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Thompson v. Board of Education of City of Chicago

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

April 2, 2014

MARK THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF CITY OF CHICAGO, KEITH BROOKSHIRE, DEBORAH EDWARDS-CLAY and REGINALD EVANS, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

RONALD A. GUZMAN, District Judge.

In his fifth amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that the Chicago Board of Education ("Board") and three of its employees, Reginald Evans, Deborah Edwards-Clay and Keith Brookshire, violated Title VII (Counts I, IV, and VIII), 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Counts II, III, VII, and IX) and the Illinois Whistleblower Act (Count V) and are liable for breach of contract, negligent supervision, tortious interference, and conspiracy (Counts VI, XII, XIII, and XVI).[1] The case is before the Court on the defendants' motions for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 56. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part the Board, Evans and Edwards-Clay's motion and grants Brookshire's motion.

Facts

Plaintiff is an African-American teacher, certified in physical education ("PE") and U.S. history. (Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ¶ 1.)[2] From August 2005 to December 2007, he worked at Piccolo Elementary Special School, where defendant Deborah Edwards-Clay, who is African American, was the principal. ( Id. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff taught PE and coached seventh and eighth grade basketball. ( Id. ¶¶ 1, 8.) Like all Piccolo coaches, plaintiff was required to keep track of the hours he worked and submit them to Edwards-Clay for approval. ( Id. ¶ 12.) When he did so for the 2007-08 basketball season, however, Edwards-Clay refused to approve payment for all of the hours he claimed because she thought they were overstated. ( Id. ¶¶ 13-14.) Plaintiff filed a grievance to recover for the unpaid coaching hours and was awarded $630.00 but contends that he is still owed $416.00. ( Id. ¶ 15).

In January 2008, plaintiff transferred to Harlan Community Academy High School, where defendant Reginald Evans, an African American, is the principal. ( Id. ¶¶ 1, 4.) Plaintiff taught PE and coached track and field. ( Id. ¶ 16.) While coaching track, plaintiff bought vitamins for his team members, which he gave to their parents/guardians. ( Id. ¶ 18.)

In the fall of 2009, defendant Keith Brookshire became Harlan's head football coach, but he was not, and never has been, a Harlan PE teacher. ( Id. ¶¶ 68, 70.) After a 2009 football game, a parent of one of the players told Brookshire that plaintiff had given pills to her son. ( Id. ¶¶ 19-20.) Brookshire reported the conversation to Evans. ( Id. ¶ 20.) Evans says plaintiff denied the allegation, so he decided not take any disciplinary action at that time. (Defs.' LR 56.1(a) Stmt. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff denies that Evans ever spoke to him about the incident. (Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ¶ 22.)

In February 2010, a security guard found six blue pills in the backpack of a Harlan student. ( Id. ¶ 23; see id., Ex. 7, Investigative Mem. at 2 (Mar. 23, 2010).) The student told Evans that plaintiff had given him the pills. ( Id. ¶ 24.) When Evans questioned plaintiff, he said the pills were vitamins and that he had given them to the student's parent. ( Id. ¶ 25.)

On February 9, 2010, the parent of another Harlan student complained to the assistant principal that plaintiff had taken her son to the store to buy vitamins. ( Id. ¶ 27.) At Evans' request, the parent submitted a written complaint, which said that in addition to buying vitamins, plaintiff picked her son up for weekend and late night training sessions and took him out for meals in restaurants. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a) Stmt., Ex. C, Evans Decl. ¶ 13.) On February 10, 2010, Evans suspended plaintiff from coaching pending an investigation into the allegations against him. On February 12, 2010, Evans reported the allegations to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS"). ( Id. ¶¶ 11, 13; Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) ¶ 34; id., Stmt., Ex. 14, DCFS Investigation Transition/Handoff Document.)

On February 25, 2010, Evans received a memo from the Board president saying that City-wide staffing cuts would have to be made for the 2010-11 school year. (Defs.' LR 56.1(a) Stmt., Ex. C, Evans Decl. ¶ 18; see id., Ex. 2, Mem. from Huberman to CPS Employees (Feb. 25, 2010).) On March 4, 2010, Board attorney James Ciesil gave the following "directives" to plaintiff:

1) [You] must not transport any CPS student in any vehicle without the written consent of the principal, Reginald Evans, and the parent or legal guardian of the student....
2) [You] may not solicit, meet with, or discuss with students or parents on CPS grounds any off-campus event (such as a track club) without the written consent of the principal; and
3) [You] may not give, provide, offer or recommend to any CPS student any vitamin, drug, caffeine booster, or any other over-the-counter or prescription medication....

(Defs.' LR 56.1(a) Stmt., Ex. F, Ciesil Decl., Ex. 1, Email from Ciesil to J. Thompson (Mar. 4, 2010).) Ciesil also told plaintiff that "if [you] violate[] any of these directives it shall be considered gross insubordination and irremediable misconduct subjecting [you] to severe disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal." ( Id. )

On March 23, 2010, the Board's investigator gave Ciesil his report about the allegations against plaintiff, which said that:

Credible evidence does exist to support the allegation that on varying dates in 2009 and 2010, [plaintiff] transported 6 to 7 Harlan HS students in his personal vehicle who are members of the school's track team for practice workouts without obtaining written permission from the (a) parent(s) or the principal.
Credible evidence does exist to support the allegation that on varying dates in 2009, [plaintiff] gave over-the-counter-vitamins to the (a) parent(s) of student athletes as part of ...

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