CHICAGO — Chicago's public schools leaders jumped the gun in filing suit against its teachers union, a Chicago federal judge has ruled, saying he can't give the Chicago Board of Education the court opinion it seeks declaring the board has the right to restrict the speech of certain members of the Chicago Teachers Union school officials accused of being "vulgar and intimidating" at school administration meetings.
The opinion was filed Sept. 25 by Judge John Z. Lee in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The court decision granted the CTU's motion to dismiss the suit against it on procedural grounds.
The school board's suit requested a declaratory judgment from the court that it "does not infringe upon the First Amendment rights of the CTU by imposing reasonable restrictions on the CTU."
The complaint stemmed from a pending lawsuit in the same court, Kugler v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, in which CTU representative John Kugler sued the Board, claiming that it violated his First Amendment rights by restricting him from participating in CTU activities while on Chicago Public Schools property. The board filed a counterclaim, asking the court to declare that its restrictions on Kugler and other CTU members are reasonable. The board also filed a third-party complaint against the CTU, requesting Chicago Public Schools be allowed to regulate CTU activities on school property; the court rejected the complaint.
The board's lawsuit included details from the Kugler case. CPS said the restrictions placed on Kugler's CTU activities on school property was a result of him using "vulgar and intimidating language," according to the complaint. The board allegedly notified CTU about Kugler's behavior, but "CTU ... did nothing.”
CTU, however, said the CPS lawsuit lacks "subject matter jurisdiction" and fails to "state a claim."
In his opinion, Lee granted the dismissal because the board's claim is "unfit for judicial decision" due to lack of "further factual development," saying the matter was not "ripe for adjudication," as it came before the Board of Education imposed any actual restrictions.
"... The court can only speculate as to what restrictions the board will eventually impose upon CTU and its employees and under what circumstances," Lee said.
The court questioned what kind of actions by the CTU would lead to the restrictions and what exactly would the restrictions entail, declaring that these questions have gone unanswered by the board.
The lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice.
CTU is represented in the case by the firm of Despres Schwartz & Geoghegan, of Chicago.
The Chicago Board of Education is represented by the firm of Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone LLP, of Chicago.