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Alyce Kaplan v. New Trier High School

November 2, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge George M. Marovich


After the Court dismissed her original complaint, plaintiff Alyce Kaplan ("Kaplan") filed a three-count amended complaint against New Trier High School ("New Trier"). Kaplan asserts that New Trier retaliated against her in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA"). Kaplan also asserts a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. (The Court previously dismissed with prejudice Kaplan's accommodation claims, because she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with respect to those claims.) Defendant moves to dismiss. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants defendant's motion and grants plaintiff leave to amend.

I. Background

For purposes of this motion to dismiss, the Court takes as true the allegations in Kaplan's amended complaint and also considers the documents attached to and referenced in the complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c). The Court will not, however, consider documents attached to the parties' briefs. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d).

Defendant New Trier is a public high school in Winnetka. Plaintiff Kaplan is a special education teacher. New Trier has employed plaintiff since 1984.

During the entirety of her employment with New Trier, Kaplan has had Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes. Over time, Kaplan's diabetes has caused complications, including diabetic retinopathy. This has permanently reduced Kaplan's visual acuity in both eyes and has caused her to lose some peripheral vision. In addition, the diabetes has caused Kaplan to suffer joint swelling and pain and decreased tactile sensation.

These symptoms made it difficult for Kaplan to keep up with one of her duties, which was to document in writing the individualized education plans (IEPs) she developed with students' parents. It was difficult for Kaplan to type the IEPs during meetings with parents, so, prior to 2006, Kaplan gave parents handwritten IEPs and then mailed typewritten IEPs at a later date. This was an accommodation to Kaplan. In the fall of 2006, Kaplan asked for another accommodation (a large, flat-screen monitor), and New Trier provided it.

Kaplan received some but not all of the accommodations she requested over the years. When, in 2007, Kaplan had difficulty seeing the computer screens for New Trier's new IEP software, Kaplan asked to be assisted by a teacher's aide. New Trier provided an aide, but the aide was not trained to use the computer program and, therefore, was unable to help Kaplan. In September 2007, Kaplan requested that she be allowed additional time to complete her IEPs, but Department Chair Ronald Simon ("Simon") declined. In December 2007, Kaplan asked Simon to provide Kaplan a temporary "scribe" to assist her with finishing her counseling reports (which were due December 21, 2007) on time. The Department Chair did not respond to the request.

Other accommodations were offered to Kaplan by New Trier but not provided. On January 8, 2008, Simon told Kaplan that either he or another teacher would help her input her by-then-late counseling reports. On January 16, 2008, New Trier's Director of Special Education, Laurel Berman ("Berman"), told Kaplan that she would be provided with 11"x17" large-font copies of her students' IEPs, along with fill-in-the-blank forms to write her IEPs by hand. Kaplan did not receive these accommodations.

Instead of these accommodations, Kaplan received criticism about her performance. On January 23, 2008, Kaplan met with Simon. Simon "chastised" Kaplan for her delay in submitting her counseling reports. When Kaplan got up to leave, Simon told her in a loud, angry voice, "If you leave my office, there will be a very negative consequence which will affect your teaching at New Trier!" The same day, Simon put a disciplinary letter in Kaplan's personnel file. In the letter, Simon criticized Kaplan for her delayed IEP paperwork and unexcused absences.

One week later, Kaplan discussed possible accommodations with the Human Resources office. Kaplan was promised (by whom, it is not clear) a 28-inch computer monitor and a printer that could print 11"x17" documents. New Trier provided these accommodations within a month.

New Trier disciplined Kaplan again in April. On April 28, 2008, the Director of Curriculum, Cynthia Jeskowiak ("Jeskowiak"), placed a disciplinary letter in Kaplan's personnel file. The letter accused Kaplan of unilaterally changing a student's IEP. When Jeskowiak met with Kaplan to discuss the letter, Jeskowiak "wagged" her finger at Kaplan and said, "Don't you try to pass the buck and blame your actions on anyone else. You are a bad teacher and you have damaged your students. You have cost the district money and now you will pay the price." Jeskowiak also told Kaplan, "[T]here will be very negative consequences if you ever stray from the goals of a student's IEP again."

On May 29, 2008, the Director of Human Resources, Larry Lobert ("Lobert"), and Simon placed another disciplinary letter in Kaplan's personnel file. This letter accused Kaplan of not completing written IEPs on time.

The next day, Jeskowiak and Berman met with Kaplan. Jeskowiak, with a "menacing look on her face," said to Kaplan, "I can see you leaving an autistic student in a corner, playing games and doing whatever he wanted to on a computer all semester long." Berman and Jeskowiak criticized Kaplan for "relying on IEPs in ...

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