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Shannon v. School District of Milwaukee Public Schools

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

June 13, 2019



          William E. Duffin U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         1. Background

         Janice R. Shannon and Timothy J. Riordan, wife and husband, filed this action on January 18, 2019, alleging claims against “School District of Milwaukee Public Schools” (which the court will refer to as MPS). MPS has moved to dismiss the complaint. The plaintiffs are proceeding pro se, although Riordan identifies himself as a “prior attorney.” (ECF No. 1 at 21; see also ECF No. 2, ¶ 1. a.; ECF No. 1, ¶ 2.L. (17).)

         According to the complaint, the allegations in which the court accepts as true at this stage of the proceedings, Shannon was an elementary school substitute teacher with MPS and was twice assaulted by a female student, A.B.[1] (ECF No. 1, ¶ 2.H.) On November 17, 2016, [2] A.B. again assaulted Shannon, pushing her and causing her to fall. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 2.J.) Shannon developed pain and other symptoms that she attributes to the assault. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 2.K.)

         The plaintiffs' complaint is an expansive criticism of an alleged lack of discipline in MPS, generally, and as to A.B., specifically. They ask the court to impose on MPS various procedures they believe are necessary for effective student discipline. Shannon attributes her injuries to MPS because MPS did not effectively discipline A.B. for her prior conduct. Shannon is also dissatisfied that A.B. received only six-months of probation in the delinquency proceedings that resulted from the assault. She attributes this “‘less than a slap on the wrist' for permanently crippling Janice Shannon and leaving her for the rest of her life with constant chronic high-level pain” (ECF No. 1, ¶ 2.I. (2)) to MPS because the video surveillance did not record the assault and administrators allegedly deleted A.B.'s disciplinary records.

         On October 16, 2018, Shannon filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that MPS subjected her to harassment and different conditions of employment because of her sex and age. (ECF No. 10-1.) The EEOC on October 22, 2018, dismissed her complaint, finding that it was not timely filed. (ECF No. 1-1.) MPS presented Shannon's EEOC complaint as part of its motion to dismiss, which the court can consider without converting the motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment because it is a record of a prior administrative proceeding and is referred to in the complaint. Goodwin v. Teamsters Gen. Local Union No. 200, No. 17-CV-1377, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35903, at *6 (E.D. Wis. Mar. 6, 2018) (citing Woltring v. Specialized Loan Servicing, LLC, No. 14-CV-222, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 81433, at *4 (E.D. Wis. June 16, 2014); 188 LLC v. Trinity Indus. Inc., 300 F.3d 730, 735 (7th Cir. 2002)). Shannon filed her complaint in this court on January 18, 2019.

         2. Motion to Dismiss Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim “has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A claim satisfies this pleading standard when its factual allegations “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56. The court accepts “all well-pleaded facts as true and constru[es] all inferences in favor of the plaintiffs.” Gruber v. Creditors' Prot. Serv., 742 F.3d 271, 274 (7th Cir. 2014).

         3. Analysis

         There are a myriad of problems with the plaintiffs' complaint, including a general lack of clarity and an apparent misunderstanding of the scope and breadth of federal antidiscrimination laws, as well as the role and authority of the EEOC. The gravamen of her complaint is that MPS does not do enough to discipline its students and protect its teachers from those students. That does not suggest any plausible federal cause of action.

         Because this case was preceded by a claim to the EEOC, the court presumes that Shannon intends to allege some type of employment discrimination. The EEOC complaint alleges discrimination based on sex and age. (ECF No. 10-1.) Therefore, it is most likely that Shannon intends to allege age and sex discrimination in this action.

         However, the court must liberally construe the pleadings of pro se litigants. Therefore, the court reads the plaintiffs' filings broadly with an eye toward discerning other possible or intended claims. In this regard, the court notes that Shannon identifies herself as female, over 40-years-old, and disabled, all of which are statuses protected by various federal employment laws. However, she does not identify how she allegedly suffered any adverse employment action on account of any such status. In fact, she does not identify any adverse employment action she allegedly suffered. Rather than addressing these substantive defects in her complaint, MPS has moved to dismiss on the narrow grounds that any discrimination claim is untimely.

         Shannon also refers to “due process, ” and thus the court considers whether she might have any plausible claim under the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         3.1. ...

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