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Lane v. Dupage County School District 45

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

February 10, 2014

TIA LANE, as next friend of L.W., a minor child, Plaintiff,
v.
DUPAGE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT 45, JANICE ROSALES, NANCY MUNOZ, LYNETTE GUARE, and FRED LEINWEBER, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Tia Lane brings this action on behalf of her minor son, L.W., a former student at North Elementary School in Villa Park, Illinois. (R. 31, Second Amended Complaint ("Compl.") ¶ 1.) Plaintiff alleges that her son, who is African-American, was the victim of racially-motivated harassment, discrimination, and bullying during the 2011-2012 school year. ( Id. ¶ 1-2.) Plaintiff asserts two counts against DuPage County School District 45 ("School District 45") for violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Count I) and negligent supervision (Count III). Additionally, Plaintiff asserts one count against Defendants Janice Rosales, Nancy Munoz, Lynette Guare, and Fred Leinweber for racial discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count II). Defendants move to dismiss Count III of the Second Amended Complaint for negligent supervision against School District 45. (R. 33, Mot. to Dismiss.)[1] For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendants' motion to dismiss Count III with prejudice in part and without prejudice in part.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges the following facts in the Second Amended Complaint, which the Court assumes as true for purposes of Defendants' motion to dismiss. During the 2011-2012 school year, L.W. was a second-grade student at North Elementary School, one of several schools that School District 45 governs. (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 8.) Defendant Lynette Guare was L.W.'s second-grade teacher. ( Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) Defendants Nancy Munoz and Fred Leinweber were the principal and vice-principal, respectively, of North Elementary School, and Defendant Janice Rosales served as the superintendent of School District 45. ( Id. ¶¶ 9-11, 13.)

According to Plaintiff, "[d]uring the 2011-2012 school year, L.W. was the target of ongoing racially-motivated harassment from white students and Defendant Guare that went uncorrected and unaddressed by [School] District 45 and North Elementary School administration and faculty, including Defendants Munoz, Leinweber, and Rosales." ( Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff provides several examples of this alleged harassment. Guare, for example, refused to allow Plaintiff to bring in treats for L.W.'s birthday ( id. ¶ 16), wrote notes on L.W.'s assignments "denigrating his performance and implying that he was not trying hard enough" ( id. ¶ 18), singled out L.W. for discipline by making him leave the classroom ( id. ¶ 20), and "forcefully pushed' [L.W.] down into his chair" during class. ( Id. ¶ 42.) Plaintiff alleges, on information and belief, that Guare mistreated other African-American students in a similar manner but did not mistreat white students in her class. ( See id. ¶¶ 16, 19-20, 43.)

Plaintiff further alleges that School District 45 had notice of Guare's propensity for discriminatory conduct before the 2011-2012 school year. ( Id. ¶ 83.) A parent of an African-American student in one of Guare's previous classes complained to Vice-Principal Leinweber near the end of the 2010-2011 school year that Guare had "acted in a racially discriminatory manner toward her daughter and the other African American students in her daughter's class." ( Id. ¶ 79.) According to Plaintiff, "[b]ased on her prior pattern of discriminatory behavior, Defendant Guare was unfit to teach African American students" ( id. ¶ 88), and School District 45 "consciously disregarded [Guare's] history of discriminatory behavior when it placed L.W. and the other African-American students in her class." ( Id . ¶ 83.)

Plaintiff asserts three claims in the Second Amended Complaint: (1) violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act against School District 45; (2) race discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Guare, Munoz, Leinweber, and Rosales; and (3) negligent supervision against School District 45. Defendants move to dismiss only Count III for negligent supervision. (R. 33.) The Court has federal question jurisdiction over Counts I and II, see 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343, and supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state-law claim for negligent supervision in Count III. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

LEGAL STANDARD

"A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) tests whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted." Richards v. Mitcheff, 696 F.3d 635, 637 (7th Cir. 2012). Under Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The short and plain statement under Rule 8(a)(2) must "give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (citation omitted). Under the federal notice pleading standards, a plaintiff's "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. Put differently, a complaint must contain sufficient factual content "to allow the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'" Charleston v. Board of Trs. of Univ. of Ill. at Chicago, ___ F.3d ___, 2013 WL 6698052, at *2 (7th Cir. Dec. 20, 2013) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)). "In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint under the plausibility standard, [courts] accept the well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true." Alam v. Miller Brewing Co., 709 F.3d 662, 665-66 (7th Cir. 2013).

ANALYSIS

Defendants move to dismiss Count III on three grounds. First, Defendants argue that Count III fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. ( See Mot. to Dismiss at Argument ¶¶ 1-8; see also R. 34, Defs. Mem. at 4-6.) Second, Defendants argue that School District 45 is immune from liability on Count III under Illinois's Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act ("Tort Immunity Act"), 745 ILCS 10/101 et seq., and section 24-24 of the Illinois School Code. ( See Mot. to Dismiss ¶¶ 9-11; Defs. Mem. at 6-10.) Third, Defendants argue that Count III is time-barred pursuant to the Tort Immunity Act's one-year statute of limitations for civil actions against local governmental entities. ( See Mot. to Dismiss ¶ 12; Defs. Mem. at 11.) The Court addresses Defendants' immunity arguments first because, as explained below, the Tort Immunity Act affects the pleading requirements for Count III.

I. Immunity for Discretionary Policy Decisions

Defendants argue that sections 2-109 and 2-201 of the Tort Immunity Act grant immunity to School District 45 for injuries that result from its employees' exercise of discretion in determining policy. (Defs. Mem. at 6-9.) "[T]he Tort Immunity Act governs whether and in what situations local governmental units [in Illinois] are immune from civil liability." Harinek v. 161 N. Clark St. Ltd. P'ship, 181 Ill.2d 335, 340, 230 Ill.Dec. 11, 14, 692 N.E.2d 1177, 1180 (Ill. 1998). The Act is in derogation of common law, and courts, therefore, must strictly construe it against the public entities involved. See Van Meter v. Darien Park Dist., 207 Ill.2d 359, 368, 278 Ill.Dec. 555, 561, 799 N.E.2d 273, 279 (Ill. 2003). "Unless an immunity provision applies, municipalities are liable in tort to the same extent as private parties." Hascall v. Williams, 2013 IL App (4th) 121131 ¶ 19, 375 Ill.Dec. 112, 118, 996 N.E.2d 1168, 1175 (Ill.App.Ct. 2013) (quoting Van Meter, 207 Ill.2d at 368-69, 278 Ill.Dec. 555, 799 N.E.2d 273).

Section 2-201 of the Tort Immunity Act provides that "[e]xcept as otherwise provided by Statute, a public employee serving in a position involving the determination of policy or the exercise of discretion is not liable for an injury resulting from his act or omission in determining policy when acting in the exercise of such discretion even though abused." 745 ILCS 10/2-201. Additionally, under section 2-109 of the Act, "[a] local public entity is not liable for an injury resulting from an act or omission of its employee where the employee is not liable." Id. at 10/2-109. The discretionary immunity that section 2-201 provides, therefore, applies to governmental entities as well as their individual employees. See Murray v. Chicago Youth Ctr., 224 Ill.2d 213, 229, ...


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