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Hascall v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

September 18, 2013

VILMA HASCALL, Individually; and C.H., a Minor, Through Her Mother and Next Friend, Vilma Hascall, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
PRESTON L. WILLIAMS, JR., SANDY COOPER, and URBANA SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 116 BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendants-Appellees

Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County No. 12L16 Honorable Michael Q. Jones, Judge Presiding.

JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Steigmann and Justice Knecht concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

HARRIS JUSTICE

¶ 1 In July 2012, plaintiffs, Vilma Hascall (Hascall), individually, and C.H., a minor, through her mother and next friend, Vilma Hascall, filed an 11-count second amended complaint against defendants, Preston L. Williams, Jr. (Williams), Sandy Cooper (Cooper), and the Urbana School District No. 116 Board of Education (Board). Plaintiffs alleged C.H. was bullied by classmates and defendants failed to appropriately respond. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss and the circuit court dismissed the complaint with prejudice. We affirm.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 On July 2, 2012, plaintiffs filed an 11-count second amended complaint against defendants for alleged violations of the Illinois School Code (School Code) (105 ILCS 5/1-1 to 36-1 (West 2010)) (counts I, II, XI); fraud (counts III, IV, V); intentional infliction of emotional distress (counts VI, VII, VIII); and retaliation (count X). Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed count IX.

¶ 4 According to the complaint, C.H. was a fourth-grade student attending Thomas Paine Elementary School (Thomas Paine). On August 18, 2011, Hascall reported to Cooper, the principal of Thomas Paine, a "bullying situation" involving C.H. and classmates M.J., I.H., and A.M. According to Hascall, M.J., I.H., and A.M. had bullied C.H. since kindergarten. Hascall requested that C.H. be reassigned to a different fourth-grade classroom. In a letter dated August 18, 2011, Cooper assured Hascall that "we take reports of bullying very seriously." Cooper stated she would "address the situation with the girls and notify the parents of the conversation." Cooper attached to the letter "the school district policy." C.H. was not reassigned to a different fourth-grade classroom.

¶ 5 On August 20, 2011, Hascall requested a meeting with school district superinten- dent Williams, Cooper, C.H.'s classroom teacher, "the police, " and the parents of M.J., I.H., and A.M. The following day, Hascall met with Williams and Cooper, who assured Hascall that they would contact the parents ("or words to that effect") of M.J., I.H., and A.M.

¶ 6 On October 14, 2011, M.J. and I.H. verbally harassed C.H. when she withdrew from a game of tag. M.J., I.H., and A.M. followed C.H. into a school restroom, blocking the exit and continuing to "harass, intimidate, and threaten C.H." C.H. reported the incident to Hascall, who contacted the police. The following day, Cooper telephoned Hascall and advised she would contact the girls' parents and "take appropriate disciplinary action."

¶ 7 On November 21, 2011, I.H. approached C.H. in the classroom, slapped a book C.H. was holding, and "threatened C.H." M.J., I.H., and A.M. again followed C.H. into the school restroom. C.H. entered a stall and the girls kicked open the door of the stall, injuring C.H. The girls "threatened C.H. by stating, 'I'm going to kill you' or similar words." C.H. reported the incident to Hascall, who contacted the police.

¶ 8 On November 22, 2011, an investigating officer spoke to the parents of M.J., I.H., and A.M. The parents reported never having been told their child had bullied another student prior to November 22, 2011. Cooper allegedly told the investigating officer that she had no knowledge of C.H. being bullied prior to October 2011.

¶ 9 On November 28, 2011, Hascall again requested a meeting with Williams, Cooper, C.H.'s classroom teacher, "the police, " and the parents of M.J., I.H., and A.M. Williams denied Hascall's request, stating, "[w]e will handle this situation." On December 6, 2011, Hascall addressed the Board regarding bullying at Thomas Paine.

¶ 10 C.H. alleged these incidents led to (1) difficulty sleeping, (2) nightmares, (3) physical injury, (4) physical illness, (5) stomachaches, (6) headaches, (7) worsening asthma, (8) mental anguish, and (9) emotional distress. Hascall alleged these incidents led to (1) severe anxiety, (2) mental anguish, and (3) "significant emotional distress over the health and safety of C.H. while at school" and the inaction by school personnel.

¶ 11 On October 4, 2012, defendants filed a combined motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint under sections 2-615 and 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615, 2-619 (West 2010)). Under section 2-615, defendants argued the second amended complaint failed to state a cause of action upon which relief could be granted. Under section 2-619(a)(9), defendants asserted they were immune from liability under sections 2-201 and 2-109 of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Tort Immunity Act) (745 ILCS 10/2-201, 2-109 (West 2010)). Defendants attached affidavits of Williams and Cooper to a memorandum in support of their section 2-619 motion to dismiss. Williams averred, in part, as follows:

"3. As Superintendent I am responsible for determining school district policy in many areas, including that in the areas of student relations and student discipline; and I exercise discretion in the determination and administration of such policies.
6. Board Policy 7:180 defines prohibited bullying activities and requires the development of a program to implement the policy. I have determined that each attendance center principal shall be responsible for implementing this policy at the building level so ...

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