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Langer v. Board of Education of City of Chicago

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

October 16, 2013

ODETTE LANGER, Plaintiff
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT M. DOW, Jr., District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant Board of Education of the City of Chicago's motion to dismiss [38] Plaintiff Odette Langer's nine-count amended complaint in its entirety. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion with respect to Plaintiff's Title VII claims of age, race, and religious discrimination (Counts I-III), "lack of investigation" (Count VII), and harassment by Aviles (Count VIII). The Court denies the motion as to other counts. Plaintiff may proceed with her claim of race discrimination under ยง 1981 (also Count I), as well as her claims for breach of contract and/or a federal due process violation (Counts IV, V, VI, and IX). The Court denies Plaintiff's motions to deny the Board's motion to dismiss [41 and 44].

I. Background

A. Plaintiff's Motions to Deny the Board's Motion to Dismiss

Plaintiff has filed two motions asking the Court to deny Defendant's motion to dismiss because the second motion to dismiss that was filed-which the Court gave Defendant leave to put on the docket for internal, record-keeping purposes-was not identical to the first motion to dismiss. Upon receiving notice of Plaintiff's motions, counsel for the Board promptly filed a response, which explained her inadvertent error (noting that it was never the Board's intention to file anything other than the previously-filed motion to dismiss), attached the original motion to dismiss filed on December 19, 2011, apologized for the mistake, and respectfully requested "that the Court only consider and rule upon that identical Motion to Dismiss." The Court appreciates defense counsel's candid explanation and will focus its attention on the original motion to dismiss as well as Plaintiff's original response and Defendant's reply. The Court denies Plaintiff's motions to deny the Board's motion to dismiss [41 and 44].

B. Relevant Facts Alleged in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint

The factual background is drawn from Plaintiff's amended complaint. At this stage in the proceedings, the Court assumes all well-pled allegations to be true and draws all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff's favor. See Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nev., N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007).

Plaintiff has been working for the Board of Education of the City of Chicago ("Board") since 1967. Beginning in 2007, Plaintiff was hired as the principal of Barry Elementary School ("Barry"). Plaintiff's amended complaint details several grievances she has arising out of (i) the end of her employment at Barry and (ii) her relationship (or lack thereof) with Local School Council ("LSC") member Edilberto Aviles.[1] According to Plaintiff, Mr. Aviles did not like Plaintiff because she is Jewish and he preferred to have a Hispanic principal. Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Aviles waged a ruthless campaign to have her removed as Barry's principal, including sending derogatory e-mails to school officials and refusing to attend or vote at meetings that either involved Plaintiff or that Plaintiff requested.

During the 2007-2008 school year, Plaintiff's first as principal, Barry was on probation. Plaintiff disagreed with the decision to place the school on academic probation due to its low test scores. During her second year, the school's "performance score" increased by 17%. Plaintiff alleges that during her tenure, Barry continued to improve and earned the Board's highest excellence performance level. Defendant paints the facts in a different light-for instance, that even with slight improvement, only 63.2% of Barry students met the standard requirements, which ranked Barry second to last on the value-added ranking-but for purposes of Defendant's motion to dismiss, the Court credits Plaintiff's allegations that the school improved during her tenure.

On January 12, 2010, Joseph Kallas, the Area Instructional Officer in charge of Barry Elementary School, allegedly told Plaintiff that she was not a strong enough leader and that the test scores were still not satisfactory. According to Plaintiff, Kallas threatened to fire Plaintiff and damage her reputation. He also discussed the procedures that could lead to her removal. At this time, Plaintiff asked if she could retire at the end of the school year. Plaintiff then wrote a letter to Kallas on January 12, 2010 that read, in pertinent part:

After our discussion and agreement I am giving you notice that I will retire at the end of the 2009-2010 school year * * * On the date you receive this letter, please mail to me your confirmation that you are allowing me to retire at the end of the 2009-2010 school year.

Pl.'s Exhibit 28. The following day, Kallas e-mailed Plaintiff stating, in full, "I received, via certified mail, your notice of retirement. Please remember that all CPS/CTPF paperwork should be completed as soon as possible. This will be allowed, without any further action, provided paperwork is completed in a timely manner." Pl.'s Exhibit 29.

On February 24, 2010, Kallas spoke with Plaintiff and told her that he still had not received the paperwork. Plaintiff said that she did not submit any because she was not retiring. Kallas allegedly responded that he would have her fired and then tell the staff, the LSC, and parents. Further, Plaintiff claims that Kallas said that her termination would make the newspaper and she would lose her pension. The next day, Plaintiff sent Kallas a letter that stated, "I am rescinding my previous letter's statement that I will retire at the end of the 2009-2010 school year. I will continue to work for the good of Barry School." Pl.'s Exhibit 30. Kallas responded on the same day with a letter that stated, also in full, "Per your letter dated January 12, 2010 (attached), your last day as principal of Barry Elementary School will be June 30, 2010." Pl.'s Exhibit 31.

On June 10, 2010, the LSC held a meeting to complete Plaintiff's performance evaluation and, according to Plaintiff, rated her as exceeding the standard. Aviles did not attend the meeting and instead sent another e-mail to the chairperson of the LSC, who forwarded it to Kallas. Aviles accused Plaintiff of falsifying her accomplishments, ...


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