Illinois First District Appellate Court
CHICAGO — An Illinois appellate court has upheld the dismissal of a former Moraine Valley Community College student's suit against the school after he was punished for calling his female professor a derogatory word while performing an improvisation skit in an acting class that required students to act in the roles of a pimp and prostitute.
According to the Aug. 29 Illinois First District Appellate Court ruling, Joshua Zale filed an appeal of a Cook County court's dismissal of his pro se lawsuit against Moraine Valley Community College. Zale challenged Cook County Circuit Court's dismissal of his third amended complaint and due process rights violation claims, as well as the questioning during his deposition.
"We agree with the trial court that plaintiff’s third amended complaint would not have cured the deficiencies of the second amended complaint," Justice Robert Gordon wrote in the First District Court's decision. "We recognize that [the] plaintiff is proceeding pro se on this appeal. However, when litigants appear pro se, their status does not relieve them of their burden of complying with the court’s rules."
Zale, who was enrolled at Moraine Valley during the 2016-2017 school year, called his female professor a "c***" during the improvisation skit and then proceeded to have two separate arguments with the professor following the class where he allegedly yelled at her and called her "a little girl." Zale then received sanctions for violating the college's code of student conduct. He refused to comply with the sanctions, which resulted in the school putting a hold on his courses. Despite refusing to attend the hearing regarding his punishments held by the college, Zale argues the school violated his due process rights as well as the "implied contract" between him and the college, according to the First District complaint.
The appellate justices agreed with the lower court that Zale did not have standing under the law to sue, as he was a nonstudent with no vested interest in the college's policies at the time he filed suit.
Further, the justices found Zale did not suffer any legally recognized injury from the school's actions, because he chose not to comply with the school's initial discipline, which required him to write an essay.
"When plaintiff (Zale) did not write the essay, he received a hold on his account for three months, a sanction that could have been avoided had plaintiff complied with the initial sanction," the justices wrote. "Plaintiff is currently free to register for classes and has been free to do so for nearly two years."
And the justices said his due process rights were also not violated because he chose not to participate in the college's hearing process.
"Here, plaintiff chose not to participate in the process offered to him, and we agree with the trial court that plaintiff’s failure to avail himself of the process offered to him resulted in the waiver of his right to be heard," the justices wrote.
Justices Margaret McBride and Eileen O'Neill Burke concurred in the judgment.