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Aguilera v. Chicago Public Schools of Board of Education of City of Chicago

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

September 29, 2014

Luis Aguilera, Plaintiff,
v.
Chicago Public Schools of the Board of Education of the City of Chicago, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

VIRGINIA M. KENDALL, District Judge.

Luis Aguilera filed a complaint against the Board of Education of the City of Chicago ("the Board"), alleging that his termination was in retaliation for speech protected by the First Amendment and violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Aguilera worked as a high school Spanish teacher at the Bronzeville Scholastic High School operated by the Board. The Board moved for summary judgment and to strike Aguilera's response to its motion as untimely filed and violated Local Rule 56.1.

The Court denies the Board's motion to strike Aguilera's response but nonetheless grants its motion for summary judgment.

FACTS

The facts in this section are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

On August 2, 2007, the Board hired Aguilera as a Probationary Appointed Teacher at Bronzeville. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 12; Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 12). This position was not tenured. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 1; Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 1). The Board's Employee Discipline and Due Process Policy governed the terms of Aguilera's employment. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 7; Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 7). That Policy was explicitly not a contract. (Dkt. No. 49 Ex. D at 5).

In April 2000, Aguilera published a book entitled Gabriel's Fire. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 39; Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 39). The book is autobiographical. In part, it tells the story of a romantic affair between Aguilera and a teacher at his high school. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 40; Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 40). At the time of the affair, Aguilera was thirteen and the teacher was twenty-six years old. ( Id. ). Aguilera was not an employee of the Board at the time he wrote Gabriel's Fire. Aguilera informed the Board about the book during the application process with the Board. He referenced the book on his resume when he applied to Bronzeville and discussed the book with Bronzeville's principal during his job interview. (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶¶ 27-28; Def. 56.1 Resp.¶¶ 27-28). The book found its way into Bronzeville's library, though the parties dispute whether Aguilera had a role in placing the book there. (Pl. 56.1 ¶ 29; Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 29).

On January 20, 2009, Bronzeville received a complaint from the mother of one of Aguilera's female students. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 12; Pl. 56.1 Resp ¶ 12). The mother was concerned that Aguilera had, among other things, engaged in inappropriate conversation with her daughter, invited the daughter to lunch, and given gifts to the daughter. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 12; Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 12). The Board initiated an investigation into the complaint. The Board assigned Investigator Louis Mahaffey to the case on January 26, 2009. (Pl. 56.1 ¶ 1; Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 1). Mahaffey spoke with the student in question. (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 5; Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 5). An investigator also spoke with Aguilera. (Pl. 56.1 ¶ 76; Def. 56.1 ¶ 18). At the end of the investigation, Mahaffey determined that Aguilera had invited the student in question to lunch at least eight times, walked the student to the bus, gave the student gifts, sent the student text messages, including one that read "Buenas noches, Princesa." (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶¶ 13-17; Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 13-17; see also Def. 56.1 ¶ 19). Mahaffey also found that Aguilera encouraged the student to read his book, Gabriel's Fire. (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 18; Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 18). Aguilera thought the concerns about his behavior were "ridiculous, absurd on so many levels." (Def. 56.1 ¶ 22; Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 22). In what Aguilera claims was a joke about her parent's and the Board's unwarranted concern, he commented to the student "What are they thinking that I'm going to ask you to marry me or something?" (Def. 56.1 ¶ 23; Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 23). Mahaffey included these findings in an investigation memorandum that he prepared. Aguilera does not dispute that he spoke with the student about the book (Pl. 56.1 ¶ 33), joked about marriage ( Id. ¶ 39), walked the student to the bus stop ( Id. ¶ 42), offered to let the student sit in his car ( Id. ¶ 60) gave gifts to students ( Id. ¶ 53), and exchanged text messages with the student ( Id. at 57). Aguilera denies that any of these actions was improper.

Following the investigation, the Board held a hearing to consider whether it would terminate Aguilera's employment on October 2, 2009. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 28; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 90). Prior to the hearing, the Board sent Aguilera a letter describing the nature of the allegations that the student's mother had made against him. (Def. 56.1 28; Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 28). Aguilera did not receive a copy of Mahaffey's investigation memorandum prior to the meeting. (Pl. 56.1 ¶ 90; Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 90). Aguilera attended the hearing. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 29; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 90). Aguilera presented evidence at the hearing, though he argues that the fact that he did not receive the investigation memorandum precluded him from presenting a full defense. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 29; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 91). A representative from Aguilera's union was present at the hearing and made a statement on his behalf. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 29; Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 29). Following the hearing, the Board officer presiding over the hearing created a Recommendation for Termination Memorandum. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 30; Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 30).

Relying on the October 2 hearing, the assistant director for the Board's Office of Employee Engagement recommended to the Board's Chief Executive Officer that the Board terminate Aguilera's employment. (Def. 56.1 ¶¶ 31-33; Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 31-33). The Chief Executive Officer recommended termination to the full Board on November 12, 2009 and informed Aguilera of his recommendation. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 10; Pl. Resp. ¶ 10). The Board adopted the recommendation and terminated Aguilera's employment on December 16, 2009. ( Id. ).

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Thayer v. Chiczewski, 705 F.3d 237, 246 (7th Cir. 2012). In order to survive summary judgment, the nonmoving party must set forth facts that show there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial "such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in her favor." Cincinnati Life Ins. v. Beyrer, 722 F.3d 939, 951 (7th Cir. 2013); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). For the purpose of summary judgment, the Court views all facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Fitzgerald v. Santoro, 707 F.3d 725, 730 (7th Cir. 2013). "Evidence supporting or opposing summary judgment must be admissible if offered at trial, except that affidavits, depositions, and other written forms of testimony can substitute for live testimony." Malin v. Hospira, Inc., No. 13-2433, 2014 WL 3896175 at*1 (7th Cir. Aug. 7, 2014).

DISCUSSION

Aguilera claims that his dismissal violated his rights to procedural and substantive due process, and unlawfully retaliated against him for engaging in protected speech. The Court finds that the Board has demonstrated that no genuine dispute of material fact exists and that the Board is entitled to judgment ...


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