taught them how to emjoy reading," Ex. B to Def.'s Stmt. of Facts at MDAY00022, and "I decided not to teacher at that time," id. at MDAY0023. The application did not ask for Day's race, and his race was nowhere identified in the application.*fn4

Day also sent the principal of Chippewa Middle School, a school in the District, a cover letter with two reference letters, a college transcript, and an evaluation of his performance as a substitute teacher at Lane Tech from 1984 to 1985. This letter contained a grammatical error, stating "I know things will pleasant there." Ex. D to Def.'s Stmt. of Facts. Additionally, Day had typed "Sincerely Your" and then added, in his handwriting, an "s" to the end of "Your." Id.

Day was not contacted for the math teacher opening. John Swanson, the principal at Algonquin Middle School, another school in the District, states that he reviewed Day's application but had no other contact with Day. Swanson, who as principal decided which candidates to consider and interview for open positions, decided not to interview Day due to the grammatical and typographical errors contained in the application. Swanson bases his decisions as to who to interview on several factors, including "whether his or her application contains proper grammar and is generally well written" and "the applicant's qualifications relevant to the teaching position." Ex. C to Def.'s Stmt. of Facts ¶ 3. In determining an applicant's qualifications, Swanson looks for "(1) appropriate endorsements reflecting that the applicant is certified to teach in the subject area for which he or she is applying; and (2) successful completion of a student teaching assignment in the relevant subject area or prior experience demonstrating a successful history of teaching in the subject area applied for and preferably in the grade range applied for." Id. ¶ 4. Swanson states that he came to the conclusion that Day "was not an appropriate candidate because he had obviously not spent the required time to make his application materials professional and free of mistakes. Day's application materials did not reflect a candidate with the qualities I look for in a teacher." Id. At the time he decided not to interview Day, Swanson was not aware of Day's race.

Although Day has not identified the individual who was hired for the math position he applied for, he provides several applications for teachers hired by the District around the time he applied.*fn5 Although Day does not identify the race of these hires or the positions for which they were hired, it is clear that they were not African-American, as the District admitted that it did not hire any African-American teachers in 2007 or 2008. The applications of the hired teachers submitted to the court are more complete and detailed than Day's.


Summary judgment obviates the need for a trial where 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). To determine whether any genuine issue of fact exists, the court must pierce the pleadings and assess the proof as presented in depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits that are part of the record. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) & advisory committee's notes. The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of proving that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986). In response, the nonmoving party cannot rest on mere pleadings alone but must use the evidentiary tools listed above to designate specific material facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324; Insolia v. Philip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 598 (7th Cir. 2000). A material fact is one that might affect the outcome of the suit. Insolia, 216 F.3d at 598--99. Although a bare contention that an issue of fact exists is insufficient to create a factual dispute, Bellaver v. Quanex Corp., 200 F.3d 485, 492 (7th Cir. 2000), the court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986).


I. Compliance with Local Rule 56.1

Before reaching the merits of the District's motion for summary judgment, the court will address certain deficiencies in the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements. Local Rule 56.1(a) requires the party seeking summary judgment to submit, among other things, a statement of material facts, which consists of short, numbered paragraphs and specific references within each paragraph to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other admissible evidence relied on to support the facts set forth in each paragraph. L.R. 56.1(a)(3). The nonmoving party must then submit a concise response to the movant's statement of facts. L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(B). Material facts improperly denied by the nonmoving party are deemed admitted by the court. Id. In addition, the nonmoving party must submit a separate statement of any additional facts that require denial of the motion for summary judgment. L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(C). The statement of additional facts must include references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other admissible evidence relied upon. Id. Local Rule 56.1 further provides that '[a]ll material facts set forth in the statement required of the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement of the opposing party." Id. "Local Rule 56.1's enforcement provision provides that when a responding party's statement fails to controvert the facts as set forth in the moving party's statement in a manner dictated by the rule, those facts shall be deemed admitted for purposes of the motion." Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003).

Although Day is a pro se plaintiff and the court must construe pro se pleadings liberally, McGee v. Bartow, 593 F.3d 556, 566--67 (7th Cir. 2010), his pro se status does not absolve him from complying with Local Rule 56.1. See Greer v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chicago, 267 F.3d 723, 727 (7th Cir. 2001). Day's response to the District's statement of facts and his statement of additional facts are nearly incomprehensible and, in many respects, do not comply with Local Rule 56.1. The District's responses to Day's additional statement of facts also do not comply with Local Rule 56.1, as they provide only general denials with no specific references to the record to support these denials. See Smith, 321 F.3d at 683 ("[A] mere disagreement with the movant's asserted facts is inadequate if made without reference to specific supporting material."). But because Day's statements do not all comply with Local Rule 56.1, only those supported by admissible evidence -- namely those facts within Day's personal knowledge that he could testify to at ...

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