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Komaa Mnyofu, Individually and As Next Friend of His Daughters v. Board of Education of Matteson Elementary School District 162

August 13, 2012

KOMAA MNYOFU, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NEXT FRIEND OF HIS DAUGHTERS AYANNA MNYOFU AND MAKAYLAH MNYOFU, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF MATTESON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTRICT 162, BLONDEAN DAVIS, VILLAGE OF MATTESON, MICHAEL JONES, JEREMY SIMS, AND SHAUN WHITE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Komaa Mnyofu has asserted claims on behalf of himself and his two daughters against the Board of Education of Matteson Elementary School District 162 (the "Board"), the district superintendent Blondean Davis, the Village of Matteson (the "Village"), and three Matteson police officers. Defendants have moved to dismiss all of Mnyofu's claims. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants their motions in part and denies them in part.

Facts

The Court draws the following facts from Mnyofu's complaint and accepts them as true for purposes of the motion to dismiss. Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009).

Mnyofu describes himself as a "community and education reform activist and frequent speaker and commentator on the management, policies and practices of the schools, and their administrators" in his children's school district. Am. Compl. ¶ 1. From October 2008 to February 13, 2009, he worked as a paraprofessional (a teacher's aide) at the Huth School in Matteson. As a paraprofessional, he was subject to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the Board and a union representing support personnel. After Mnyofu's employment was terminated, which he protested in various ways, he alleges that defendants engaged in a campaign of harassment against him in retaliation for his exercise of his First Amendment free speech rights.

Mnyofu alleges that during his employment, he expressed to Davis and Huth school principal Ronald Jones that he did not believe they were "comply[ing] with their obligations under the CBA and Illinois law regarding the investigation and resolution of student and parent complaints." Id. ¶ 23. On February 11, 2009, Mnyofu asked his union representative to "exercise [Mnyofu's] rights as a continuing employee and file a grievance on his behalf against Principal Jones for his failure to take action to properly respond to the various complaints that had been directed at [Mnyofu]." Id. ¶ 24. On February 12, Mnyofu went to the district office where Davis works to request a form. Defendants claim that Mnyofu created a disturbance while he was there, but Mnyofu denies this. On February 13, Mnyofu received a letter indicating that Davis had terminated his employment.

On February 17, Mnyofu attended a public meeting of the Board because he wanted to speak about the issues he had raised before being terminated. The Board's president did not allow him to speak and stated that Davis's decision was "binding on the Board." Id. ¶ 29.

On February 23, Mnyofu filed a grievance challenging his termination. He served the grievance on Davis pursuant to procedures established by the CBA. He never received a response to the grievance. On February 24, Mnyofu went to the district office to deliver the grievance. While he was there, someone in the office phoned the Matteson police and asked for an officer to come to the office. Mnyofu alleges that Davis directed the employees in the office to give false statements to the police about his behavior.

At a meeting of the Board on March 17, Mnyofu again attempted to speak during the public speaking portion of the meeting. The Board's president again refused to allow him to speak about his termination or the policies that he had protested. After the meeting was over, the Board's attorney Robert Hall handed Mnyofu two letters from Davis. The first accused Mnyofu of multiple violations and demanded that he cease contact with district personnel. The second notified him that his children would be dis-enrolled from the district's schools because they were not residents of the district. The letter also requested payment of "out-of-district" tuition. Mnyofu believed that this would violate his rights because he and his children were homeless, and he engaged the Illinois Homeless Advocate to prevent these actions from occurring.

On March 20, Mnyofu left a restaurant in Matteson with his daughters, who at the time were six and ten years old. As they were getting into his car, they were surrounded by defendants Michael Jones, Jeremy Sims, and Shaun White, who are Matteson police officers. The officers "surrounded Plaintiff's vehicle each with his gun brandished, [waving] and pointing at Plaintiff Mnyofu and his minor children, and yelling and demanding that Plaintiff get out of the vehicle." Id. ¶ 46. Mnyofu claims that Jones told him he was "causin' problems with Blondean Davis and employees and students at school district 162 and now the police are involved." Id. ¶ 47. He also alleges that the officers used profanities and threatened to take his children to jail and terminate his custody of them. A friend of Mnyofu's at the restaurant then watched the children while the officers arrested Mnyofu and took him to the police station, where he alleges that they falsely charged him with traffic offenses. Mnyofu was also charged with disorderly conduct, which he claims was based on false information that Davis gave the police about his February 12 visit to her office. The proceedings based on the criminal complaint and the traffic tickets are currently pending in state court.

On or around March 23, "Defendant Jones, on direction of Defendant Davis, phoned . . . a DCFS [(Department of Children and Family Services)] Hotline and falsely reported that Plaintiff was abusing his children and . . . had been driving erratically and was arrested for running a car off the road." Id. ¶ 58. Mnyofu later "received notice that the DCFS complaint against him was determined to be unfounded and without basis." Id. ¶ 74.

Davis sent Mnyofu two more letters in March. In one letter, she told Mnyofu that his children would no longer be allowed to ride the bus to school and that he would have to drop them off and pick them up. In the second, she stated that Mnyofu could not speak to anyone who worked for or was affiliated with the school district.

On April 3, Davis appeared at a court proceeding on Mnyofu's disorderly conduct charge and stated that she was the complaining witness. On June 4, Hall filed an appearance in Mnyofu's criminal proceedings. On June 8, Hall filed a motion to quash subpoenas for records directed at Davis and the Board. Mnyofu also alleges that on that date, Jones filed a second false criminal complaint alleging that Mnyofu had committed a criminal trespass on February 12.

Mnyofu filed this lawsuit on June 2 or 3, 2011.

Discussion

On a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court accepts the facts stated in the complaint as true and draws reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Hallinan, 570 F.3d at 820. To survive the motion, the complaint must include enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009). A claim is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 1949.

1. Count one - First Amendment retaliation claim

In count one of his amended complaint, Mnyofu asserts a claim against Davis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for retaliation on the basis of protected First Amendment activity.*fn1 To prevail on this claim, Mnyofu must show that "(1) he engaged in activity protected by the First Amendment; (2) he suffered a deprivation that would likely deter First Amendment activity in the future; and (3) the First Amendment activity was at least a motivating factor in the Defendants' decision to take the retaliatory action." Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 546 (7th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

Davis seeks to dismiss count one on the grounds that it is barred by the statute of limitations and ...


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