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Davis v. Peoria School District 150

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division

April 23, 2018

HELENA DAVIS, as Mother and Next Friend of T.L., a Minor, Plaintiff,
PEORIA SCHOOL DISTRICT 150, et al., Defendants.



         Now before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss, filed by the following Defendants: the Board of Education of Peoria Public School District No. 150 (“the District”), Darryies Johnson, Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, Geralyn Hammer, and Unknown Supervisors and Officers of Peoria Public School District No. 150. (D. 29).[1] The Plaintiff, Helena Davis, as mother and next friend of T.L., a minor, filed a Response (D. 32) and Memoranda of Law in Support (D. 30); (D. 31). For the reasons set forth below, the Defendants' Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


         The Plaintiff filed her initial Complaint in May 2017 against the Defendants noted above, along with Donald Williams and Renee Andrews. (D. 1). Andrews has since been dismissed from the case. (See the Court's January 19, 2018 text order). The Plaintiff later filed a Second Amended Complaint against the remaining Defendants. (D. 28). She seeks damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“§ 1983”) for alleged violations of her constitutional rights and Illinois state law.

         The Plaintiff's son, T.L., attended a Day Treatment Program for students with emotional disabilities and other behavioral problems at the District's Trewyn School. The Plaintiff alleges the District had a policy and/or custom of encouraging the use of something known as “the box.” (D. 28 at pg. 3). She further asserts that the District's policy “encourage[es] the use of excessive force in placing children in ‘the box'.” Id. The box the Plaintiff refers to is what the Defendants describe as “a safe room used for de-escalation of disruptive and violent behavior of students.” (D. 29 at pg. 3).

         Video footage attached to the Plaintiff's initial Complaint (D. 1), shows that on March 1, 2016, Williams-a teacher's assistant at Trewyn, shoved T.L. into the doorframe while T.L. was walking through the doorway of the box. Shortly thereafter, Williams struck T.L. on the left side of his face with his right hand. The Plaintiff acknowledges that the box is “a locked room used for punishment of unruly children, ” and claims she incorporates the submitted video footage of the incident from her initial Complaint into her Second Amended Complaint. (D. 28 at 3). She further alleges Johnson (the Assistant principal of Trewyn) and Hammer (the Director of Human Resources for the District), were informed of the incident, but Johnson's reaction was “advisory” and “non-disciplinary” which amounts to sanctioning Williams' behavior Id. at pg. 4.

         The Plaintiff argues that it was never legally necessary for Williams “to strike, or use physical force” on T.L. Id. She also alleges the use of force initiated by Williams was “excessive, unreasonable, unnecessary and willful, and recklessly disregarded” her rights. Id. In total, the Plaintiff claims: (1) the District's initial refusal to produce the video to her deprived her of her parental right to fully comfort her child; (2) the District ignored any potential injury T.L. may have had and declined to give him medical treatment or allow him to contact his mother after the incident; (3) Williams and Johnson willfully injured T.L.; and (4) on April 20, 2016, Williams made derogatory remarks toward T.L. about his deceased father. Id. at pp. 4-5.

         As a result of the foregoing events, the Plaintiff alleges she is entitled to damages from the Defendants, pursuant to § 1983, for the following: (1) excessive use of force by Williams, which is also attributed to Kherat-as superintendent of the District-Hammer, and Johnson; (2) Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violations by Johnson, Williams, Kherat, and Hammer; (3) battery by Williams; (4) willful and wanton conduct by Williams, Kherat, Hammer, Johnson, and the District; (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress by Williams; and (6) negligent training and supervision by the District. Id. at pp. 5-16. The Plaintiff further alleges the District is liable for all of Williams' and Johnson's alleged actions by way of the doctrine of respondeat superior and 745 ILCS 10/9-102. Id. at pp. 13-14.

         The remaining Defendants, minus Williams-who is proceeding pro se-now move to dismiss all of the Counts in the Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint directed at them, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (D. 29). The Defendants argue: (1) Counts II and III fail to plead a § 1983 claim against Kherat or Hammer in their individual or official capacities (Id. at pp. 6-10); (2) Count IV fails to state a claim against Johnson (D. 29 at pp. 10-12); (3) Counts VIII, IX, X, and XI fail to state a cause of action for willful and wanton conduct under Illinois law (Id. at pp. 12-13); (4) Counts XII and XIV fail to state a cause of action against the District under respondeat superior (Id. at pp. 13-15); (5) Counts XIII and XIV must be dismissed because agency principles are not applicable to § 1983 claims (Id. at pp. 15-16); (6) Count XV fails to state a cause of action for negligent supervision and is barred by the Illinois' Tort Immunity Act (Id. at pp. 16-19); and (7) the Plaintiff's request for punitive damages should be stricken (Id. at pp. 19-20).

         Legal Standard

         In reviewing the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court accepts the Plaintiff's factual allegations as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Allegations stated in the form of legal conclusions, however, are insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. McReynolds v. Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., 694 F.3d 873, 885 (7th Cir. 2012). A complaint must contain a short and plain statement of the plaintiff's claim, sufficient to show entitlement to relief and to notify the defendants of the allegations against them. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007). This standard is met if the plaintiff describes in sufficient factual detail enough to suggest a right to relief beyond a speculative level. Id.; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); EEOC v. Concentra Health Srvs., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007). In short, “the plaintiff must give enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds together. In other words, the court will ask itself could these things have happened, not did they happen.” Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010) (emphasis in original).


         First, the Defendants allege that Counts II and III of the Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint fail to plead a § 1983 claim against Kherat or Hammer in their individual or official capacities. (D. 29 at pp. 6-10). They claim the Plaintiff “fails to explicitly state in which capacity the claims are actually brought.” Id. at pg. 7. The Plaintiff asserts that she has clearly brought these counts against Kherat and Hammer in both capacities. (D. 31 at pp. 2-3).

         In order to bring an individual capacity claim under § 1983 for Williams' alleged constitutional violations, the Plaintiff must prove Kherat or Hammer knew about the conduct, facilitated it, approved it, condoned it, or turned a blind eye toward it. Jones v. City of Chicago, 856 F.2d 985, 992 (7th Cir. 1988). More bluntly, “[t]o be held liable for ...

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