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Snow v. J. Sterling Morton High School District 201

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

September 27, 2016

LAQUITHA SNOW, Plaintiff,
v.
J. STERLING MORTON HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT 201, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Amy J. St. Eve, Judge

         The Court grants in part without prejudice and denies in part Defendants' motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).[1] [20] Further, the Court grants Plaintiff leave to file a Second Amended Complaint in accordance with this ruling, which is due on or before October 11, 2016. See Runnion v. Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago & Nw. Indiana, 786 F.3d 510, 519 (7th Cir. 2015) (“a plaintiff whose original complaint has been dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) should be given at least one opportunity to try to amend her complaint before the entire action is dismissed.”). Defendant must answer or otherwise plead by October 25, 2016. Status hearing set for November 3, 2016 is stricken and reset to October 28, 2016 at 8:45 a.m.

         STATEMENT

         On March 19, 2016, Plaintiff Laquitha Snow brought the present three-count First Amended Complaint alleging that Defendants J. Sterling Morton High School District 201 and J. Sterling Morton High School East violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000, et seq., based on her race and sex. Before the Court is Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. For the following reasons, the Court grants in part without prejudice and denies in part Defendants' motion. Further, the Court grants Plaintiff leave to file a Second Amended Complaint, in accordance with this ruling, by no later than October 10, 2016.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         “A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the viability of a complaint by arguing that it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” Camasta v. Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Inc., 761 F.3d 732, 736 (7th Cir. 2014). Under Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The short and plain statement under Rule 8(a)(2) must “give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (citation omitted). Under the federal notice pleading standards, a plaintiff's “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Put differently, 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, 1949, 172 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). In determining the sufficiency of a complaint under the plausibility standard, courts must “accept all well-pleaded facts as true and draw reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs' favor.” Roberts v. City of Chicago, 817 F.3d 561, 564 (7th Cir. 2016). In Title VII cases, the pleading standards are “different from the evidentiary burden a plaintiff must subsequently meet.” Huri v. Office of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook Ctny., 804 F.3d 826, 834 (7th Cir. 2015) (quoting Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 511 (2002)).

         BACKGROUND

         In her First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Laquitha Snow alleges that she has worked for Defendants since January of 2009. (R. 7, First Am. Compl. ¶ 10.) Specifically, Plaintiff has worked at Defendant Sterling Morton High School East in Cicero, Illinois, and most recently, in the position of Dean of Students. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that during her tenure Defendant subjected her to racial harassment. (Id. ¶ 11.)

         In 2014, Plaintiff applied for the position of Assistant Principal at Sterling Morton High School East. (Id. ¶ 12.) She was informed that Defendants denied her the promotion because she is not Hispanic, but rather African-American. (Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff alleges that after she complained about this racial discrimination, Defendant retaliated against her. (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff states that at all relevant times, she performed her job duties satisfactorily or better. (Id. ¶ 15.) Further, Defendants had not taken any prior or contemporaneous disciplinary actions against Plaintiff at the time she lodged her complaint of discrimination. (Id. ¶ 16.)

         Plaintiff alleges that after complaining of racial discrimination, Defendant retaliated against her by denying her job opportunities and by changing the terms and conditions of her employment. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 22.) Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant subjected her to racial and sexual harassment, culminating in a hostile work environment. (Id. ¶ 25.) She asserts that the harassment was evidenced by Defendant failing to promote her, denying her job opportunities, and subjecting her to different terms and conditions of employment. (Id.)

         ANALYSIS

         I. Legal Capacity

         First, Defendants argue that under the Illinois School Code, the proper Defendant to this lawsuit is the Board of Education of J. Sterling Morton High School District 201 and not the school district or individual high school. See 105 ILCS 5/10-2. Indeed, the Illinois “School Code expressly authorizes a board of education to sue and be sued in court proceedings.” Bd. of Educ. of Bremen High Sch. Dist. No. 228 v. Mitchell, 387 Ill.App.3d 117, 124 (1st Dist. 2008); see also Matavka v. Bd. of Educ. of J. Sterling Morton High Sch. Dist. 201, No. 15 C 10330, 2016 WL 4119949, at *1 n.1 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 1, 2016) (“under Illinois law the Board of Education of such a school district is the appropriate defendant with the exclusive right to sue or be sued.”); Klean v. Bd. of Educ. of Proviso Twp. Sch. Dist. 209, No. 08 C 6233, 2010 WL 3732218, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 17, 2010) (“the Illinois School Code makes the Board, not the District, amenable to suit”).

         Because the Board of Education is the proper Defendant under the Illinois School Code, the Court grants, without prejudice, Defendants' motion to dismiss in this respect. The Court further grants Plaintiff leave to amend her pleadings to name the Board of Education of J. Sterling Morton High School ...


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