April 19, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:14-cv-00057 -
John Z. Lee, Judge.
Ripple, Manion, and Kanne, Circuit Judges.
Manion, Circuit Judge.
DiPerna was a student pursuing a master's degree in
clinical psychology at The Chicago School of Professional
Psychology (TCSPP), a private, non-profit institution. After
TCSPP disciplined DiPerna for posting an image to her
personal Instagram account that TCSPP considered offensive,
DiPerna filed this lawsuit alleging breach of contract and
year after DiPerna filed her complaint, one of her professors
accused her of plagiarism. A hearing was held before a school
committee, and DiPerna was dismissed. She amended her
complaint to include claims related to her dismissal.
proceedings below, DiPerna voluntarily withdrew some of her
claims, and the district court granted summary judgment to
TCSPP on all the others. DiPerna now challenges the district
court's conclusions. We affirm.
issues with TCSPP began in the spring of 2013. That semester,
DiPerna enrolled in a course titled "Diversity in
Clinical Practice." One of the assignments in that
course was a group project. DiPerna, a white woman, was in a
group with a student named Shakira,  a black woman. While they
were together, DiPerna and Shakira got into a discussion
about "privilege." This discussion prompted Shakira
to email their instructor, Dr. Patricia Perez, with
"concerns about [DiPerna's] ability to work with
clients of a diverse background." When
DiPerna's group met with Dr. Perez, DiPerna again got
into a discussion about privilege, this time with a different
these incidents, DiPerna complained to various TCSPP
officials that she was the subject of harassment and
bullying. She claimed people were calling her "color
blind," making comments, and pointing at her. Despite
her complaints, TCSPP took no action. DiPerna tried to
withdraw from the class, but was told she could not as it was
too far into the semester.
summer, DiPerna posted an image with a racial slur on her
personal Instagram account. Two black students at TCSPP
complained to a professor. On August 1, 2013, DiPerna met
with Dr. Virginia Quiňonez, Department Chair, and Dr.
Luke Mudd, Associate Department Chair. DiPerna defended
herself on the grounds that the posting was supposed to be
humorous. She also objected to being punished when Shakira,
whose posts contained similar language, was not.
Quiňonez and Mudd referred DiPerna to the Student
Affairs Committee (SAC). After a hearing, the SAC ordered
DiPerna to complete an Academic Development Plan
(ADP) and delayed her entry into an internship
program. Though TCSPP allowed for an internal appeal of that
decision, DiPerna did not pursue one. On January 3, 2014,
DiPerna filed the instant lawsuit, citing the federal
diversity jurisdiction statute and alleging claims for breach
of contract and negligence.
continued in school while the lawsuit was pending. In 2015,
she took a required seminar course taught by Dr. Kristin
Davisson. As part of that course, DiPerna completed a
"Clinical Competency Examination" (CCE), which
required her to set out a specific psychological theory and
discuss how she applied it to her clinical experiences with a
portion of the CCE in which she discusses the theory she
applied was called the "Conceptualization" or
"Case Formulation" section. When Dr. Davisson was
reviewing DiPerna's CCE, she began to suspect DiPerna had
plagiarized that section. Dr. Davisson noticed the writing
style in that section was different from other sections of
the paper and from DiPerna's previous work. Dr. Davisson
particularly noted it was more sophisticated in word choice
and frequency of sources.
Davisson's suspicions caused her to input some sentences
from the paper as the terms in a Google search. After that
search revealed a match, Dr. Davisson decided to run the
paper through turnitin.com (Turnitin), a webbased program
that compares submitted writings against a database of
potential sources. This was the first time Dr. Davisson had
used Turnitin in some time.
Davisson only had a hard copy of DiPerna's paper, so she
personally typed DiPerna's conceptualization section
(about two pages of text) into Turnitin. Turnitin returned a
92% similarity score, meaning it concluded 92% of the
conceptualization section was similar to material found in
other sources. Turnitin provided a list of sources that
included psychology publications, a website, and other
Davisson reported these results to then Interim Department
Chair Dr. Mudd. Dr. Mudd told Dr. Davisson to request an
electronic copy of the paper from DiPerna so that she could
run the entire paper through Turnitin, rather than just the
one section. Dr. Davisson did so, and that reduced the
similarity score to 10%. Nevertheless, the conceptualization
section was still extensively flagged. Dr. Mudd performed
some independent verification of Turnitin's results and
referred DiPerna to the SAC.
to her hearing before the SAC, DiPerna received notice that
nine people would make up the committee. When she showed up
for her hearing on May 12, 2015, the committee did not have
nine members. Nevertheless, the hearing proceeded. DiPerna
argued she was being retaliated against for her lawsuit and
that her 10% similarity score was insufficient to ...