Blake v. Joliet Township HS #204
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order. Signed by the Honorable Manish S. Shah on 4/10/2017: Defendant's motion for summary judgment, 22 , is granted. Enter judgment and terminate civil case. [For further detail see attached order.] Notices mailed.(psm, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
No. 15 CV 11624
JOLIET TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL
Judge Manish S. Shah
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Christopher Blake alleges that Joliet Township High School District 204
failed to hire him as a substitute teacher and discriminated against him on the
basis of his race, sex, and age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment
Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. District 204 moves for summary judgment on
all claims against it. For the following reasons, defendant’s motion is granted.
Summary judgment is appropriate if the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Spurling v. C & M Fine Pack, Inc., 739 F.3d 1055, 1060 (7th Cir.
2014); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A genuine dispute as to any material fact exists if “the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Justifiable
inferences are drawn in the nonmovant’s favor, id. at 255, and the party seeking
summary judgment has the burden of establishing that there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
Blake is representing himself in this lawsuit. Courts liberally construe a pro
se plaintiff’s pleadings in order “to give a pro se plaintiff a break when, although he
stumbles on a technicality, his pleading is otherwise understandable.” Greer v.
Board of Educ. of City of Chicago, Ill., 267 F.3d 723, 727 (7th Cir. 2001). But pro se
plaintiffs must attempt to comply with Local Rule 56.1, which requires the nonmoving party to identify material facts establishing a genuine dispute for trial and
to admit or deny each factual statement offered by the defendant (citing to
controverting evidence when facts are denied). Id. Blake did not file his three-page
response with the Clerk of Court, but instead sent it to District 204.1 Although
Blake was supplied with the Local Rule 56.2 notice to pro se litigants opposing
summary judgment, he did not make any effort to respond to the school district’s
factual statements. Under Local Rule 56.1, Blake admits these facts through his
failure to respond. Blake also did not cite any evidence in support of his own
arguments. “Employment cases are extremely fact-intensive, and neither appellate
courts nor district courts are obliged in our adversary system to scour the record
looking for factual disputes.” Id. (marks omitted). Local Rule 56.1 allows me to
grant summary judgment for District 204 on the basis of Blake’s failure to comply
District 204 attached Blake’s response to its reply brief. See  at 11–14. Bracketed
numbers refer to entries on the district court docket.
with local rules, id., but instead of taking that drastic step, I view District 204’s
admitted facts in the light most favorable to Blake.
From around 1993 until October 2008, Christopher Blake was intermittently
employed as a substitute teacher at Joliet Township High School District 204. 
¶¶ 2, 14–15. Blake worked in other school districts, and in 2007 he was teaching at
a high school in the Chicago Public School (CPS) system.  ¶¶ 17, 29. While
there, Blake was investigated for physically abusing students in February 2007.
 ¶ 30. A CPS investigation concluded that there was credible evidence that,
while coaching basketball practice for freshmen girls, Blake hit three students after
one refused to pass him the basketball. According to the report, Blake struck two of
the students with a plastic garbage can lid and struck another student on the side
of her face with his closed fist.  ¶¶ 31–36. Blake received a copy of the report but
did not submit a written challenge to its findings.  ¶ 37. During the
investigation, Blake was arrested and charged with three counts of battery,
although the charges were ultimately dropped. He was removed from his teaching
position and was placed at a CPS attendance center, where he received his salary
but performed no work.  ¶¶ 38–40.
Between September 12, 2008 and October 9, 2008, Joliet Township High
School District 204 employed Blake as a substitute teacher on three occasions. 
¶ 41. On his September 12, 2008 substitute teacher application, Blake had disclosed
“CPS 06/07 alleged student altercation” in response to the question: “Have you ever
failed to be rehired, asked to resign a position, or resigned to avoid termination?”
 ¶ 43. A few weeks later in October 2008, Richard Pagliaro—then an assistant
superintendent at District 204—learned that Blake had been involved in a physical
altercation with female students at the CPS high school and that the Will County
Regional Office of Education was not placing Blake on its list of authorized
substitute teachers.  ¶¶ 42, 44. Under Illinois law, all individuals seeking a
substitute position in Illinois schools are required to register with the Regional
Office of Education and qualify for a substitute teacher authorization in the county
where they wish to teach; authorization involves a fingerprint-based background
investigation, among other requirements. See 105 ILCS 5/10-21.9; 105 ILCS 5/21B20(3); 23 Ill. Adm. Code tit. 23, § 1.790. District 204 only hires substitute teachers
from the county’s authorized list.  ¶ 20.
Pagliaro advised the District 204 employee charged with scheduling
substitute teachers that Blake should not be assigned as a substitute because he
was not on the county’s authorized list and because of the reported physical
altercation with CPS students.  ¶ 45. In November 2008, Blake filed a charge of
race discrimination with the EEOC against District 204, alleging that he was
discharged from the school because he was black, but he did not file suit after
receiving his right-to-sue letter from the EEOC.  ¶¶ 10, 12. Pagliaro’s successor,
Ilandus Hampton, also instructed the scheduling employee to not assign Blake as a
substitute due to concerns over his past conduct.  ¶¶ 47, 54. Blake again
disclosed the 2007 incident in his 2011 application to substitute at District 204. 
¶ 51. District 204 has not used Blake as a substitute teacher since 2008, although
he has applied for substitute teaching positions at District 204 every subsequent
school year through the 2014–2015 school year and although in 2011 he was once
again placed on the county’s authorized list of substitute teachers.  ¶¶ 16, 45–
In August 2015, Blake filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC,
alleging that he began his employment with District 204 in August 2014 as a
substitute teacher but was advised that no assignments were available.  ¶¶ 5–6.
He alleged discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and age (Blake is over 40). He
received his EEOC letter on September 28, 2015.  ¶¶ 6–7. On December 23,
2015, Blake filed a pro se complaint bringing claims for race, sex, and age
discrimination, alleging that District 204 failed to hire him, terminated him, and
retaliated against him. . District 204 moved to dismiss Blake’s age discrimination
and retaliation claims, but only the retaliation claim was dismissed (without
prejudice) because there was nothing in Blake’s EEOC charge to suggest that
retaliation was within the scope of the conduct complained of. . District 204 now
moves for summary judgment on all claims.
Limited Scope of the EEOC Charge
To maintain a successful claim under Title VII or the ADEA, a plaintiff must
file a charge with the EEOC within the time period allotted by statute and the
EEOC must issue a right-to-sue letter. Ajayi v. Aramark Bus. Servs., Inc., 336 F.3d
520, 527 (7th Cir. 2003); Rush v. McDonald’s Corp., 966 F.2d 1104, 1110 (7th Cir.
1992). “[T]he scope of the subsequent judicial proceedings is limited by the nature of
the charges filed with the EEOC.” Rush, 966 F.2d at 1110. The EEOC charge
supporting Blake’s complaint was filed in August 2015, and although very brief,
states that basis for his discrimination claims are that he began employment with
District 204 in or about August 2014 as substitute teacher but was advised that no
positions were available.  at 8. In Illinois, a plaintiff alleging ADEA or Title VII
violations must file charges with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged
discriminatory employment practice. See 29 U.S.C. § 626(d)(1); 42 U.S.C. § 2000e–
5(e)(1). Under the notice rule, the 300–day limitations period begins to run when
the employee knows he has been injured, not when he determines that the injury
was unlawful. Stepney v. Naperville Sch. Dist. 203, 392 F.3d 236, 240 (7th Cir.
District 204 argues that Blake’s complaint is limited to the 2014 to 2015
school year, as alleged in his EEOC charge. Blake responds that the school district’s
discrimination was one continuing violation from 2008 to 2015. The continuing
violation theory extends the statute of limitations in some cases, for example where
an employer’s discrimination is covert and the character of discriminatory acts was
not apparent at the time they occurred. Doe v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 42 F.3d
439, 445–46 (7th Cir. 1994). The problem for Blake is that he was sufficiently aware
of District 204’s alleged racial discrimination in November 2008, when he filed the
EEOC charge alleging that the school district discharged him after a background
check.  ¶ 10; [24-1] at 16. “If it is only with the benefit of hindsight, after a
series of discriminatory acts, that the plaintiff can realize that he is indeed a victim
of unlawful discrimination, he can sue in regard to all of the acts provided he sues
promptly after learning their character,” but if “he knows or with the exercise of
reasonable diligence would have known after each act that it was discriminatory
and had harmed him, he may not sit back and accumulate all the discriminatory
acts and sue on all within the statutory period applicable to the last one.”
Moskowitz v. Trustees of Purdue Univ., 5 F.3d 279, 281–82 (7th Cir. 1993). Blake’s
earlier EEOC charge shows that he was aware of the alleged discriminatory nature
of the school district’s refusal to employ him as a substitute as early as 2008.
Therefore he is barred from bringing a cause of action (seven years later) based on
the subject of that first EEOC charge. Blake cannot trace his claim all the way back
to 2008. He is limited to the 2014 to 2015 school year, as alleged in his EEOC
Insufficient Evidence to Show Intentional Discrimination
In discrimination cases, the question at summary judgment is whether the
plaintiff has produced sufficient evidence to support a jury verdict of intentional
discrimination. David v. Board of Trustees of Cmty. Coll. Dist. No. 508, 846 F.3d
216, 224 (7th Cir. 2017). District 204 is entitled to summary judgment because
Blake has failed to produce evidence creating a triable issue of fact under the
relevant legal framework. Although Blake’s complaint alleges both failure to hire
and termination, the undisputed facts are that Blake has not been employed by
District 204 since 2008 and was never a full-time employee. So this is only a failureto-hire case. Moreover, while Blake’s complaint encompasses race, sex, and age
discrimination, he only responds to District 204’s arguments about racial
discrimination and completely ignores District 204’s arguments as to his sex or age
discrimination claims, which means he has waived any responsive legal arguments.
See, e.g., Bonte v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 624 F.3d 461, 466 (7th Cir. 2010).
In a failure to hire case under the framework of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v.
Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973), a plaintiff must show that: (1) he was a member of a
protected class, (2) he was qualified for an open position for which he applied, (3) his
application for employment was rejected, and (4) the employer filled the position
with someone not of his protected class, or left the position open. Blise v.
Antaramian, 409 F.3d 861, 866 (7th Cir. 2005). Even if a plaintiff establishes these
elements, he is not entitled to judgment if the employer articulates a legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reason for its decision not to hire the plaintiff and if he cannot
show that this reason was pretextual. Id. at 867.
In his response brief, Blake contends that he was allowed to substitute teach
at District 204 until he had a conversation with Don Prola, a former driver’s
education teacher who retired from District 204 in June 2008.  ¶ 55. (At his
deposition, Blake could not recall whether his conversation with Prola took place in
2008 or 2014. [24-1] at 37, 52.) Blake argues that Prola did not want Blake to work
at the high school because Blake was black. Because Blake did not know Pagliaro,
the assistant superintendent, Blake speculates that Prola passed “information” to
Pagliaro (who then passed information to his successor, Hampton), thus preventing
Blake from obtaining a substitute teacher position at District 204. Prola, however,
never had authority to make employment decisions on behalf of District 204. 
¶ 57. District 204 does not dispute that Blake was a member of a protected class
(black, male, over 40 years old) or that he was not hired as a substitute teacher
after 2008. But District 204 contends that Blake cannot show that he was qualified
for the substitute teacher positions, that the district did not hire others in his
protected class, or that its nondiscriminatory reason for not hiring him was
District 204 selected substitute teachers in the following order of preference:
(1) certified teachers in the subject area for which the substitute was sought; (2)
certified teachers; (3) individuals requested by a teacher or department chair; (4) all
others.  ¶ 24. Other than the requirement that substitute teachers be on the
county’s authorized list, there is nothing in the evidentiary record about the
preferred qualifications for the substitute teaching positions that Blake was not
hired for (e.g., subject matter area). See, e.g., Bennett v. Roberts, 295 F.3d 687, 696
(7th Cir. 2002) (affirming summary judgment on teacher’s discrimination claim
where she failed to develop evidence on the qualifications for teaching positions).
And during the 2014 to 2015 school year, District 204 also gave substitute teaching
assignments to members of each of Blake’s protected classes, including at least
three individuals who fell into all three of his protected classes (black, male, and
over 40 years of age).  ¶¶ 26, 28. Blake, then, is unable to show a genuine issue
of material fact that he could establish a prima facie case of discrimination.
District 204 also has articulated a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for
choosing not to assign Blake any substitute teacher positions: he was involved in a
physical altercation with high school students in 2007.2 When a defendant provides
nondiscriminatory reasons for its actions, “to avoid summary judgment, a plaintiff
must produce evidence from which a rational trier of fact could infer that the
defendant lied about its proffered reasons” or “that the reasons had no basis in fact.”
Ghosh v. Indiana Dep’t of Envtl. Mgmt., 192 F.3d 1087, 1091 (7th Cir. 1999). Even
viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Blake, there is no evidence in the
record to show that District 204’s explanation was a lie or completely lacking in
factual basis. Instead, the undisputed record shows that Blake admits that he was
involved in a “scuffle” with students (although he denies that he punched any of the
students) and that a CPS investigation found credible evidence that Blake hit three
high school students while serving as their teacher and coach.  ¶¶ 54, 51; [24-1]
at 104. “[S]ummary judgment is the ‘put up or shut up’ moment in a lawsuit, when
a party must show what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept
its version of events.” Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., Inc., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir.
2003). Other than his own speculation, Blake has presented no evidence from which
to infer that the school district chose not to hire him because of his race, sex, or age
and not because of his past physical altercation with CPS students.
Blake has not come forward with evidence that would support a judgment in
his favor. Summary judgment for District 204 is warranted.
For several years, the school district also had another reason for not hiring Blake—he was
not on the county education office’s list of authorized teachers from 2008 to 2011.
Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, , is granted. Enter judgment
and terminate civil case.
Manish S. Shah
United States District Judge
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