United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
RICHARD & ALLISON BROOKMAN, as parents and next friends of A.B., a minor, Plaintiffs,
REED-CUSTER COMMUNITY UNIT, SCHOOL DISTRICT 255-U; MARK WOLF, individually and as an agent of District 255-U; MIKE MATHIEU, individually and as an agent of District 255-U; BUTCH STAFFORD, individually and as an agent of District 255-U; TIM RICKETTS, individually and as an agent of District 255-U; MICHAEL SMITH, individually and as an agent of District 255-U; and CHUCK ANDERSON, individually and as an agent of District 255-U, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
H. LEFKOW U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
and Allison Brookman, parents of minor A.B., have sued
Reed-Custer Community Unit School District 255-U (“the
District”) and several of its employees after A.B. was
sexually assaulted during a 2017 summer football camp and
bullied after reporting his assault. All defendants have
moved to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) and under
several theories of immunity. (Dkt. 9.) The motion is granted
in part and denied in part.
Summer 2017, as A.B. was about to begin his first year of
high school at Reed-Custer High School
(“Reed-Custer”), he attended the Reed-Custer
football camp. (Id. ¶ 36–38, 40.) Two
upperclassmen began harassing A.B., threatening to rape his
mother and sister. (Id. ¶¶ 42–43.)
When A.B. told them to stop, they escalated the threats,
telling him they would hold him down and force him to watch.
(Id. ¶ 44.)
that day, the same upperclassmen asked if A.B. “wanted
smoke.” (Id. ¶ 45.) When A.B. replied,
“no, ” one of the upperclassmen grabbed A.B. by
the neck and bent him over at the waist while the other
attempted to insert his thumb into A.B.’s anus.
(Id. ¶ 46.) A month later, the two assailants
and two more upperclassmen attempted to assault A.B. again,
this time in assistant coach Mike Mathieu’s presence.
(Id. ¶ 49.) Though no school employees came to
his aid, he was able to escape. (Id.) Ten days after
that, the same four upperclassmen asked A.B. again if he
wanted “smoke.” One of the players then slapped
A.B. in the face twice and tackled him to the ground.
(Id. ¶ 52.) A second player, who weighed about
250 pounds, kneeled on A.B.’s chest and pinned his arms
to the ground. (Id. ¶ 53.) The first player
then kicked A.B.’s ribs and torso. (Id. ¶
56.) A third held A.B.’s legs while a fourth pulled
A.B.’s shorts down and repeatedly attempted to put a
finger into A.B.’s anus. (Id. ¶ 57.)
assault occurred in front of dozens of football players, and
A.B. screamed for help throughout, but no Reed-Custer staff
came to A.B.’s aid. (Id. ¶
One of the assailants picked A.B. off the ground and forced
him to walk past the coaches (head coach Mark Wolf and
assistant coach Mathieu) to collect his t-shirt and shorts,
but the coaches still did not intervene. (Id. ¶
61.) A.B. then collapsed on the ground in tears, in
significant pain and having trouble breathing. (Id.
¶ 62.) Wolf ordered the team to huddle to end practice
and, seeing A.B. on the ground, yelled at him to get up and
join the group. (Id. ¶ 63.) Another
coach-unnamed and not a defendant here-finally asked if A.B.
was all right, but one of the assailants told the coach that
A.B. was fine and that they were only roughhousing.
(Id. ¶ 64.) When A.B.’s mother picked
A.B. up from camp, she took him immediately to the hospital
where he was treated for a bruised sternum and ribs.
(Id. ¶ 68.)
Brookmans allege that “giving smoke” was a
Reed-Custer football hazing ritual that sometimes took place
in the presence of the coaching staff. (Id.
¶¶ 19–20, 23.) Shortly after assaulting A.B.,
the upperclassmen asked coaches Wolf and Mathieu if they
“wanted smoke, ” and the coaches laughed,
suggesting that they understood the meaning. (Id.
¶ 47.) These assaults also formed part of a broader
culture of abuse on the football team; Wolf, for instance,
encouraged players during pre-game pep talks to
“unleash their inner rapist” and “rip
off” their opponents’ genitals. (Id.
Brookmans also allege that the District, principal Tim
Ricketts, and athletic director Chuck Anderson knew or should
have known of this abuse. (Id. ¶¶ 16, 18,
25.) District policy prohibits hazing, bullying, and assault,
and requires employees to report any such behavior.
(Id. ¶¶ 28–35.) Nonetheless, after
Ricketts asked Anderson to investigate the incident, the four
assailants received either modest or no discipline.
(Id. ¶ 76–77.) The football coaches were
not disciplined at all, and they took no corrective action to
address hazing after these assaults. (Id.
¶¶ 78–79.) The school did not contact the
local police department or the Illinois Department of
Children and Family Services. (Id. ¶ 80.)
Indeed, when Allison Brookman contacted the police, Wolf
encouraged football players who witnessed the assault to
“get their story straight.” (Id. ¶
school staff started a campaign to harass and discredit A.B.
when the Fall semester started. Butch Stafford, A.B.’s
gym and history teacher and a close friend of Wolf’s,
regularly marked A.B. tardy when he was on time, which
resulted in A.B.’s receiving detentions. (Id.
¶¶ 84–86.) Stafford once grabbed A.B. by the
shirt, brought his arm back as if to punch him, and
threatened to give A.B. a black eye. (Id. ¶
85.) Many students threatened A.B. and encouraged him to
commit suicide. (Id. ¶ 88.) When A.B. reported
this bullying to Ricketts and assistant principal Michael
Smith, neither would discipline any students. (Id.
¶ 89–90.) Despite Ricketts and Smith’s
assurances to the Brookmans that they would address hazing,
they took no action, and A.B. continued to experience
bullying and hazing. (Id. ¶ 93–96.) A.B.
was eventually diagnosed with major depression and
post-traumatic stress disorder. (Id. ¶ 97.)
Brookmans, individually and on A.B.’s behalf, sued
Reed-Custer and some of its staff, alleging (1) willful and
wanton conduct; (2) intentional infliction of emotional
distress; (3) § 1983 – denial of substantive due
process; (4) § 1983 – denial of equal protection
(class of one); and (5) § 1983 – Monell claim
against the District.
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) challenges a complaint for failure to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted. In ruling on a Rule
12(b)(6) motion, the court accepts as true all well-pleaded
facts in the plaintiff’s complaint and draws all
reasonable inferences from those facts in the
plaintiff’s favor. Active Disposal, 635 F.3d
at 886; Dixon v. Page, 291 F.3d 485, 486 (7th Cir.
2002). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must
not only provide the defendant with fair notice of a
claim’s basis but must also establish that the
requested relief is plausible on its face. See Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009);
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127
S.Ct. 1955 (2007). The allegations in the complaint must be
“enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
At the same time, the plaintiff need not plead legal
theories; it is the facts that count. Hatmaker v.
Mem’l Med. Ctr., 619 F.3d 741, 743 (7th Cir.
2010); see also Johnson v. City of Shelby, 574 U.S.
10, 10, 135 S.Ct. 346 (2014) (per curiam) (“Federal
pleading rules call for a short and plain statement of the
claim showing the pleader is entitled to relief; they do not
countenance dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement
of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted.”
(citation omitted)); McCauley v. City of Chi., 671
F.3d 611, 616 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing Swanson v.
Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010))
(applying Twombly and Iqbal standards to Monell claims).
Willful and Wanton Conduct (Count I)
Brookmans sue “individually and as parents and next
friends of [A.B.]” (Dkt. 1 at 18, 20.) Illinois law
requires that claims against municipal entities and their
employees be filed within one year. 745 Ill. Comp. Stat.
10/8-101(a). But when the claim relates to childhood sexual
abuse, see 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/13-202.2(b), a twenty-year
statute of limitations applies, even when the defendants are
municipal entities or employees. Doe v. Hinsdale High
Sch. Dist. 86, 905 N.E.2d 343, 348–49, 388
Ill.App.3d 995 (2009). The Central District has held that the
longer limitations period applies to claims brought on the
victim’s behalf, but the shorter period applies the
victim’s parents’ individual claims. Doe ex
rel. Doe v. White, 627 F.Supp.2d 905, 915–17 (C.D.
Ill. 2009). The court finds that reasoning persuasive and
agrees that “§ 202.2 . . . is intended to apply
only to actions brought by or on behalf of the person abused,
not persons claiming derivative injury from the child abuse
of someone else.” Id. at 915. The Brookmans
therefore had until July 2018 to file individual claims for
A.B.’s sexual assault but did not file until November
2018. Count I is therefore dismissed as to the
Brookmans’ individual claims.
argue that they are entitled to discretionary immunity under
745 Ill. Comp. Stat. 10/2-201. “[A] public employee
serving in a position involving the determination of policy
or the exercise of discretion is not liable for an injury
resulting from his act or omission in determining policy when
acting in the exercise of such discretion even though
abused.” Id. This immunizes municipal
employees from liability for their discretionary acts, but
not ministerial ones. Malinski v. Grayslake Cmty. High
Sch. Dist. 127, 16 N.E.3d 915, 918, 2014 IL App. (2d)
130685, ¶ 8. “[D]iscretionary acts are those that
are unique to a particular public office, whereas ministerial
acts are those that a person performs on a given set of
facts, in a prescribed manner, in accordance with a mandate
of legal authority, and without reference to the
official’s discretion as to the propriety of that
act.” Id. (citation omitted). Moreover, to
invoke this immunity, the challenged action also must involve
policymaking. Harinek v. 161 N. Clark St. Ltd.
Partners,692 N.E.2d 1177, 1181, 181 Ill.2d 335 (1998).
Policymaking entails “those judgments which require the
[defendant] to balance competing ...