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Doe v. Chicago Board of Education

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

August 2, 2019

John Doe, by and through Mother Doe, as parent and next friend, Plaintiff,
v.
Chicago Board of Education, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Manish S. Shah United States District Judge

         Kindergartener John Doe was inappropriately touched by a classmate in his school bathroom. Now, through his mother, Doe brings suit against the Chicago Board of Education, claiming that the Board violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a), by discriminating against him on the basis of his sex and that the Board was negligent in training its staff to protect students from sexual abuse and in supervising its staff and students. The Board moves for summary judgment. For the reasons below, the motion is granted.

         I. Legal Standards

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the Board shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). There is a genuine dispute over a material fact if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). As the movant, the Board bears the burden of establishing that the summary judgment standard is met, but Doe must provide evidence to establish every element of his claim for which he will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). I construe the facts in the light most favorable to Doe and draw reasonable inferences from them in his favor. Laborers' Pension Fund v. W.R. Weis Co., Inc., 879 F.3d 760, 766 (7th Cir. 2018).

         II. Background

         A. Local Rule 56.1

         Local Rule 56.1 is the rule that governs summary judgment filings in this district, and it is an important one. Summary judgment motions often hinge on factual disputes, and efficiently isolating which facts are in dispute and why requires organization and adherence to common rules. For this reason, the Seventh Circuit “has consistently upheld district judges' discretion to require strict compliance with Local Rule 56.1.” Flint v. City of Belvidere, 791 F.3d 764, 767 (7th Cir. 2015) (collecting cases).

         Doe's response to the Board's statement of material facts runs afoul of the rule. The first issue is its form. The response must consist of “numbered paragraphs, each corresponding to and stating a concise summary of the paragraph to which it is directed.” L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(A). In other words, “the nonmovant's response should mirror the movant's statement in form (i.e. paragraph one of the response should correspond to paragraph one of the movant's statement).” Malec v. Sanford, 191 F.R.D. 581, 584 (N.D. Ill. 2000). The 22 paragraphs of Doe's response do not correspond to the 75 paragraphs in the Board's statement of facts; instead, they lump responses to facts together. See, e.g., [97] ¶ 1[1] (“Plaintiff does not dispute any of the facts set forth in ¶¶ 1 through 7.”). That is not the proper way to respond. Part of the problem with deviating from the rule-mandated form is that it is easier for facts to get lost, which may be what happened here. Doe did not respond to several of the Board's facts. See [97] ¶¶ 30-32, 34, 48-50, 54, 56-57, 60, 63-64, 72. The omissions may be inadvertent or intentional, but either way, the facts are deemed admitted as a result. See L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(C).

         Another issue is that, contrary to the rule, id., Doe asserts new facts in his responses to the Board's facts. Take this response, for example:

5. Plaintiff does not dispute any of the facts set forth in ¶¶ 17 through 23, but adds that Mr. Adams is unable to say if there was any unwanted sexual contact between the boys such as genital touching because all he could see from his side of the closed bathroom stall was the boys' pants and underwear around their ankles. (Exh. 2, p. 70). He did not have a clear line of vision.

[97] ¶ 5 (emphasis added). Doe has no license to append an additional fact in this paragraph. By slipping additional facts into his responses in this way, Doe deprives the Board of an opportunity to respond to them. So, I disregard any facts Doe improperly asserted in his responses to the Board's facts.

         When Doe does dispute facts, he sometimes fails to cite “specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon.” L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(B). See, e.g., [97] ¶ 13 (disputing the Board's fact about a safety plan that kept two boys separated by asserting, without citation, that the safety plan failed to keep them separated). Disputes without specific citations to evidence supporting them do not controvert the Board's facts, and those facts are deemed admitted. See L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(C).

         The Board also takes issue with Doe's statement of additional facts, arguing that some of the facts are immaterial, contain legal argument, and lack citations to the record. Where any of those things are true of a fact, I disregard it.[2]

         III. ...


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