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David Corral v. Uno Charter School Network

May 1, 2013

DAVID CORRAL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNO CHARTER SCHOOL NETWORK, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Edmond E. Chang

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff David Corral, a teacher, brought this suit against his former employer, Defendant UNO Charter School Network, Inc., alleging that UNO fired him in retaliation for reporting an assault on a student during gym class, in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. R. 1, Compl.*fn1 Corral also brought a claim under Illinois common law for retaliatory discharge. Id. at 9-11. UNO moves for summary judgment on both claims. R. 106. For the reasons explained below, UNO's motion for summary judgment is denied.

I. Background

In evaluating this summary judgment motion, the Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant (here, Corral), and also must draw reasonable inferences in his favor. UNO Charter School Network is an Illinois nonprofit corporation that operates charter public schools in the Chicago area. R. 104, Def.'s Statement of Facts (DSOF) ¶ 2. Through the Chicago Public School District, UNO receives federal funds to operate its schools. R. 116, Pl.'s Statement of Add'l Facts (PSAF) ¶ 2; R. 137, Def.'s Resp. to Pl's Statement of Add'l Facts (DSAF) ¶ 2. Plaintiff David Corral was the Wellness Fitness Specialist (that is, the physical education teacher) at one of UNO's schools, Dr. Hector P. Garcia, M.D. High School, up until the time he was fired on December 4, 2009. DSOF¶ 1. Corral had been working as the physical education teacher at Garcia High School since August 2008. Id. ¶ 3.

Starting in October 2009, Corral and his students began using a gymnasium facility with separate locker rooms for male and female students. PSAF ¶ 11. (During the 2008-2009 school year, Garcia High School's inaugural year, the school lacked formal gymnasium facilities and used a nearby park. Id. ¶¶ 7, 9, 11.) It was UNO's policy that Corral take attendance, and then input it into a computer, within the first five minutes of class. Id. ¶ 21. In August and September of 2009, Corral complained to one of the high school's administrators about the policy because the students were changing clothes during the first five minutes of class. Id.; R. 116-5, Pl.'s Group Exh. 9 (8/25/09 Corral Email, 9/15/09 Corral Email). UNO did not respond to Corral's complaints about being required to take attendance during the first five minutes of class. See Pl.'s Group Exh. 9.

On November 24, 2009, Corral taught a gym class of around 25 to 30 students. DSOF ¶ 5. The students sat down on the gym floor when they first arrived while Corral took attendance with handwritten notes. See id. The students then went into the locker rooms to change into gym clothes and Corral went to his office to input the attendance information into a program on his laptop. Id. ¶ 7. Going into his office was not the usual procedure: UNO had provided Corral with a movable podium for his laptop, DSOF ¶ 6, and he usually set up his laptop on the podium between his office and the locker rooms while taking attendance so that he could listen for disturbances amongst the students. PSAF ¶ 23. But Corral did not use the podium on November 24 because he needed to recharge the battery on his laptop. R. 117, Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Statement Facts (PSOF) ¶ 6.

After Corral finished inputting attendance on his laptop, he went back to the gym and stood near the entrances to the locker rooms (the girls' and boys' locker rooms were next to each other). PSOF ¶ 7; see also PSAF ¶¶ 16-17. Within five minutes, everyone in the class had returned to the gym from the locker rooms except one student, referred to here as "M.L."*fn2 DSOF ¶ 8. Corral went into the boys' locker room in search of M.L. and found him standing, shirtless, near the lockers. Id. ¶ 9. Corral told M.L. that M.L. was supposed to be in the gym, at which point M.L turned around and told Corral that he did not have a shirt to wear. Id. Once M.L. turned around, Corral noticed that M.L.'s chest was very red. Id. When Corral asked him what happened, M.L. said nothing happened. Id. ¶ 10. Corral continued to press the student, saying to M.L. that it looked he "just got beat up." Id. While Corral and M.L. were talking, another student entered the locker room, and M.L. asked the other student if he could borrow a gym shirt. Id. The other student gave M.L. a shirt, and Corral told M.L. to get dressed and return to the gym quickly because the rest of the class was waiting. Id.

Corral and the two students returned to the gym and Corral started class. Id.

¶ 11. Once class began, Corral sent a text message about M.L. to Andres Avila, a student counselor at UNO. Id. The text message stated (in substance):

Someone was bull[y]ing M.L. and he's not talking. He was dragging in the locker room and when I walked in his back and chest were all red. Like he was fighting.

Id. Avila came to the gym before Corral's class ended, and Avila and Corral took M.L. into Corral's office to question him about the incident. Id. ¶ 12. M.L. again refused to say what happened. Id. Corral had another class to teach, so Avila took M.L. to Avila's office to question him further. Id. Avila learned from M.L. that two UNO students, J.C. and J.C.N., were the aggressors, but it is not clear what details Avila learned at that point about the nature of the incident. PSAF ¶ 27; DSAF ¶ 27; R. 116-5, Pl.'s Exh. 12 (Incident Report).*fn3 Both parties agree that UNO administrators ultimately conducted an investigation, which included interviewing all of the boys from the gym class, and that at some point the Chicago Police also became involved and UNO students were arrested as a result of the incident. See DSOF ¶¶ 13, 27; PSAF ¶¶ 28, 29; DSAF ¶ 29.

The investigation revealed multiple versions and characterizations of what happened in the locker room. PSAF ¶ 30; Incident Report. M.L. said that he was targeted "at random," and that the aggressors "grind[ed]" him and other students. Incident Report at D000397-98. As recounted in the Incident Report, M.L. also apparently stated that "I felt assaulted-if I didn't fake it, it would have gone further. I felt like I was being raped, when someone gets on top of you and you want them to stop but they don't." Id. at 398.Other students characterized the nature of the attack as "horseplay," "humping," and a "thrusting motion." Id. at D000397. J.C., one of the aggressors, explained that "[s]ometimes, we act gay . . .[but] I know I'm not gay." Id. at D000398. Some students also reported that the behavior by the aggressors had been going on for 1-2 weeks or a month, and that other students had been targeted. Id. at D000397.

Corral contends that he participated in the investigation of the locker room incident. PSAF ¶ 29. UNO counters that Corral's participation was limited to being questioned about what he knew of the incident. DSAF ¶ 29. Because it is important to the issues presented by this summary judgment motion, here are the details of each instance in which Corral communicated with Garcia High School and/or UNO administrators about the locker-room assault*fn4

! Corral had a conversation with Avila at the end of the day on November

24, wherein Corral learned what M.L. told Avila about the incident.

DSOF ¶ 14. Corral does not remember speaking to any other UNO administrators or teachers that day about the incident. Id. ! Corral next spoke about the incident with an UNO administrator on

November 28, when he spoke by phone with Josephine Gomez, Garcia High School's Director (that is, the school's principal). Id. ¶¶ 15, 34. Corral told Principal Gomez about what he observed in the locker room on November 24, and told her that he contacted Avila about the incident. Id. ¶ 16. ! Corral sent Principal Gomez an email two days later, on November 30, wherein Corral stated that he observed "what appeared to be evidence of a fight" when he entered the locker room. Id. ¶ 17; R. 104-6, Def.'s Group Exh. F. Corral also commented on his supervision of the students that day, and requested "more specific policies and procedures" about how he should "balance the concerns of safety and privacy of the students" when supervising the locker rooms. Def.'s Group Exh. F. ! On December 3, Corral met with Principal Gomez and Sister McCarry,

UNO's Director of Academic Affairs. DSOF ¶ 22; PSAF ¶ 3. Corral again repeated his knowledge of the November 24 event. DSOF ¶ 22. ! Corral met with Principal Gomez and Sister McCarry again on December

4. DSOF¶ 23. During this meeting, Corral was fired. Id. ¶ 24. After being told that he was fired, Corral raised several issues surrounding the November 24 event, including that one of the perpetrators, J.C., had disciplinary problems and should not have been allowed to return to school, and that "there is absolutely no way that I could-that I could supervise boys' locker room, girls' locker room, and all the students that are in the gym." DSOF ¶ 24; PSOF ¶ 24.*fn5 Corral also stated that he believed he was being fired for reporting a "sexual assault." DSOF ΒΆ 24. Corral states that when he mentioned J.C.'s disciplinary problems, ...

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