Elkhart teacher loses age-discrimination appeal

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday rejected an appeal of an Elkhart teacher who claimed the school system discriminated against her on the basis of her race and age in denying her 12 different promotions over a span of eight years.

African-American teacher Janet Riley has taught in Elkhart Community Schools since 1980 and was even named teacher of the year a few years back. But after being passed over for multiple promotions, she sued the school system in 2012 for discrimination, libel harassment, defamation and retaliation. The District Court granted summary judgment for the school system on all claims, largely on procedural grounds.

The 7th Circuit rejected her argument that because she began her suit as a pro se litigant, she was entitled to leniency in excluding her claims for untimeliness or on other procedural grounds. Several claims dealt with failure to promote charges dating to 2005, well outside the four-year limit for Section 1981 discrimination claims.

“(W)hile Riley did draft her complaints pro se, she has had counsel since November 2012. Since retaining counsel, she has never moved to amend her complaint,” Circuit Judge William J. Bauer wrote for the panel in Janet Riley v. Elkhart Community Schools, 15-3166. “Having had counsel for over three years, and ample opportunity to amend her complaint, she is not entitled to the usual pro se leniency.”

The 7th Circuit reduced Riley’s complaints to failure to promote claims when she was passed over for assistant principal and other administrative positions from 2007-2012.

“The district court correctly held that Riley failed to produce sufficient evidence for any of these claims to survive summary judgment,” the panel held.

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