Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Education Law
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Kellogg testified that when the Indiana Academy hired her as a teacher in 2006, its director, Dr. Williams, told her that she “didn’t need any more [starting salary, $32,000], because he knew [her] husband worked.” In 2017, Kellogg complained to the Dean of Ball State’s Teacher’s College, which oversees the Academy, that she received less pay than her similarly-situated male colleagues. The Dean responded that “[t]he issue [wa]s salary compression, which means those who [we]re hired after [Kellogg] began at a higher salary.” The Dean also noted that Kellogg’s salary increased by 36.45% during her time at the Academy while her colleagues’ salaries increased by less. In Kellogg’s 2018 lawsuit, the district court granted the Academy summary judgment, reasoning that there were undisputed gender-neutral explanations for Kellogg’s pay.The Seventh Circuit reversed. Williams’s statement contradicts the Academy’s explanations for Kellogg’s pay and puts them in dispute. It does not matter that Williams uttered the statement long ago, outside the statute of limitations period. Under the paycheck accrual rule, Williams’s statement can establish liability because it affected paychecks that Kellogg received within the limitations window. Kellogg can rely on Williams’s statement to put the Academy’s explanations in dispute. View "Kellogg v. Ball State University" on Justia Law

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Williams, a Chicago school social worker, suffers from depression, anxiety, and chronic sinusitis. For the 2013–14 school year, Williams received an evaluation score that placed him in the “developing” category, and was given a Professional Development Plan. Social workers' hours depend on the school they are serving on a particular day. The Board denied Williams's first accommodation request, for consistent work hours. During the 2014–15 school year, Williams was cited for interrupting a teacher, failing to read a student’s individual educational plan before a meeting, speaking inappropriately about his personal life, making personal calls during school hours, and failing to report to work. Williams was twice denied titles that may be awarded to “proficient” social workers. Williams filed a discrimination charge and another accommodation request, seeking a consistent start time, a reduced caseload, and assignment to a single school. The Board denied these requests but assigned him to schools with 7:45 a.m. start times. Williams's third accommodation request sought a private office, dedicated equipment, and exemption from evaluations. The Board supplied Williams with HEPA filters, computer monitors, and access to a private meeting space; it denied his other requests. Williams was not selected for special assessment teams because he did not have the “proficient” rating and was not bilingual. He filed his second charge of discrimination.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 42 U.S.C. 12101, and Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, rejecting claims that the Board discriminated against Williams because of his disability and gender, failed to accommodate his disability, and retaliated against him for filing discrimination claims. View "Williams v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Johnson, a student at North Central, reported that she had been raped at an apartment complex by two classmates, Froschauer and Risley. North Central Principal Kirk was aware of a previous rape allegation against Froschauer, made by one of Johnson’s friends. Pending investigations by the Department of Child Services and the sheriff’s department, Principal Kirk issued a no‐contact order between Johnson and Froschauer. The school’s lawyers advised Principal Kirk not to “negatively impact [Froschauer’s] track to graduate on time based on unsubstantiated allegations.” Johnson’s physician and Hawker had requested that Johnson be placed in homebound schooling. Principal Kirk placed Johnson in homebound schooling so that she could avoid her morning classes with Froschauer. She still went to school in the afternoons. The prosecutor did not file criminal charges against Froschauer. The sheriff’s department would not release details of the investigation to the school. Her family refused to allow the school to interview Johnson for a Title IX investigation. Johnson subsequently alleged some bullying at school and obtained a protective order against Froschauer. Johnson alleged additional harassment and eventually withdrew from North Central.In her suit under Title IX, 20 U.S.C. 1681(a), the district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Johnson waived any arguments regarding the district court’s evidentiary rulings. The school was not deliberately indifferent to Johnson’s claims of sexual harassment, View "Johnson v. Northeast School Corp." on Justia Law

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In 2013, Siddique applied for a temporary student-government position at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His application was said to have been rejected because he did not meet a minimum-enrollment requirement crafted for the position. Siddique argued that his application was rejected not because of the enrollment criteria but because of his critical stances against members of the University administration who worked with the student government and who were involved with the application process.Siddique sued University officials in their individual capacities, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violation of his First Amendment right to be free from governmental retaliation. The district court determined that qualified immunity prevented Siddique’s claim from proceeding. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Federal law does not clearly establish that enforcing an enrollment requirement for a student-government position violates the First Amendment. The right to public employment free from retaliation is not at issue and any violation of state law is irrelevant. View "Siddique v. Laliberte" on Justia Law

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In 2009 Allen-Noll, who is African-American, was hired by Madison Area Technical College as a nursing instructor. Beginning in 2010, Allen-Noll was criticized for her teaching methods. Students complained that she was “rude, condescending, and defensive” in class. In 2011 complaints about Allen-Noll resurfaced from students and the tutor assigned to her class, who criticized Allen-Noll for not timely posting grades and making study guides available and for failing too many students. Allen-Noll’s clinical class also complained that she failed to follow the rules on cell phone use and did not complete paperwork. Allen-Noll was assigned a faculty mentor. Allen-Noll filed a complaint with the College, alleging discrimination and harassment based on her skin color, Complaints about Allen-Noll’s teaching continued. Other faculty said she would not participate in team meetings or volunteer for the extra service expected of full-time faculty. When her teaching contract was not renewed, Allen-Noll sued, alleging racial discrimination and harassment. After discovery, the college moved for summary judgment, but Allen-Noll failed to follow the court’s procedures. The record was largely established by the defendants’ submissions, and the college prevailed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding the appeal frivolous and granting the college’s request to sanction Allen-Noll and her lawyer. View "Allen-Noll v. Madison Area Technical College" on Justia Law

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Adams, superintendent of the school district in 2013-2016, requested a forensic audit of the district’s expenditures and subsequently had disputes with board members that involved Adams filing a police complaint. The Board of Education revoked an offer to extend her three-year contract. Adams suspended the district’s business manager for financial irregularities. The Board blocked her email and told state education officials that Adams was no longer superintendent. Adams filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. A jury awarded $400,000 in damages.The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding that the police report was not a personal grievance, but a matter of public concern within the scope of the First Amendment. The potential for physical altercations between public officials implies that an important public institution was not working properly, particularly given that a proposed forensic audit “seems to have unsettled at least one" Board member. The police report and the controversy more generally could have affected the outcome of elections and the daily management of the school system. The record permitted a reasonable jury to find that an ordinary employee in Adams’s position would be deterred from speaking by the prospect of losing her job and was permitted to consider the possibility that Adams would have remained on the job longer had she kept silent. Damages for a First Amendment violation are not limited by the duration of contracts. View "Adams v. Board of Education Harvey School District 152" on Justia Law

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Speech First challenged University of Illinois policies that allegedly impermissibly chill the speech of its student members. The Bias Assessment and Response Team (BART) responds to reports of bias-motivated incidents. Most students contacted by BART either do not respond or decline to meet; they suffer no consequences. If a student agrees to meet, BART staff explains that the student's conduct drew attention and gives the student an opportunity to reflect upon her behavior. BART’s reports are not referred to the University Police. The University Housing Bias Incident Protocol addresses bias-motivated incidents committed within University housing. There are no sanctions or discipline associated with a reported incident. When a student breaches his housing contract or violates University policy, there is a separate disciplinary process. Expression of the views described in the complaint would not contravene housing contracts nor violate any University policies. Individuals subject to student discipline may be subject to “No Contact Directives” (NCDs) and prohibited from communication with identified parties. NCDs do not constitute disciplinary findings and are not part of the students’ official disciplinary records. An NCD does not prohibit the student from talking or writing about the other. The University has not investigated or punished any members of Speech First under any of the challenged policies.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction. Speech First failed to demonstrate that its members face a credible fear that they will face discipline on the basis of their speech as a result of the policies. View "Speech First, Inc. v. Killeen" on Justia Law

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Joll, an accomplished runner and an experienced running coach, had been a middle school teacher for more than 25 years. She applied for a job as the assistant coach of a high school girls’ cross-country team. The school hired a younger man for the job but invited Joll to apply for the same position on the boys’ team. She did so but the school hired a younger man again. She filed suit for sex and age discrimination. After discovery, the district court granted summary judgment for the school district, concluding that Joll had not offered enough evidence of either form of discrimination to present to a jury.The Seventh Circuit reversed, stating that the district court apparently asked “whether any particular piece of evidence proves the case by itself,” rather than aggregating the evidence “to find an overall likelihood of discrimination.” Joll offered evidence that would allow a reasonable jury to find that the school district used hiring procedures tilted in favor of the male applicants, applied sex-role stereotypes during the interview process, and manipulated the criteria for hiring in ways that were inconsistent except that they always favored the male applicants. View "Joll v. Valparaiso Community Schools" on Justia Law

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Mascow, a teacher who had tenure under Illinois law, was laid off in 2017. Because her latest rating was “unsatisfactory,” she was first in line for layoff when the school lost one position and lacked any recall rights if the school district began hiring again—as it did. She sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the Due Process Clause entitled her to a hearing before the layoff and that the “unsatisfactory” rating violated the First Amendment. Mascow became co-president of the Union in 2010. Her First Amendment claim rests on her actions in 2014 and 2015 in notifying administrators that planned activities would violate the collective bargaining agreement. The school canceled one event and revised the other. The district court rejected both claims, reasoning that a reasonable jury could not find that the 2014 and 2015 meetings caused a reduction in Mascow’s ratings, noting that Mascow’s co-president, who attended the 2015 meeting, retained an “excellent” rating. The Seventh Circuit affirmed with respect to the First Amendment but vacated with respect to the due process claim. Neither the district judge nor the parties’ briefs addressed how teachers can obtain review of their ratings and whether those opportunities satisfy the constitutional need for “some kind of hearing.” View "Mascow v. Board of Education of Franklin Park School District No. 84" on Justia Law

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Barnes works in facilities management at UIC, reporting to Donovan. UIC hired Barnes in 2008 as an operating engineer and later promoted him to assistant chief engineer. In 2015, a chief engineer retired. UIC identified 11 candidates, including Barnes, who received one of the top-three exam scores and met the minimum qualifications. Barnes and another candidate were African-American; nine candidates were white. Donavan interviewed the candidates without looking at personnel files or performance evaluations. Donovan selected Civito. Civito and Barnes both have several decades of education and relevant experience. Donovan had interviewed Barnes for 15-30 minutes. Barnes did not bring anything with him to the interview, nor had he been asked to. Donovan interviewed Civito for about 20 minutes. Civito, unprompted, brought written materials including his résumé, a letter of reference, a proposal to solve problems with a UIC building, and training items he developed. Barnes sued, alleging that UIC had a practice of not promoting African-Americans to the chief engineer level. Barnes learned during discovery that in performance reviews by the same supervisor, he had received a higher score than Civito. Donovan claimed that he selected Civito because he came to his interview fully prepared,, articulated the most thoughtful approach to the position and demonstrated a commitment to professional development. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. Barnes lacked sufficient evidence to support a prima facie case of discrimination or to allow the inference that the legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason offered for hiring Civito was pretextual. View "Barnes v. Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois" on Justia Law