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Uwumarogie v. Board of Education of City of Chicago

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

August 8, 2014

SUNDAY UWUMAROGIE, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HARRY D. LEINENWEBER, District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendants' Joint Partial Motion to Dismiss. For the reasons stated herein, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

This case arises out of various disciplinary measures imposed on Plaintiff Sunday Uwumarogie (the "Plaintiff") by his former employer, the Board of Education of the City of Chicago (the "Board"). Pursuant to a contract with the Board, Plaintiff served as principal of Eugene Field School with a contract term of July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2012. The trouble began in the summer of 2009, when one of Plaintiff's teachers complained to the Board, during a public meeting, that Plaintiff's administration was to blame for an educational crisis at the Field School. A few months later, in September 2009, Plaintiff delivered a slideshow presentation to faculty and other school employees at a mandatory staff meeting. Perhaps in response to the public comments about his administration, Plaintiff expressed his hope that teachers at the Field School would adopt a collaborative, teamwork-oriented approach to solving the school's problems. One of the attendees found Plaintiff's statements intimidating and complained to the Chicago Teacher's Union. The Board commenced a formal investigation, and nearly a year later, on August 27, 2010, it issued a "Warning Resolution" and suspended Plaintiff for fifteen (15) days.

Plaintiff sought administrative review of the Board's decision in Illinois state court. The suspension was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Cook County and the Illinois Appellate Court. See, Uwumarogie v. Chicago Public Schools, No. 1-11-2558, 2014 IL App. (1st) 112558-U (Ill.App. Ct. May 7, 2014) (unpublished opinion).

In an unrelated incident, two female students complained that Plaintiff sexually harassed them - allegations that Plaintiff denies. Defendant Michael Mahone investigated the allegations and questioned Plaintiff, allegedly without providing him with a written copy of the charges against him. Defendant Sylvia Soto aided the investigation. A few days later, on April 6, 2011, Plaintiff was removed from his responsibilities as principal and reassigned to an administrative position within the office of the Board. The next day, Defendant Deborah Esparza, one of the Board's "Chief Officers, " made this reassignment known publicly by notifying the "Local School Council" (a collection of Board employees and parent and community representatives) that Plaintiff had been reassigned temporarily until further notice.

In December 2011, the Board sent Plaintiff draft dismissal charges that accused him of several acts of misconduct, including failure to abide by the August 2010 Warning Resolution. A pre-suspension hearing was scheduled for March 6, 2012, but the record does not disclose whether that hearing took place as scheduled. By correspondence dated July 2, 2012, Plaintiff was notified that his contract as principal ended as of June 30, 2012 with the conclusion of the contract term. Following a hearing, the Board issued a resolution, which it published on the internet, accepting the findings of the hearing officer and dismissing Plaintiff from his employment with the Board.

Plaintiff brought this case on February 22, 2013. Plaintiff, assisted by counsel, was given leave to file an Amended Complaint by January 8, 2014. ECF No. 26. It appears that Plaintiff served Defendants with a copy of the Amended Complaint, because Defendants attached that document to their Motion as Exhibit A. But Plaintiff has not actually filed an Amended Complaint with the Court. Therefore, Plaintiff is instructed to file a copy of the Amended Complaint, including all exhibits, as a separate docket entry. Nonetheless, the Court will treat the exhibit as a properly-filed Complaint for the purposes of this Motion. In that document, Plaintiff alleges that (1) the 2010 discipline violated his due process and First Amendment rights, (2) the 2011 discipline violated his due process rights, and (3) the Board breached his employment contract. Defendants have moved to dismiss the first and third charges.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A complaint must provide a short and plain statement of the claim showing the plaintiff is entitled to relief. FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). The complaint must "plead[] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

III. ANALYSIS

A. The 2010 Discipline

Plaintiff argues that the Board violated his due process and First Amendment rights when it punished him in 2010 for his remarks at the September 2009 staff meeting. Defendants move to dismiss on the ground that these claims are time-barred. While a complaint need not anticipate and overcome a statute of limitations defense, "dismissal is appropriate when the plaintiff pleads himself out of court by alleging facts sufficient to establish the complaint's tardiness." Cancer Found., Inc. v. Cerberus Capital Mgmt., LP, 559 F.3d 671, 674-75 (7th Cir. 2009).

Section 1983 does not have an express statute of limitations, so federal courts hearing such claims apply the forum state's limitations period for personal injury actions. Ashafa v. City of Chicago, 146 F.3d 459, 461 (7th Cir. 1998). In Illinois, the statute of limitations for ยง 1983 claims is two years. Dominguez v. Hendley, 545 F.3d 585, 588 (7th Cir. 2008). Due process and First Amendment claims accrue when the plaintiff knows or ...


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