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Afogho v. Illinois Central School District 104 Board of Education

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 30, 2019

THEOPHILUS and STEPHANIE AFOGHO, as parents and next friends of A.A., a minor, TODD PORTER, individually and as parent and next friend of C.P., a minor, MARCUS GREGORY, and CHRISTOPHER BOYKIN, Plaintiffs,
v.
ILLINOIS CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT 104 BOARD OF EDUCATION, ANDREA HEURING, EMILY WEBER, DEREK MORGAN, individually and as co-president of the Illinois Central Federation of Teachers and Support Staff Local Union 4673, and SARAH SVOBODA, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint filed by Defendant Illinois Central School District 104 Board of Education (“the Board”) and Defendant Sarah Svoboda (“Svoboda”) (Doc. 73) and a Motion to Dismiss Count 10 filed by Defendant Derek Morgan (“Morgan”) (Doc. 74). For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the Motion to Dismiss filed by the Board and Svoboda (Doc. 73) and grants in part and denies in part the Motion to Dismiss Count 10 filed by Morgan (Doc. 74).

         Factual Background

         This is an action alleging unlawful racial discrimination and retaliation by the board of education of an Illinois public school district, as well as by the district's board president and certain of its teachers (Doc. 68, p. 1). Illinois Central School District 104 is located in O'Fallon, Illinois, and consists of two schools: Central Elementary School (“CES”) and Joseph Arthur Middle School (“JAMS”). The minor plaintiffs are two mixed-race students[1] who attended JAMS and were members of the Student Council.

         On January 18, 2017, the JAMS Student Council conducted a meeting (Doc. 68, ¶ 20). Among the students and teachers at the meeting were the minor plaintiffs, A.A. and C.P., and defendant Andrea Heuring (“Heuring”), a teacher and Student Council Advisor (Id. at ¶ 21-24). At the meeting, Heuring referred to A.A. and C.P. as her “slaves” in front of other students and forced them to perform personal tasks for her (Id. at p. 68). Specifically, “Heuring referred to C.P. as her ‘slave' and ‘Slave Number Four,' and further directed C.P. to get her jacket . . . When a Caucasian student asked Heuring if he could also be her slave, she told him no, but stated that A.A. was also her ‘slave' and referred to A.A. as ‘Slave Number One because she's been with me the longest.' When C.P. returned to the room with Heuring's jacket, Heuring again referred to C.P. as ‘Slave Number Four.'” (Id. at ¶ 21-24 (emphasis in original)). The Second Amended Complaint refers to this as the “January 18, 2017 Slave Incident.” (Id. at ¶ 34).

         On January 19, 2017, C.P.'s mother, Krista Porter, and A.A.'s mother, Stephanie Afogho, reported the statements made by Heuring to the Superintendent, John Bute. From thereon, C.P.'s parents, Krista and Todd Porter, and A.A.'s parents, Stephanie and Theophilus Afogho, repeatedly reported and complained to the Board and Defendant Svoboda, the President of the Board, about the racial discrimination (Id. at ¶ 29). The Second Amended Complaint alleges that, as a result of the efforts by Plaintiffs to report and oppose the racial discrimination, Defendants undertook actions to intimidate and retaliate against C.P., A.A., their parents, and others who associated with them (Id. at ¶ 30).

         C.P.'s father, Todd Porter, was the coach of the JAMS boys' basketball team (Id. at ¶ 32). Plaintiffs allege that, after the January 18, 2017 Slave Incident, several African American JAMS students began to appear on the “F List, ” which disallowed them from participating on the basketball team (Id. at ¶ 34). On February 8, 2017, the Board held an emergency meeting where Plaintiff Marcus Gregory, an African American JAMS assistant basketball coach, questioned why so many African American students were being placed on the “F List” (Id. at ¶ 42). At a regular school board meeting held on February 13, 2017, Stephanie Afogho, Krista Porter, and Gregory voiced their concerns and complaints about the January 18, 2017 Slave Incident (Id. at ¶ 45-46). At this meeting, another African American JAMS assistant basketball coach, Plaintiff Christopher Boykin, sat with a group of parents of African American and mixed-race children who showed their support for C.P., A.A., and their parents (Id. at ¶ 47).

         On February 16, 2017 the Board held another special school board meeting. The Second Amended Complaint alleges that Defendant Heuring contacted a high school student via Facebook to “rally” students on her behalf (Id. at ¶ 49-56). The high school students were permitted to speak by the Board and Defendant Svoboda in opposition to, and in retaliation of, Plaintiffs' complaints of racial discrimination (Id. at ¶ 59). After speaking before the Board, the group of high school students met in a classroom for pizza provided by Heuring, Defendant Emily Weber (a teacher for Illinois Central School District 104), and Defendant Derek Morgan (a teacher for Illinois Central School District 104) (Id. at ¶ 60).

         Defendants Heuring, Weber, and Svoboda were members of the Illinois Central Federation of Teachers and Support Staff Local Union 4673, and Morgan was the co-president of that union (Id. at ¶ 64 and 65). At the encouragement of one or more of the defendants, a group of teachers, including Heuring, Weber, and Morgan, appeared at the February 13 and February 16 board meetings wearing matching teacher union shirts and sitting in the front rows (Id. at ¶ 66-67, 71). The Second Amended Complaint alleges that Defendants did this in order to intimidate Plaintiffs (Id. at ¶ 71). Defendants Svoboda and the Board allegedly permitted the actions of Defendants Heuring, Weber, and/or Morgan to intimidate and retaliate against Plaintiffs (Id.).

         C.P.'s father, Todd Porter, took the JAMS varsity basketball team to the Illinois State Tournament for the first time in the school's history (Id. at ¶ 100). Todd Porter was selected as “Co-Coach of the Year” by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association, the first time a JAMS coach had been nominated for the award (Id. at ¶ 100-104). The Second Amended Complaint alleges that, despite these unprecedented achievements, on May 8, 2017, the Board held a meeting where it approved the non-renewal of Todd Porter's contract for the following year (Id.). The Board also approved the non-renewal of Gregory's and Boykin's (both assistant basketball coaches) contracts (Id.). On May 11, 2017, Svoboda signed letters addressed to Porter, Gregory, and Boykin terminating their services effective May 22, 2017 (Id. at ¶ 105). The letters invited the coaches to reapply for any positions available the following school year (Id.). After reapplying for their respective coaching positions, Porter, Gregory, and Boykin were never interviewed (Id. at ¶ 107). As a result of the failure to rehire Porter, Gregory, and Boykin, one member of the Board during the 2016-17 school year, Chris Monroe, resigned by saying:

“[W]hen do we no longer hire the best candidate for an open position? Last spring we terminated a coach that led our kids to the State Tournament Final Four and was Coach of the Year [Todd]. My belief is that we hire the best person regardless of age, gender, race or nationality. . . . I have lost confidence that this Board can make an unbiased decision.”

(Id. at ¶ 109). The Board decided to re-hire coach Bill Brunner, a Caucasian male who had not voiced any opposition to racial discrimination and retaliation at the board meetings (Id. at ¶ 110).

         On January 16, 2018, Plaintiffs filed this case in federal court (Doc. 1). On October 3, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint alleging the following 28 counts (Doc. 68):

1. A.A. and C.P. against the Board -- Violation of Title VI (Discrimination)
2. A.A. and C.P. against the Board -- Violation of Title VI (Retaliation)
3. A.A. and C.P. against the Board -- Violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003 (Discrimination)
4. A.A. and C.P. against the Board -- Violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003 (Retaliation)
5. A.A. and C.P. against the Board -- 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Discrimination)
6. A.A. and C.P. against the Board -- 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Retaliation)
7. A.A. and C.P. against Heuring -- 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Discrimination)
8. A.A. and C.P. against Heuring -- 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Retaliation)
9. A.A. and C.P. against Weber -- 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Retaliation)
10. A.A. and C.P. against Morgan -- 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Retaliation)
11. Todd Porter, Marcus Gregory and Christopher Boykin against the Board --Violation of Title VI (Discrimination)
12. Todd Porter, Marcus Gregory and Christopher Boykin against the Board --Violation of Title VI (Retaliation)
13. Todd Porter, Marcus Gregory and Christopher Boykin against the Board --Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Discrimination)
14. Todd Porter, Marcus Gregory and Christopher Boykin against the Board --Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Retaliation)
15. Todd Porter, Marcus Gregory, and Christopher Boykin against the Board --Violation of the Illinois Civil Rights ...

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