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Young-Gibson v. Board of Education of City of Chicago

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

August 29, 2013

DARREYL YOUNG-GIBSON, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

VIRGINIA M. KENDALL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Darreyl Young-Gibson filed suit against Defendant Board of Education of the City of Chicago (the "Board") pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Young-Gibson is the former principal of Percy Julian High School ("Julian") and was terminated from her position in October 2009. Young-Gibson alleges the Board terminated her employment because of her race and gender (Count I), and retaliated against her for writing a letter rescinding the suspension of a Julian employee, allegedly to oppose discrimination. (Count II). The Board moves for summary judgment on both counts. For the reasons stated herein, the Board's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

STATEMENT OF MATERIAL UNDISPUTED FACTS[1]

Young-Gibson was hired by the Board of Education of the City of Chicago as a substitute teacher in 1972. (Complaint, Dkt. No. 1, p.7). In January 2008, Young-Gibson became principal of Julian. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 2.) Prior to becoming principal of Julian, Young-Gibson had never been a principal or an assistant principal in any school district, including the Chicago Public Schools ("CPS"). ( Id. ¶ 4.) Jerrelyn Jones was the CPS's designee to oversee and assess the performance of principals and administrators at high schools in her assigned area. ( Id. ¶¶ 5-7.) Jones was Young-Gibson's immediate supervisor during the entirety of Young-Gibson's tenure as principal of Julian. Jones also supervised approximately 14-15 other principals. ( Id. ¶ 7.) Jones reported to David Gilligan, the Chief Officer of High School Programs. ( Id. ¶ 8).

I. Young-Gibson's Tenure as Principal of Julian

When Young-Gibson became principal, Julian was on probation under the CPS "School Probation and Remediation Policy." (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 44, Ex. 32.) In addition, the Illinois State Board of Education ("ISBE") had been monitoring Julian's recognition status due to persistent failures to provide special education services to students and a failure to create and maintain a safe school climate. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 44.) In order to address these issues, the Board provided Julian with additional resources and assistance but denied a request by Young-Gibson asking for additional security. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 45; Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 45.)

In February 2008, Jones disciplined Young-Gibson for insubordination for refusing to cooperate with the Department of Safety and Security and the Office of High School Programs. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 46.) Young-Gibson also received a 20-day suspension in February 2008 for her attempt to rescind the decision of then-CEO Arne Duncan to suspend a Julian employee pending the outcome of a formal investigation of allegations that the employee had an inappropriate relationship with a female student. ( Id. ¶ 47.) Specifically, Young-Gibson directed the employee to return to work and wrote a letter to Duncan informing him that the she was unilaterally rescinding the suspension. ( Id. ¶ 48.) The Notice of Disciplinary Action provided to Young-Gibson cited a failure to carry out a directive, repeated or flagrant acts of misconduct, inattention to duty, and insubordination. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 46, Ex. 34.) The Notice also provided Young-Gibson a "Suggestion of Improvement" stating that Young-Gibson "must work with the Climate Team and cooperate with the Office of High School Programs, Department of Safety and Security, and the Area Instruction Office." ( Id. ) The Notice further advised Young-Gibson that "[a]ll directives from the Chief Executive Officer must be followed." ( Id. ) The Julian employee Young-Gibson attempted to rescind from suspension was eventually absolved of the formal allegations by the Department of Children and Family Services. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 46). On April 23, 2008, Duncan recommended and the Board approved and issued a Warning Resolution regarding her insubordination towards Jones and her attempt to rescind Duncan's employment decision. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 48).

In September and October 2008, Jones's office received several telephone calls and emails from parents of Julian students complaining that they could not get in touch with Young-Gibson or her designee. ( Id. ¶ 49.) The parents complained that students were not being enrolled in classes, did not have textbooks, that school security personnel had "put their hands" on a student, and that a parent had waited for an hour and a half to meet with Young-Gibson only to never see her. ( Id. ¶ 50, Ex. 7-C). In November 2008, Jones disciplined Young-Gibson again for insubordination because Young-Gibson had not implemented Jones' directives or responded to phone calls from parents of Julian students in a timely manner. ( Id. ¶ 52, Ex. 7-D.). Young-Gibson was provided a pre-discipline hearing on November 10, 2008. ( Id. ¶ 52.) Following the hearing, Jones issued Young-Gibson a 10-day unpaid suspension. ( Id. ¶ 53.) The Discipline Hearing Summary cited Young-Gibson for negligently failing to carry out a rule order, repeated flagrant acts of misconduct, inattention to duty, and insubordination. ( Id. ¶ 52, Ex. 7-D.)

On September 11, 2008, the ISBE changed Julian's status from "fully recognized" to "recognized pending further review." ( Id. ¶ 54, Ex. 7-E.) The ISBE cited "issues directly related to school climate, life safety, leadership, and IEP implementation." ( Id. ) The "recognized pending further review" status is assigned to schools that exhibit areas of noncompliance that are not serious enough to warrant probation and may be correctable prior to the end of the school year following the school year in which they are identified. ( Id. ) If the ISBE designates a school as "non-recognized, " that school becomes ineligible to receive state funding and would be forced to close. ( Id. ¶ 54.)

On March 24, 2009, the ISBE informed then CEO Ron Huberman and Young-Gibson that Julian was being placed on its "Probation" status, citing "evidence of ongoing failure to serve students according to relevant legal and regulatory standards and prolonged noncompliance with legal and regulatory requirements in the area of Special Education Services." ( Id. ¶ 55, 58, Ex. 7-F.) The ISBE indicated that this status was assigned because of Julian's ongoing failure to comply with relevant legal and regulatory standards. ( Id. ¶ 56). The ISBE advised that Julian would have 60 days to submit a plan for correction of identified deficiencies. ( Id. ¶ 57, Ex. 7-F.).

II. Young-Gibson's Reassignment

In April 2009, Young-Gibson was reassigned from Julian to an administrative office, specifically Area Office 23. ( Id. ¶ 17). After her reassignment, Young-Gibson continued to receive her full salary and benefits but no longer received a travel allowance. (Def 56.1 St. ¶ 21; Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 21). Young-Gibson did not complain to any Board supervisors about her belief that her reassignment to an administrative office was discriminatory. Instead, she complained to the Local School Council ("LSC"), Julian's individual governing body. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 20; Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 20). The LSC has the responsibility of performing an evaluation of the principal each year and began the evaluation of Young-Gibson in late March of 2009. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 61, Ex. 38.) Due to Young-Gibson's reassignment, however, the LSC was unable to complete its evaluation of Young-Gibson. ( Id. ) Nevertheless on May 7, 2009, Larry McDonald, the Julian LSC Chairperson, sent Hubberman a letter requesting that Huberman to take steps to remove Young-Gibson as principal of Julian. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 61, Ex. 7-G.). McDonald's stated reasons for its request included safety and security issues, Young-Gibson's failure to implement the school improvement plan, her refusal to collaborate with faculty, and the school's low morale. ( Id. ¶ 63, Ex. 7-G.) McDonald also noted that the letter was the product of an incomplete evaluation due to Young-Gibson's unforeseen reassignment. ( Id. )

III. Termination of Young-Gibson's Principalship

Pursuant to Young-Gibson's contract, she could be removed as principal before the expiration of her contract term if she failed to make adequate progress in correcting Julian's academic deficiencies. ( Id. ¶ 65). Student performance data compared to that of the district as a whole indicated that Julian students performed well below district averages. ( Id. ¶ 75). Based on the 2008-2009 and the 2009-2010 performance benchmarks, Julian remained on probation because it only achieved 30.6 percent of available "performance points" for the 2008-2009 school year and had not shown sustained academic improvement. ( Id. ¶ 77.) On July 20, 2009, Huberman informed Young-Gibson that he was considering removing her from her position at Julian and terminating her principal contract. ( Id. ¶ 64). Huberman proposed a hearing date of July 30, 2009 to consider Young-Gibson's termination but Young-Gibson's then-attorney requested and was granted a continuance of that hearing. ( Id. ¶¶ 34-35.) The hearing was held on August 24, 2009. ( Id. ¶ 36.)

Officer Fredrick Bates presided over the hearing. ( Id. ¶ 37). During the hearing, Huberman presented his reasons for why he was considering asking the Board to remove Young-Gibson from her principalship through documents and witnesses. ( Id. ¶ 36). Both Jones, Young-Gibson's immediate supervisor, and Ryan Crosby, the Manager of School Performance, provided testimony during that hearing. ( Id. ) Young-Gibson, who was represented by counsel of her choice and called an Illinois state representative, two Julian LAS members, a Julian teacher, and a detective with the Chicago Police Department. ( Id. ¶ 38; ¶ 39). At the conclusion of the hearing, Bates allowed the record to remain open until the close of the next business day, providing either party with an opportunity to submit any additional documentation in support of their position. ( Id. ¶ 40). On September 14, 2009, Bates issued an 86 page report supporting ...


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