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Presley v. Board of School Directors of Rankin School District No. 98

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division

April 15, 2014

JAY PRESLEY and TAMMY PRESLEY, Husband and Wife, Plaintiffs,
v.
BOARD OF SCHOOL DIRECTORS OF RANKIN SCHOOL DISTRICT No. 98, an Illinois Local Governmental Entity; STEVEN K. JOHNSON, Superintendent of Rankin Elementary School District No. 98, in his Individual Capacity; DEBBIE LOWMAN, President of the Board, in her Individual Capacity; JULIA NELMS; Secretary of the Board, in her Individual Capacity; TIMOTHY GAY, Board Member, in his Individual Capacity; and LYLE SECREST, Board Member, in his Individual Capacity; Defendants,

OPINION

TOM SCHANZLE-KASKINS, Magistrate Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for More Definite Statement and Brief in Support (d/e 5) (Motion). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is DENIED.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

The Plaintiffs allege that Plaintiff Jay Presley was a duly elected and appointed member of the Board of School Directors (Board) of Defendant Rankin School District No. 98 ("District"), and his wife, Plaintiff Tammy Presley, was a secretary to the Administration of the District, a junior high school principal, and Defendant Steven K. Johnson. Johnson was Superintendent of the District. The other individual Defendants, Debbie Lowman, Julia Nelms, Timothy Gay, and Lyle Secrest were all members of the Board; Lowman was also President of the Board, and Nelms was also Secretary of the Board. Each individual Defendant is sued in his or her individual capacity. Complaint (d/e 1), ¶¶ 4-10.

The Plaintiffs sue the District for the following:

Defendant, Rankin School District No. 98, is an Illinois Local Governmental Entity organized and existing under the laws of the State of Illinois acting under color of state law. Rankin is sued for the following:
a. Under Section 1983, for the conduct of its policy making agents, the defendant School Board Members.
b. Under Section 9-102 of the Illinois Local Governmental Tort Immunity Act for the compensatory damages awarded against its Superintendent and Directors.

Complaint, ¶ 5.

The Plaintiffs allege that on September 16, 2013, Jay Presley sent an email to Lowman about "several matters involving the administration of the School." Complaint, ¶ 13. Jay Presley had spoken to Lowman about these matters before sending the email. The Plaintiffs allege,

The email included a list of matters from parents, teachers, staff, other board members, and other Superintendents that Jay had kept which had not been answered. Jay stated his intention was to determine whether policies were being implemented as to how district monies were spent, and, if not, to establish accountability for the failures.

Id. The Plaintiffs allege that Jay Presley's email was sent in his capacity as a member of the Board and was concerning matters of public concern. Complaint, ¶ 28.

On November 25, 2013, the Board suspended Tammy Presley, and on December 2, 2013, the Board fired Tammy Presley. Defendant Superintendent Johnson raised the matter before the Board that led to the suspension, and recommended the firing. The other individual Defendants all voted in favor of the firing. Complaint, ¶¶ 22-24. The Plaintiffs allege that the Defendants suspended and fired Tammy Presley in retaliation for Jay Presley speaking out about matters of public concern in the September 16, 2013, email and in his conversations with Lowman about the same. Complaint, ¶¶ 29-31. The Plaintiffs further allege that the Individual Defendants "impermissibly infringed upon Jay and Tammy Presley's liberty interest of intimate association in violation of both the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution." Complaint, ¶ 32.

Based on these allegations, the Plaintiffs bring claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988, and § 9-102 of the Illinois Local Government Tort Immunity Act 745 ILCS 10/9-102 (Tort Immunity Act). The Defendants pray for damages and attorney fees against all Defendants, and for an injunction against the District to reinstate ...


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