Separation of Hinduism from our Schools et al v. Chicago Public Schools et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER signed by the Honorable Matthew F. Kennelly on 11/18/2022: For the reasons stated in the accompanying Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court denies the plaintiffs' motions for reconsideration [dkt. nos. 207 & 209]. (mk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
individually and as a representative
for all similarly situated persons,
and DARRYL WILLIAMS,
individually and as a representative
for all similarly situated persons,
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF
THE CITY OF CHICAGO,
THE DAVID LYNCH FOUNDATION,
and the UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO,
Case No. 20 C 4540
ORDER ON PLAINTIFFS' MOTIONS FOR RECONSIDERATION
Plaintiffs Amontae and Darryl Williams 1 have moved for reconsideration of the
Court's September 13, 2022 ruling denying Amontae's motion for class certification and
dismissing Darryl's claim for lack of standing. See Williams v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of
Chicago, No. 20 C 4540, 2022 WL 4182434 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 13, 2022). The Court denies
both motions for the reasons stated below.
In its prior rulings, the Court stated that although parents have the right to direct
their children's religious upbringing under the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise
The Court will refer to Amontae Williams and Darryl Williams by their first names to
Clause, it found no case extending that right to parents of adult children. Williams, 2022
WL 4182434, at *5. Darryl therefore has standing to bring a claim "only to the extent his
claims involve events that took place before his son's eighteenth birthday." Id. (quoting
Separation of Hinduism From Our Schs. v. Chicago Pub. Schs., City of Chicago Sch.
Dist. #299, No. 20 C 4540, 2021 WL 2036536 (N.D. Ill. May 21, 2021). The record
reflects, however, that Amontae did not learn or witness any Transcendental Meditation
until after he became an adult. Id. Darryl also contended that "Amontae was coerced
as a minor because the defendants gave other students food and snacks," but the Court
found no legal or factual basis to conclude that "offering pizza and snacks to encourage
student participation in optional activities is equivalent to holding a graduation ceremony
in a church or permitting student-led prayers at football games." Id. For these reasons,
the Court concluded that Darryl lacked standing.
Darryl now seeks reconsideration of the dismissal of his claims. But
"[r]econsideration is not an appropriate forum for rehashing previously rejected
arguments or arguing matters that could have been heard during the pendency of the
previous motion.” Caisse Nationale de Credit Agricole v. CBI Indus., Inc., 90 F.3d 1264,
1270 (7th Cir. 1996).
Darryl's motion for reconsideration lacks merit. He contends that the Court erred
in concluding that no students meditated at Bogan High School during Amontae’s junior
year. That finding, however, was based on Amontae's own deposition testimony. In
response to questions about his junior year, Amontae testified that "[n]o one in the
building was doing [Transcendental Meditation] until the administrators from the Quiet
Time came in the next year." Defs.' Combined Opp'n to the Mot. for Class Certification
of Pl. Amontae Williams, Ex. 11, at 69:4–6 (dkt. no. 189-2). Amontae also stated that
"[e]veryone in the entire building was not meditating during Quiet Time. Some people
choose to sneak and be on their phone or got to sleep or whatever, but no one was
meditating" and "[f]rom what I saw my junior year there, when it was Quiet Time,
nobody was meditating." Id. at 69:12–15, 73:6–7. When asked "[s]o your first
experience with Transcendental Meditation was your senior year in high school at
Bogan the 2018-2019 year, is that right?" Amontae responded "[t]hat is right." Id. at
73:20–23 (emphasis added). The plaintiffs offered no evidence directly contradicting
Amontae's testimony or otherwise indicating that he meditated or witnessed any
meditation as a minor.
Darryl never addresses Amontae's statements in his motion. Instead, he cites
evidence to the effect that (1) Bogan High School implemented Quiet Time during the
2017-18 school year, (2) there were students trained in Transcendental Meditation
across the three schools that implemented Quiet Time that year, (3) school officials
created a form to allow parents to "opt-out" of Quiet Time and meditation instruction in
October 2017, and (4) the school sent a letter informing parents it would continue the
Quiet Time program in the 2018-19 school year. Darryl says this evidence indicates
that the defendants were teaching Amontae and other students Transcendental
Meditation and instructing them to meditate, and he contends that it is irrelevant
whether Amontae knew if other students were meditating. But Darryl's standing covers
the period when Amontae is a minor and is derivative of Amontae's experience. To put
it another way, Darryl's rights as a parent were not violated by the exposure of other
students to Transcendental Meditation. Thus the evidence Darryl now cites regarding
other students is beside the point; it does not in any way undermine the Court's finding
that "Amontae was not present for any initiation ceremonies or instructor-led meditations
while he was a minor." Williams, 2022 WL 4182434, at *2 (emphasis added). Even
with the new evidence, Darryl cannot show that the defendants' actions interfered with
his right to direct his son's religious upbringing.
The rest of Darryl’s motion "rehash[es] previously rejected arguments" that
assume Amontae witnessed or was present for instructor-led meditation as a minor. 2
Caisse Nationale, 90 F.3d at 1270. These contentions are neither appropriate in a
motion to reconsider nor supported by the factual record.
For these reasons, the Court denies Darryl's motion for reconsideration. The
plaintiffs also make a request for time to add a new parent-plaintiff who would have
standing. But the time for adding new parties expired long ago; the final extension was
to December 24, 2021. At this point the plaintiffs must show good cause to modify the
expired deadline, see, e.g., Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b)(4), an inquiry that includes
considerations of timeliness and diligence. The Court concludes that this is best
assessed if and when a request is made to add an actual plaintiff, rather than in the
Darryl also argues that his rights were violated because Amontae may have
received a grade for his participation in Quiet Time as a minor, but the evidence only
shows that some—but not all—teachers gave a grade for Quiet Time that did not
appear on students' transcripts. Defs.' Combined Opp'n to the Mot. for Class
Certification of Pl. Amontae Williams, Ex. 5, at 37:6–13, 38:16–20, 39:1–6. (dkt. no.
189-2). Darryl points to no evidence indicating that Amontae received a Quiet Time
grade or believed his participation in Quiet Time would impact his grades. Instead,
Darryl seems to contend—without any legal support—that he has a right as a parent to
prevent the school from offering other students food or snacks to encourage
participation in non-mandatory activities like learning Transcendental Meditation. That
is not the law.
blind. The Court therefore denies request without prejudice.
In denying Amontae's motion for class certification, the Court found that he was
not an adequate class representative. Williams, 2022 WL 4182434, at *4–5. It noted
that the legal services agreement between Amontae and plaintiffs' counsel required
Amontae to "surrender his responsibility to make final litigation decisions to a 'Steering
Committee' composed of proposed class counsel and other individuals unknown to the
Court, not including Amontae himself." Id. at 4. Amontae therefore became a
figurehead plaintiff with no ability to monitor his counsel's conduct or knowledge about
the "decisions, operations or membership of the committee." Id. The Court took note of
the fact that "the plaintiffs’ counsel has so little trust in his own client's abilities that he
created a committee to remove decision-making authority from that client," which led the
Court to conclude that Amontae was not "trustworthy enough to protect the interests of
the class." Id. at 5 (internal citation omitted).
After the Court's September 13 decision, plaintiffs' counsel amended his legal
services agreement with Amontae. Pl.'s Mot. to Reconsider Denial of Student Class
Certification, Ex. A (dkt. no. 209). Counsel purports to have abolished the Steering
Committee and argues that Amontae is now an adequate class representative because
the Committee no longer exists.
Yet the problem is not the existence of the Committee, but rather its implications
regarding Amontae's adequacy as a class representative. The Court found Amontae
not sufficiently trustworthy to serve in that capacity because "the plaintiffs’ counsel has
so little trust in his own client's abilities that he created a committee to remove decision-
making authority from that client." Id. After the defendants raised concerns about
adequacy, plaintiffs' counsel admitted that Amontae was being "led by others, older,
hopefully wiser and more spiritually mature" and argued that "rather than disqualifying
him, [Amontae's consent to the Committee's authority] shows him to be highly qualified."
Reply in Supp. of Pl.'s Mot. for Class Certification for the Students at 9 (dkt. no. 195)
(emphasis in original). Plaintiffs' counsel failed to cite any legal authority lending
support to this argument, instead stating only that "Lao Tzu is quoted as saying, '[t]he
wise man is the one who knows what he does not know." Id. Belatedly abolishing the
Committee now—more than two years after bringing this suit and only because this
Court found that it precluded class certification—does nothing to address the concerns
raised by plaintiffs' counsel's decision to strip Amontae of his decision-making authority
in the first place.
For these reasons, the Court denies Amontae's motion for reconsideration.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court denies the plaintiffs' motions for
reconsideration [dkt. nos. 207 & 209].
MATTHEW F. KENNELLY
United States District Judge
Date: November 18, 2022
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