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Struthers v. Minooka Community High School District No. 111

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

June 17, 2015

SARAH STRUTHERS, Plaintiff,
v.
MINOOKA COMMUNITY HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 111; JAMES COLYOTT; and DARCIE KUBINSKI, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge.

Plaintiff Sarah Struthers has filed a nine-count Complaint, alleging various federal and state claims based on her resignation as a special education teacher, against Defendants, Minooka Community High School District Number 111 ("the School District"), James Colyott, and Darcie Kubinski. Defendants have moved, separately, to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim. For the reasons discussed below, the Motions are granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are drawn from the Complaint and are accepted as true for purposes of the Motions to Dismiss. See Reger Dev., LLC v. Nat'l City Bank, 592 F.3d 759, 763 (7th Cir. 2010). Struthers was employed as a special education teacher by the School District for the 2012-2013 and a portion of the 2013-2014 school years, until she resigned on September 13, 2014. (Compl. ¶¶ 9-11, 34). Colyott was the School District superintendent, and Kubinski was the School District principal, during the relevant times. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8.)

In March 2013, Struthers was informed that she was going to be subject to a reduction in force and terminated. After Struthers's union opposed the reduction in force, the School District informed Struthers that she was being terminated for receiving a bad evaluation, despite the recent positive evaluation she had received. Her union again met with the School District. It was determined that a mistake had been made and that Struthers was not being terminated. (Id. ¶¶ 13-15.)

In May 2013, Struthers was accused by Kubinski of assisting a student in cheating on a test. (Id. ¶ 16.) A written letter concerning the incident was issued to Struthers. (Id. ¶ 19.)

In June 2013, Struthers learned she was being transferred to the School's District's central campus without explanation for the move. (Id. ¶ 20.)

The following school year, on September 10, 2013, Struthers was again called to meet with Kubinski and, this time, was accused of engaging in drug and alcohol transactions with School District students, including a student whom Struthers employed as a babysitter for her minor child. (Id. ¶ 22.) Struthers vigorously denied these accusations. In addition to interviewing Struthers, Kubinski also interviewed the student-babysitter. (Id. ¶ 26.) By the following day, several of Struthers's colleagues had learned of the accusations. (Id. ¶ 27.)

On September 12, 2013, Struthers had another meeting with Kubinski and Colyott about the accusations. During this meeting, Struthers's union representative arrived, at which point Kubinski refused to allow the meeting to continue. (Id. ¶¶ 28-31.) On the evening of September 12, 2013, Struthers was informed by her union representative that if Struthers did not resign by 3:00 p.m. the next day, the School District would hold Struthers's teaching certificate, which would prevent her from getting another job. Defendants also threatened to report Struthers, who was going through a divorce and had temporary custody of her child, to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (the "DCFS") for abuse. (Id. ¶¶ 32-33.)

Faced with these threats to her career and to the custody of her child, Struthers reluctantly tendered her resignation, which was accepted by the Board of Education for the School District on September 30, 2013. (Id. ¶ 34.) Plagued by false rumors spread by Defendants, Struthers was not able to find new employment in the education field until September 2014. (Id. ¶¶ 37-38.)

LEGAL STANDARD

Rule 12(b)(6) permits a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint by citing the plaintiff's "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must simply allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The plaintiff must also provide defendant "with fair notice' of the claim and its basis." Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) and Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). However, a complaint "that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Rather, the complaint must plead "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and construes all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Tamayo, 526 F.3d at 1081.

Furthermore, a complaint can also fail to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) "[i]f the allegations of the complaint show that relief is barred by the applicable statute of limitations.'" Limestone Dev. Corp. v. Village of Lemont, 520 F.3d 797, 802 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007)). A statute of limitations defense "may be raised in a motion to dismiss if the allegations of the complaint itself set forth everything necessary to satisfy the affirmative defense.'" Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 579 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting United States v. Lewis, 411 F.3d 838, 842 (7th Cir.2005)). While a complaint is not required to anticipate affirmative defenses and address them, "dismissal is appropriate when the plaintiff pleads himself out of court by alleging facts ...


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