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Craig v. Rich Tp. High School Dist. 227

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

December 3, 2013

Bryan CRAIG, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
RICH TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT 227, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

Argued Sept. 10, 2013.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Stephen L. Richards, Attorney, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Paulette A. Petretti, Attorney, Scariano, Himes & Petrarca, Chicago, IL, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before KANNE, WILLIAMS, and TINDER, Circuit Judges.

WILLIAMS, Circuit Judge.

In 2012, Bryan Craig self-published a short book of adult relationship advice entitled " It's Her Fault." And when we say " adult," we mean it in every sense of the word— in his book, Craig repeatedly discusses sexually provocative themes and uses sexually explicit terminology. Eventually, Craig's employer, a school district located in Chicago's south suburbs, learned of the publication of Craig's book and decided to terminate his employment because of it. Craig sued the school district, the school board, and several board members under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 alleging that they improperly retaliated against him for engaging in speech protected by the First Amendment. The district court dismissed the suit for failure to state a claim because, in its view, " It's Her Fault" did not address a matter of public concern and was not entitled to First Amendment protection.

While we respectfully disagree with the district court's assessment of the " public concern" issue, we ultimately uphold the dismissal of Craig's claim on an alternative basis. While full of objectionable content, Craig's book deals with adult relationship dynamics, an issue with which a large segment of the public is concerned. However, we affirm the district court's dismissal because the allegations of Craig's complaint and the documents he relies upon to support his claim establish that the school district's interest in ensuring effective delivery of counseling services outweighed Craig's speech interest. The school district reasonably predicted that " It's Her Fault" would disrupt the learning environment at Craig's school because some students, both female and male, who learned of the book's hypersexualized content would be reluctant to seek out Craig's advice. Craig has effectively pled himself out of court by asserting allegations and incorporating documents sufficient to establish that the school district's interest in restricting his speech outweighed his interest in publishing his book. We therefore affirm the district court's judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

Until recently, Bryan Craig was a tenured guidance counselor at Rich Central High School in Chicago's south suburbs. In addition to advising students, Craig served as the coach for Rich Central's women's varsity, junior varsity, and freshmen basketball teams.[1]

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In July 2012, while employed at Rich Central, Craig selfpublished a book entitled " It's Her Fault" which is a collection of Craig's relationship advice for women. As Craig tells it, while " counseling people of all ages and races [he] found himself saying the same things over and over to women during sessions." Over the course of " provid[ing] counseling to thousands of students, parents, clients, and friends," Craig discovered " a trail of popcorn leading back to it being her fault." During these encounters with female advice-seekers, Craig determined " that women act based on emotion alone instead of emotion plus intellect" which leads to women being unable to obtain the type of relationship they want. By publishing the book, Craig hoped to give women " the road map to having the upper hand in a relationship with a man."

Parts of Craig's book contain garden-variety relationship advice. For example, Craig highlights the need for discretion between partners in order to develop trust in a relationship. According to Craig, " our biggest downfall in relationships is sharing too much information with friends or associates." Craig also writes of the importance of being a good listener and instructs women to " [p]ay very close attention to content when having serious conversations with your man."

But not all of Craig's advice is this mundane. Much of " It's Her Fault" is dedicated to exploring provocative topics. For example, Craig devotes one chapter to informing women of the effectiveness of using sex appeal to obtain power in a relationship. Craig instructs by way of example:

Fellas, you ever notice how nice your girl is around payday, or how your d— k feels even better to them when they need something? Noooooo, most men don't notice, so, women, keep using that skill.

Such tactics are effective, in Craig's mind, because all " [m]en have sexual radar," including Craig himself. Despite being " beyond the highest caliber of men," Craig nevertheless confesses " a weakness ...


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