G.P. v. Claypool

Decision Date12 June 2020
Docket NumberCase No. 17-cv-1891
Citation466 F.Supp.3d 875
Parties G.P., a minor; K.P., on her own behalf and as mother and next of friend to G.P., Plaintiffs, v. Forrest CLAYPOOL, in his official capacity as Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Board of Education; Chicago Board of Education, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois

Charles Robert Petrof, Access Living, Max A. Stein, Boodell & Domanskis, LLC, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiffs.

Kathleen Marie Gibbons, Board of Education of the City of Chicago, Chicago, IL, for Defendant Forest Claypool.

Kathleen Marie Gibbons, Elizabeth Kathleen Barton, Board of Education of the City of Chicago, Chicago, IL, for Defendant Chicago Board of Education.

Forest Claypool, pro se.


Robert M. Dow, Jr., United States District Judge

Before the Court are Plaintiffsmotion for partial summary judgment [72] and Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment [75]. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffsmotion for partial summary judgment [72] is denied, and Defendant's cross motion for summary judgment [75] is granted. Final judgment will be entered in favor of Defendants and against Plaintiffs under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58. Civil case terminated.1

I. Background

Generally, the Court deals with cross-motions for summary judgment one at a time, construing all facts and drawing all reasonable inference in favor of the non-moving party. Black Earth Meat Mkt., LLC v. Vill. of Black Earth , 834 F.3d 841, 847 (7th Cir. 2016). Because the disputed issues in this case center on legal issues, see [82 at 2], the Court does not do so here. Moreover, the Court grants Defendant's motion for summary judgment, so it a fortiori denies Plaintiffspartial motion seeking the same relief. Accordingly, to the extent that any inferences could be made, the Court makes them in favor of Plaintiff. The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. "When we cite as undisputed a statement of fact that a party has attempted to dispute, it reflects our determination that the evidence cited in the response does not show that the fact is in genuine dispute." King v. Chapman , 4 F.Supp.3d 1017 , 1022 (N.D. Ill. 2013).

The Court must first address Defendant's arguments about Plaintiffs’ compliance with Local Rule 56.1.2 Local Rule 56.1(b)(3) requires a party opposing summary judgment to file a response to the movant's Rule 56.1 statement with numbered paragraphs responding to "each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon," as well as "a statement, consisting of short numbered paragraphs, of any additional facts that require the denial of summary judgment, including references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon." A Local Rule 56.1 statement is not the place for legal argumentation and unsupported denials. It is "well within the district court's discretion" to strictly enforce Local Rule 56.1. Wilson v. Kautex, Inc. , 371 Fed. Appx. 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2010) (affirming district court's requirement of strict compliance with Local Rule 56.1 for pro se litigant).

Defendant argues that certain of PlaintiffsLocal Rule 56.1(b)(3) responses are non-compliant because they are unsupported by citations to the record, are purely argumentative, or embedded new facts within their responses as opposed to filing a separate statement of additional facts. Most of these disputes, however, trace back to Defendant's use of legal jargon in their own statements of fact. See, e.g. , [83, ¶ 29 (Defendant asserting, and Plaintiffs denying, that certain accommodations were "reasonable") ]. Plaintiffs’ pointing out that the "reasonableness" of any accommodation is a legal conclusion does not violate the Local Rule, and the Court properly disregards such of Plaintiffs(and Defendant's) statements that speak to legal, as opposed to factual, conclusions. Others of Plaintiffs’ denials involve semantic hair-splitting that ultimately has no bearing on the factual or legal issues in this case. See, e.g. , [id. , ¶¶ 11–12 (disputing whether Defendant's disability accommodation "team" is really a "team" because parents were not included in decision making, even though Defendant admitted that the parents had no final say in decision making).]3

To the extent that Plaintiffs dispute word choice, the Court considers the underlying facts admitted. That said, the Court must consider the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, so as the Court analyzes Defendant's motion for summary judgment, it must draw all inferences against Defendant, which is essentially all that Plaintiffs’ denials ask the Court to do.

Finally, Plaintiffs weave new facts into their denials without following the proper procedure. The requirement that each new fact be included in a separate list is not idle: the purpose of the Local Rule is to simplify matters for both the parties and the Court by clearly delineating what facts are actually in dispute. Interweaving new facts, old facts, legal argumentation, and unsupported statements make it difficult to discern where the factual disputes actually lie. Nonetheless, the Court reviewed all of the statements at issue and concluded that with one exception, all are immaterial for the reasons discussed above or are ultimately irrelevant because the Court does not reach the issue. The most important disputed fact raised in Plaintiffs’ response is whether G.P. was given an option of what accessible school she would like to attend. Defendant claims that G.P. was given a choice between two Montessori schools. [83, ¶ 15.] Citing a new affidavit attached to their Local Rule 56.1 response, Plaintiffs dispute that any choice was given, claiming that only one option (Oscar Mayer Magnet School) was ever on the table. See [id. ("At no time did CPS ‘offer’ or otherwise require G.P. to transfer to Suder [Montessori Magnet School].") ]. Elsewhere, however, Plaintiff concedes that "[Defendant] continues to offer to transfer G.P. to either Suder or Mayer immediately." [Id. , ¶ 33.] Because Plaintiffs’ denial is internally contradictory and improperly introduces new facts, the Court deems Defendant's Fact Statement ¶ 15 admitted.

The case at bar concerns the extent of a school district's legal obligations to accommodate a student who develops mobility issues and can no longer access her school. Plaintiff G.P. attends Drummond Montessori Magnet School ("Drummond"), a school with a Montessori curriculum operated by Defendant Chicago Board of Education ("Defendant," though it is also commonly known as Chicago Public Schools ("CPS")) and located in a building owned by Defendant (the "Drummond Building"). [85, ¶ 2.] Construction on the Drummond Building began in 1891 and a neighborhood elementary school officially opened in the building in 1893. [83, ¶ 34.] In 2004, Defendant converted the neighborhood school into the city's first public Montessori school. [85, ¶¶ 12–13]; [83, ¶ 41.] Soon thereafter, two additional public Montessori schools, the Oscar Mayer Magnet School and the Suder Montessori Magnet School, were established. [88, ¶ 15.]

Montessori curricula have several distinctive features. Classrooms are organized by "cycle," with three grades in each classroom rather than the traditional single grade per classroom. By way of illustration, the cycles at Drummond consist of: (a) pre-K and kindergarten, (b) first-through-third grades, (c) fourth through sixth grades, and (d) seventh and eighth grade. [85, ¶ 9.] Students work off of personalized work plans that they are responsible for completing with the teacher's assistance and guidance. [id. , ¶ 10.] Finally, the Montessori schools use an inquiry-based pedagogical approach, which frequently involves multi-sensory elements (such as, for example, teaching students how to count through the use of "counting beads"). [Id. , ¶ 11]; [83, ¶ 69.]

While Drummond's and Suder's Montessori programs extend through eighth grade, Mayer's Montessori program is unavailable following fifth grade. [85, ¶ 38]; [83, ¶ 43.] Mayer does, however, offer an IB (presumably, international baccalaureate) program, which is built on the same principles and values as Montessori, and also utilizes an inquiry-based model. [83, ¶ 69.] Otherwise, the schools all utilize the exact same Montessori philosophy and materials. [83, ¶ 43.] There are, however, other small differences between the schools, such as the fact that Mayer and Drummond are both considered top-notch "Level 1+ schools," whereas Suder is a "Level 1" school. See generally [83-3; 83-4; 83-5]; [83, ¶ 55.].4

As is relevant to this litigation, there is one other very important difference between the Montessori schools—the Drummond Building is not accessible to those with ambulatory disabilities, whereas Suder and Mayer are housed in accessible facilities. [83, ¶ 15.] Specifically, those who need a wheelchair or walker or otherwise have difficulty walking can use an incline lift to access the first floor of the Drummond Building without climbing any steps. [83, ¶ 37.] But once inside, only the first floor is fully accessible. The second and third floors can only be accessed by climbing the stairs. [Id. , ¶ 38.] Apparently, there are no bathrooms on the third floor, so students must descend several flights of stairs (80 steps in total) to use the bathroom. [Id. , ¶ 40.] The art room, gym, and cafeteria are also not accessible. [Id. , ¶ 39]; see also [85, ¶ 54.] Drummond is not alone in this regard, as only 50% of Chicago public schools are fully accessible by individuals with disabilities (with another 25% being partially accessible). [85, ¶ 23.] Notwithstanding the first-floor accessibility, the Drummond Building is considered by Defendant to be fully inaccessible. [Id. , ¶ 25.]


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