United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
B. Gottschall United States District Judge
2010-11 school year, plaintiff Deidre Robertson
(“Robertson”), an African American high school
English teacher in the Chicago Public Schools
(“CPS”), was suspended twice for alleged
misconduct and received the first
“unsatisfactory” performance rating of her CPS
career on June 2, 2011; defendant Board of Education of the
City of Chicago (“the Board”) issued a
“warning resolution” to Robertson based on those
two incidents in January 2012. See Resp. to JSUMF
¶¶ 4-6, 9, 10, 16, 34-37, 45-48, 49, 56, Defs.'
Resp. to SAMF ¶¶ 5-6. Due to declining enrollment in
the Senn Achievement Academy (“Senn”) where she
taught (except for one class), the unsatisfactory rating led
to her being laid off, along with eight other teachers, in
July 2011 and transferred to the “reassigned teacher
pool” (“the pool”) from which she has since
worked as a substitute teacher in other CPS schools. Resp. to
JSUMF ¶¶ 26, 64-66, 69-70. Robertson filed suit
against the Board and Senn's principal in the 2010-11
school year, Susan Lofton (“Lofton”), Resp. to
JSUMF ¶ 3.
and the Board have filed separate motions for summary
judgment. They partially incorporate each other's
arguments, and they collectively seek dismissal of all
thirteen counts of Robertson's Third Amended Complaint
(“TAC”), ECF No. 68. Plaintiff responds by
defending only two counts, her employment discrimination
claims brought in Counts I and II under 42 U.S.C. § 1981
and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended,
(“Title VII”) 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2000e-17.
Primarily because Robertson has identified no similarly
situated non-African American employee who received more
favorable treatment, the court grants the motions for summary
where otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed.
Robertson has worked as a CPS teacher since August 2004.
Resp. to JSUMF ¶ 8. She taught English at two high
schools before Senn. Id. ¶¶ 9-13. She
transferred to Senn in the 2007-08 school year. Id.
¶ 14. Her first principal, Richard Norman
(“Norman”), rated her “satisfactory.”
Id. ¶¶ 16, 17.
campus housed three, distinct schools, Senn High School, Senn
Achievement Academy, and Rickover Naval Academy; the high
school and achievement academy shared Lofton as a principal
in 2010-11. See Resp. to JSUMF ¶¶ 21-22.
Carter Carey (“Carey”), a Caucasian man, served
as Senn's assistant principal in the 2010-11 school year.
Resp. to SAF ¶¶ 8-10.
received multiple complaints from students, staff and parents
regarding Plaintiff swearing in front of students
(e.g. fuck, shit, bullshit), threatening students,
having verbal confrontations with students, calling students
and parents names (e.g. retarded, bitch, jackass,
ghetto, Moby Dick great white whale), touching students,
throwing a pencil and pencil box at a student, and speaking
unprofessionally to students, parents and staff.” Resp.
to JSUMF ¶ 27 (undisputed; internal citations to
exhibits omitted). Lofton received a verbal complaint from a
parent about Robertson threatening a parent; after a tenured
teacher and student teacher corroborated the complaint,
Lofton issued Robertson a cautionary warning. Id.
¶¶ 28-30. As for Carey, Robertson's proposed
comparator, Lofton received no complaints about him swearing
in front of students or parents and no complaints about him
using corporal punishment. Resp. to JSUMF ¶¶ 59-60.
Carey cursed in front of students, though Robertson does not
recall who was principal at the time, Robertson Dep.
404:1-405:14, and had physical contact with students, SAF
¶ 13. Robertson's unrebutted testimony is that the
physical contact occurred when Carey tried to break up
fighting students. Resp. to JSUMF ¶ 60 (citing Robertson
The “R.S. Incident”
was involved in a physical altercation with a student, R.S.,
on October 1, 2010. Resp. to JSUMF ¶ 31. What happened
and whether Robertson acted in self-defense is disputed.
See, e.g., SAF ¶¶ 24-25. One eyewitness
reported not seeing Robertson come into physical contact with
R.S. SAF ¶ 20. And despite the incident, R.S. remained
in Robertson's class. Id. ¶ 21; see
also Id. ¶¶ 22-23 (stating that one incident
report stated that Robertson was unprofessional with
R.S.' father, but that he later wrote a letter on
Robertson's behalf). Robertson also notes that an
incident report stated that the Illinois Department of
Children and Family Services (“DCFS”) would be
contacted, but DCFS has no record of any contact. See
Id. ¶¶ 26-27.
investigator concluded that there was credible evidence
Robertson grabbed R.S.'s right arm hard enough to cause
abrasions. Resp. to JSUMF ¶ 32. Following the
Board's recommendation, Lofton suspended Robertson for
fifteen days for use of corporal punishment. Id.
¶ 34. Robertson followed the appeal process, and after a
hearing, the Board reduced the length of her suspension to
ten days. See Id. ¶¶ 35-37.
The May 2011 Incident and the Warning Resolution
2011, a student complained to Lofton that Robertson was
dropping f-bombs in class. Resp. to JSUMF ¶ 38. Lofton
went to Robertson's classroom and brought all of the
students in the front row back to “the office.”
Id. ¶ 39. Lofton asked the students to write
something about the incident, though whether she told them to
write what happened or “something bad” about
Robertson, as one student reported, is disputed. See
Id. ¶ 40 and material cited; see also Id.
¶¶ 41-42 (factual disputes over whether Lofton left
the room and whether students were told not to talk among
themselves). Keeping these disputes in mind, each student
wrote that Robertson had said “fuck” in class.
Id. ¶ 43. Again, Robertson disputes this. In
addition to disputing what Lofton told the students,
Robertson asserts that there are discrepancies in the
letters' accounts of what happened. Resp. to SAF ¶
giving Robertson a chance to tell her side of the story,
Resp. to JSUMF ¶ 44, Lofton suspended Robertson for
three days for using profanity, id. ¶ 45.
Robertson appealed; the Board held a hearing and upheld the
suspension. Id. ¶¶ 46-48. Citing the R.S.
incident and the May 2011 incident, the Board issued a
resolution warning Robertson about her conduct
(“warning resolution”) on January 25, 2012.
Id. ¶ 49 (citing Ex. A Lofton Dep., Ex. S Jan.
25, 2012 Warning Resolution).
Robertson's 2010-11 Performance Evaluation
2010-11 school year, the Board used a four-level evaluation
system under which teachers received a rating of superior,
excellent, satisfactory, or unsatisfactory. Resp. to JSUMF
¶ 50. As required by Board policy and the applicable
union contract, Lofton and Carey observed Robertson three
times during the school year. Resp. to JSUMF ¶ 51.
Principal Carey observed Robertson on December 2, 2010.
Id. ¶ 52. His notes identify her weaknesses as
interactions with students, completion of lesson plans,
consistent student assessment, and recording student grades.
Id. (citing Ex. T at 001732). Lofton observed
Robertson teach on April 26, 2011. Id. ¶ 53.
She noted these weaknesses: “not writing her own lesson
plans, actual lesson was disjointed, nonfiction graded
reading strategies not evident, mistakes in vocabulary and
parts of speech, low rigor, reliance on literal level items,
and the class did not start on time.” Id.
citing (Ex. B ¶ 23; Ex. U at 001723). Lofton noted
similar weaknesses after the third observation on May 31,
2011. See Id. ¶ 54.
on those observations, Lofton rated Robertson
“unsatisfactory” on June 2, 2011. Id.
¶ 56. Robertson disagreed and refused to sign the
performance review. SAF ¶ 3.
projected under enrollment, about nine Senn teachers lost
their jobs in layoffs at the end of the 2010-11 school year.
Resp. to JSUMF ¶ 62. Under Board policy, an
“unsatisfactory” rating is used as a factor when
deciding which teachers to lay off. Id. ¶ 63.
Robertson “was one of the teachers laid off based on
her ‘Unsatisfactory' rating, ” id.
¶ 64, after which she was put in the pool and worked as
a substitute in subsequent years. See Id.
¶¶ 65-66, ...