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Castillo v. Board of Education of City of Chicago

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

April 24, 2018

ELIZABETH CASTILLO, a Minor, by Her Mother, Esperanza Castillo, ESPERANZA CASTILLO, ROSALINO CASTILLO, MARIA CASTILLO, YESENIA CASTILLO, and ENRIQUE CASTILLO, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 16 L 267, The Honorable Kathy M. Flanagan, Judge, presiding.

          HYMAN JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Neville and Justice Mason concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          HYMAN JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Elizabeth Castillo, a high school student, and her family sued the Chicago Board of Education, after Estrella Martinez, a fellow student, physically attacked her off-campus. Castillo alleged that school officials failed to protect Castillo from Martinez's on-campus harassment and eventual off-campus attack. The trial court held that the Board was immune from suit.

         ¶ 2 We affirm because that is what the law requires. The Board's alleged failure to prevent on-campus harassment depended on discretionary decisions regarding school discipline. And its alleged failure to protect Castillo from an off-campus attack involves police protection. In both areas, the Board has statutory immunity. Finally, Castillo did not sufficiently allege that the Board spoiled evidence by not preserving a diary where she recorded Martinez's harassment.

         ¶ 3 Background

         ¶ 4 According to Castillo's suit, Martinez physically attacked her off-campus. Before the attack, Martinez had previously attacked Castillo on school grounds, in front of school officials, including once on the day of the off-campus attack. In the two years before the attack, Castillo's mother had spoken several times to school officials about Martinez harassing Castillo at school. Castillo's mother called the school just before the attack to complain about Martinez, but no one would talk to her. After the attack, Castillo's mother went to the school to retrieve the contents of Castillo's locker, including a diary in which her daughter had written about the harassment; but school officials refused to give Castillo's belongings to her mother, and the diary was never found.

         ¶ 5 Castillo alleged that the Board had been negligent by allowing Martinez to remain a student despite her conduct; failing to prevent Martinez's harassment or the attack by expelling her, calling the police or the girls' parents, or providing a safe place on school grounds for Castillo to wait and avoid Martinez; and failing to warn Castillo of Martinez's planned attack. Castillo also alleged that the Board had committed spoliation of evidence by losing, destroying, or failing to preserve her diary.

         ¶ 6 The Board moved to dismiss Castillo's complaint, arguing that it was immune because school officials had no duty to perform police functions by preventing Martinez's off-campus attack on Castillo and disciplinary matters are discretionary. The Board also argued that it had no duty to preserve Castillo's diary, that there were no facts alleging that school officials knew about the diary, and that it was not foreseeable that the diary would become important in the eventual lawsuit.

         ¶ 7 The trial court dismissed Castillo's complaint.

         ¶ 8 Standard of Review

         ¶ 9 We review a trial court's dismissal under section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2016)) de novo, taking as true all well-pleaded facts and interpreting pleadings in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Mulvey v. Carl Sandburg High School, 2016 IL App (1st) 151615, ¶ 41.

         ¶ 10 Analysis

         ¶ 11 Castillo frames her brief around whether she sufficiently alleged a cause of action or a prima facie case against the Board. Like the trial court, we will assume that Castillo ...


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