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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.

Held [*]

Section 2-201 of the Tort Immunity Act provided defendant school district and members of its staff with immunity from liability for plaintiffs’ allegations that defendants failed to properly respond to plaintiff student, who was bullied by her classmates, and that immunity was not subject to the willful and wanton conduct exception in section 2- 202 of the Act.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County, No. 12-L-16; the Hon. Michael Q. Jones, Judge, presiding.

Gerald W. Smith (argued), of Smith Law Firm, P.C., of Mahomet, for appellants.

Dennis L.Weedman and Belinda Becker (argued), both of Robbins Schwartz Nicholas Lifton & Taylor, of Collinsville, for appellees.

Panel 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 superintendent 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.

ΒΆ 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 ...


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