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Mascow v. Board of Education of Franklin Park School District

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

July 18, 2019

CAROLYN MASCOW, and LOCAL 571 OF ILLINOIS FEDERATION OF TEACHERS Plaintiffs,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF FRANKLIN PARK SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 84, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Carolyn Mascow and Local 571 of the Illinois Federation of Teachers (“Plaintiffs”) bring this claim against the Board of Education of Franklin Park District, No. 84 (or “the District”), David Katzin, and Heidy LaFleur (“Defendants”) alleging First Amendment retaliation and a Due Process violation. Currently before the Court is the defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons explained below, defendants' motion is granted.

         Background

          The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. Mascow worked as a Special Education teacher for over 20 years. Local 571 is a teacher's union that represents teachers and school employees across the western suburbs of Chicago. David Katzin is the District's Superintendent. Heidy LaFleur was employed as the Principal of North Elementary School, where Mascow worked.

         The District participates in the Leyden Area Special Education Cooperative (“LASEC”) with other school districts within Leyden Township. Certain students with behavioral and emotional difficulties in the District were assigned to a special education classroom under LASEC's Behavioral Intervention Program (“BIP”).

         Mascow taught a “self-contained” BIP class from the start of her employment with the District. In 2001, Mascow began teaching the BIP class at North Elementary School. Beginning in 2010, Mascow served as Co-President of Local 571. During her time in leadership, Mascow was involved in two union contact negotiations.

         Disagreements Between District and Union

         In July 2014, Principal LaFleur presented the idea of offering a Curriculum Night that would require teachers to stay 30 minutes past their usual schedule. Mascow told LaFleur that she believed the Curriculum Night would violate the union's contract and proposed that the curriculum presentation coincide with an already-scheduled open house. Although she expressed disappointment on Mascow's position, LaFleur accepted the suggestion and held the Curriculum Night during a scheduled open house.

         Over the summer of 2015, Mascow learned of a staff assembly scheduled to be conducted by motivational speaker Jim “Basketball” Jones. In addition to the assemblies organized for parents and students, Jones was scheduled to conduct a presentation for teachers that would exceed the time of a normal staff meeting. On September 2, 2015, Superintendent Katzin met with Mascow and union Co-President Kara Yaussy. Mascow and Yaussy informed Katzin that the union objected to the staff presentation because it would run past their usual time and proposed to either move the presentation date, or pay the teachers for the additional time. Katzin decided to cancel the staff meeting and alerted teachers and staff via e-mail on September 9, 2015.

         Mascow's Employment History

         2014-2015 School Year

         Shortly after the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, Mascow was assigned to a “resource” position in lieu of her normal BIP classroom. In this position, Mascow worked with students in general education classrooms as well as students with individual early intervention plans (“IEPs”).

         During the 2015 evaluation meeting with Mascow, LaFleur rated Mascow in four categories: planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibility. Mascow was rated “excellent” in planning and preparation and classroom environment, and “proficient” in instruction and professional responsibility, finishing with a general rating of “proficient.” LaFleur told Mascow that the time Mascow spent on union activities may have been preventing her from having time to participate in professional development activities such as presentations and attending conferences that would warrant an “excellent” rating in the “professional responsibilities” domain. However, LaFleur included Mascow's leadership within the union as a positive aspect in her performance in a separate component of the evaluation. LaFleur allowed Mascow to submit additional information in support of Mascow's request to increase her rating. After considering the evidence provided by Mascow, LaFleur increased Mascow's rating in one of the categories.

         2015-2016 ...


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