United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
Barbara Ferkel, Adrienne Green-Katien, Charles Saporito, Craig Johnson, Mishela Torres-Riley, and Francisco Otero, individually and on behalf of all similarly situated persons, Plaintiffs,
Board of Education of the City of Chicago, Defendant
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
For Barbara Ferkel, Adrienne Green-Katien, individually and on behalf of all similarly situated persons, Plaintiffs: Robin B. Potter, LEAD ATTORNEY, Maria De Las Nieves Bolanos, Robin Potter & Associates P.C., Chicago, IL.
For Board of Education of the City of Chicago, a body politic and corporate and, Henry Beinen, Jean-Claude Brizard, Mahalia Hines, Jesse Ruiz, Penny Pritzker, Rod Sierra, David Vitale and Andrea Zopp, members of the Board of Education, in their official capacities, Defendant: Cheryl J. Colston, Board of Education of the City of Chicago, Department of Law, Chicago, IL; Lisa A. Dreishmire, Lucille A Blackburn, Board of Education of the City of Chicago, Chicago, IL; Susan Margaret O'Keefe, Chicago Board of Education, Chicago, IL.
For Henry Beinen, Jean-Claude Brizard, Mahalia Hines, Jesse Ruiz, Penny Pritzker, Rod Sierra, David Vitale, Andrea Zopp, members of the Board of Education, in their official capacities, Defendants: Lisa A. Dreishmire, Lucille A Blackburn, Board of Education of the City of Chicago, Chicago, IL; Susan Margaret O'Keefe, Chicago Board of Education, Chicago, IL.
Memorandum Opinion and Order
Honorable Edmond E. Chang, United States District Judge.
Plaintiffs Barbara Ferkel, Adrienne Green-Katien, Charles Saporito, Craig
Johnson, Mishela Torres-Riley, and Francisco Otero filed this lawsuit on behalf of themselves and a proposed class of similarly situated Chicago Public School teachers against the Chicago Board of Education, alleging age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., violation of their constitutional due-process rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and common-law breach of contract. R. 77, Third Am. Compl. The Board now moves to dismiss the due-process and breach-of-contract claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). R. 91, Mot. Dismiss. For the reasons explained below, the Board's motion is denied in part and granted in part.
In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept as true the complaint's factual allegations and draw reasonable inferences in Plaintiffs' favor. Ashcroft v. al- Kidd, 131 S.Ct. 2074, 2079, 179 L.Ed.2d 1149 (2011). Plaintiffs were tenured Chicago Public School (CPS) teachers. See Third Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 2, 83. All of them formerly taught at Ames Middle School. Id. ¶ ¶ 10, 18, 32, 38, 42, 45, 48. In October 2008, the Board adopted a Middle Grades Specialization Policy (Specialization Policy). Id. ¶ 50; R. 77-2, Pls.' Exh. B, Specialization Policy. The Specialization Policy required that CPS students in the sixth through eighth grades receive instruction in language arts, math, science, and social studies from teachers who either (1) possess a " middle grades content endorsement" in those subjects, or (2) through the 2010-2011 school year only, " ha[ve] been authorized by the Illinois State Board of Education to teach those [subjects] pending completion of required course work and [are] making annual progress toward completing endorsement requirements." Specialization Policy § I.A. The day after the Board adopted the Specialization Policy, then-CPS Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan sent a letter to CPS teachers stating that the Board had adopted the Specialization Policy and reiterating that all CPS middle school teachers would be required to have proper middle-grade endorsements no later than the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year. Third Am. Compl. ¶ 51; R. 77-3, Pls.' Exh. C, Duncan Letter. By the summer of 2010, Plaintiffs either already had middle-grade endorsements or were in the process of completing them. Third Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 20, 33, 39-40, 43, 46, 49.
Then, on June 15, 2010, the Board passed a resolution authorizing the " honorable termination" of tenured CPS teachers. Id. ¶ 83. Soon after, the media began reporting that Ron Huberman, who was at that time CPS's Chief Executive Officer, and the Board would lay off " unsatisfactory" teachers first, instead of basing layoffs solely on seniority. See id. ¶ 53; see also R. 77-4, Pls.' Exh. D, Huberman Article at 1. On August 10, 2010, Plaintiffs were informed that they would be honorably terminated from CPS effective August 31, 2010. Third Am. Compl. ¶ 55. Plaintiffs allege that Huberman's statements that honorably terminated teachers were performing unsatisfactorily are false. Id. ¶ 54. Indeed, several of the Plaintiffs had received positive professional evaluations, ranging from " Excellent" to " Superior." See id. ¶ ¶ 17, 22, 31, 45; see also id. ¶ 35 (alleging that Green-Katien received a " Satisfactory" rating during the 2009-2010 school year). But when Thomas Hoffman, Ames Middle School's principal,
called to tell Plaintiffs about their termination, he informed two of them that they were being terminated because they did not have certain middle-grade endorsements. Id. ¶ ¶ 21, 56-57. A few days later, Plaintiffs received letters from CPS's Office of Human Capital advising them that their positions were no longer available because of " Redefinition." Id. ¶ 58; R. 77-5, Pls.' Exh. E, Termination Letters.
Plaintiffs then sued the Board. They have alleged that the Board's failure to provide proper pre-layoff procedures--such as an individualized hearing on each teacher's qualifications for existing vacancies--constituted a violation of their constitutional right to due process, because as tenured CPS teachers, they had a property interest in continued employment. See Third Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 84, 87-90, 92, 105-113. Plaintiffs have also alleged that the Board breached the contract it made with Plaintiffs, the contract being formed, allegedly, by the adoption of the Middle Grades Specialization Policy and the issuance of the Duncan Letter. Id. ¶ 123. Plaintiffs believe that the Policy and Letter represent a promise from the Board that it would maintain the status quo on middle-grade-specialization requirements through July 2011 and provide Plaintiffs until that date to complete all required endorsements. Id. ¶ 120. The Board now moves to dismiss both the due-process and the breach-of-contract claims.
II. Legal Standard
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint generally need only include " a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This short and plain statement must " give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The Seventh Circuit has explained that this rule " reflects a liberal notice pleading regime, which is intended to 'focus litigation on the merits of a claim' rather than on technicalities that might keep plaintiffs out of court." Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514, 122 S.Ct. 992, 152 L.Ed.2d 1 (2002)).
" A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). " [A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). These allegations " must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The allegations that are entitled to the assumption of truth are those that are factual, rather than mere legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.
A. Due-Process Claim
Plaintiffs, all of whom were tenured teachers, allege that the Board deprived them of their protected property interest in continued employment in violation of the Due Process Clause by summarily dismissing them without individualized determinations of their qualifications, certifications, experience, and performance ratings. Third Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 65, 69, 88, 105-107. Plaintiffs also allege that they were entitled to be considered for open, ...