CHICAGO (CN) – A public school teacher whose book was published by the University of Chicago Press claims he was fired because a “student’s mother took issue with ‘Gabriel’s Fire,’ a memoir about plaintiff growing up as a Mexican immigrant youth, and particularly, with a section of the book describing a relationship plaintiff had twenty years earlier.”
Luis Aguilera sued the Chicago Public Schools and the Board of Education, in Federal Court. Aguilera taught Spanish from August 2007 until he was fired on Dec. 28, 2009. His book, “Gabriel’s Fire,” was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2000.
Aguilera says he was fired after “a series of unusual and untoward events.”
“On January 20, 2009, an unannounced and unscheduled parent-teacher-administrative conference was convened by Aguilera’s principal, Latunja O. Williams, an agent and employee of the Board,” the complaint states.
“The conference was attended by Principal Williams, Aguilera, the Assistant Principal, Leonard Harris, also an agent and employee of the board, and the parent of a student in one of Aguilera’s classes. During the conference, the parent of the student raised non-specific, unsubstantiated ‘concerns’ over the relationship between Aguilera and the daughter. These alleged ‘concerns’ arose out of the parent’s dislike for a published book written by Aguilera called ‘Gabriel’s Fire’ (The University of Chicago Press, 2000). At the onset of the conference, Principal Williams had related that the student’s mother took issue with ‘Gabriel’s Fire,’ a memoir about plaintiff growing up as a Mexican immigrant youth, and particularly, with a section of the book describing a relationship plaintiff had twenty years earlier.
“At some unknown date and of her own initiative, the school librarian had obtained
a copy of ‘Gabriel’s Fire’ and added it to the library’s collection for access by students. On January 20, 2009, plaintiff was informed by the librarian that the librarian had been directed by Principal Williams that students were to be denied access to ‘Gabriel’s Fire.’
“On January 23, 2009, Aguilera was removed from his classroom and transferred to the Area 25 Instruction Office, pending further notice. Plaintiff was told by CPS
Senior Assistant General Counsel, James Ciesel, that plaintiff was transferred because he was trying to have an ‘adult relationship’ with a student, which was completely untrue.
“Plaintiff was later questioned by a part-time investigator for CPS who inquired
about ‘Gabriel’s Fire’ and whether plaintiff had given the book to the student in question.
“In regard to the alleged ‘complaint,’ plaintiff did not receive anything from the
board or its agents and employees until October 2, 2009, during an ‘investigatory
conference,’ when plaintiff received a one page ‘incident report’ alleging unspecified
‘inappropriate comments’ made by Aguilera to the student. The report indicated a ‘no’ marking for misconduct.
“Plaintiff was terminated, effective December 28, 2009, for unspecified misconduct/unsatisfactory performance.”
Aguilera adds: “At the ‘investigatory conference,’ no evidence was taken, the complaining witness was not present and subject to questioning or cross-examination, there was no impartial hearing officer, and plaintiff was never provided with any specific charges against him. Plaintiff was never told what was his alleged ‘misconduct,’ was not permitted to counter any charges of alleged misconduct, and was never informed as to why his principal was not satisfied with his performance.”
Aguilera seeks reinstatement, lost wages and benefits, and $300,000 in damages for discrimination, retaliation and due process violations.
He is represented by Deidre Baumann with Baumann and Shuldiner.