Gschwind v. Heiden, No. 12-1755 (7th Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff taught sixth-grade at a public school and met with a student’s parents about a threat the student had made against another student. He met the parents again after seeing the student beating another student. The father threatened a lawsuit and told plaintiff that an older son, who had assaulted the assistant principal, should have assaulted plaintiff. During a subsequent class, the student used an assignment to write a song with lyrics about stabbing plaintiff. The police liaison encouraged plaintiff to file criminal charges; under Illinois law declaring a knowing threat of violence against a person at a school is disorderly conduct, 720 ILCS 5/26-1(a)(13). School administrators feared a suit and were not supportive. After plaintiff filed charges, his evaluations went from satisfactory to unsatisfactory and administrators advised him that they would recommend that he not be rehired. Plaintiff resigned and filed suit, claiming retaliation for exercise of First Amendment rights. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants on the ground that the complaint was not protected by the First Amendment because it did not involve a matter of public concern. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Principles underlying the suit are well settled, which defeats claims of qualified immunity.