Part 1 – Harvard School Psychologist Peter Koehn Wins 7th Circuit Reversal of Wrongful Termination Suit Dismissal

Without using an attorney, former Harvard school psychologist Peter Koehn won reversal of the dismissal of a suit concerning his termination by Harvard Unit School District 50.

Then-Superintendent Lauri Tobias is listed as the lead defendant.  Judges William Bauer, John Daniel Tinder and David Hamilton rendered the decision.

At the Federal Circuit Court level, the school district was granted a summary judgment in its favor.

Koehn appealed.

Here is the Federal Court Court of Appeals decision:

Harvard 50 Order Header

Peter Koehn was fired from his tenured position as a school psychologist for Harvard Community Unit School District 50 in Harvard, Illinois. Koehn’s discharge came soon after he criticized curriculum changes for students receiving special-education services, but the Office of Civil Rights for the United States Department of Education was unable to substantiate Koehn’s claim of retaliation.

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* After examining the briefs and record, we have concluded that oral argument is unnecessary. Thus the appeal is submitted on the briefs and record. See Fed. R. App. P. 34(a)(2).
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He sued the members of the District 50 school board, the district’s superintendent, and a school principal under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that he was discharged without procedural due process and in retaliation for engaging in protected speech.

The district court granted summary judgment for the District 50 defendants, and Koehn appeals. (Koehn also sued an employee of the Illinois State Board of Education, but she prevailed on a motion to dismiss and is not party to this appeal.)

Although we uphold the adverse ruling on Koehn’s claim that his discharge violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, we conclude that a jury reasonably could find from the evidence of record that Koehn was fired on account of his speech.

And since the defendants have not pursued, for purposes of this appeal, their contention that Koehn’s speech was not protected by the First Amendment, we vacate the grant of summary judgment on the retaliation claim and remand for further proceedings.

Because this appeal arises from a dismissal at summary judgment, we review the evidence in the light most favorable to Koehn, the non-moving party. See Taylor-Novotny v. Health Alliance Med. Plans, Inc., 772 F.3d 478, 488 (7th Cir. 2014).

For the most part the facts are not in dispute.

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More tomorrow.


Part 1 – Harvard School Psychologist Peter Koehn Wins 7th Circuit Reversal of Wrongful Termination Suit Dismissal — 4 Comments

  1. What were the curriculum changes for students receiving special education services, that he was criticizing?

    Wonder why union attorneys were not representing Mr. Koehn…

    was he not a member of the union?…

    or he thought he had a better chance without the union attorneys?

    There is an organization named Association of American Educators that one can join if they choose not to become a member of the teacher union.

    Special Education Services involves Federal and State law and is one of the major expenditures in a school district’s budget.

    What law firm is representing Harvard CUSD 50?

    Laurianne Tobias

    1999 – $043,425 – Lake Villa Elementary District 41, 16th year teaching, Masters degree.
    2000 – $055,110
    2001 – $066,000
    2002 – $069,300 – Middle School Principal.
    2003 – $071,913 – Harvard CUSD 50 (1st year in this school district, Elementary Principal.
    2004 – $074,071
    2005 – $074,071
    2006 – $076,515
    2007 – $081,029 – 1st year as Director.
    2008 – $095,054
    2009 – $137,363 – 1st year as Superintendent & 1st year with Doctorate Degree.
    2010 – $145,604
    2011 – $154,341
    2012 – $163,601
    2013 – $173,417
    2014 – $181,150

    Sources:, ISBE TSR, widget

  2. Dr Kohen discovered that, the mentioned Jr High administrator, went and made changes to a SpEd. student’s IEP, without having the required meeting with parents general ed teachers and special ed teachers.

    he was fired when he voiced his opinion / concern.

    the Department of Education dismissed his complaint, because the district entered into an agreement with the department that it would not happen again and they would give more training to their staff.

  3. I am one person who is very happy that it was over turned.

    Maybe this will make the district think before they do from now on.

    elections are in the next few weeks.

    School board members running take note, you know what needs to be done to make change.

    with the exception of 2 or 3 administrators, every last administrator is nothing but a bully.

    I find it interesting that the high school principal took to lying to the students about their participation in the PARCC testing.

    some were told that if they didn’t take it it would appear on there permanent transcript which is a lie.

  4. As a former student of the special ed department, I’m happy he won this case.

    Many of my classmates were inflicted with challenging obstacles in life cognitively, and needed the help to sustain.

    Yet, there were many who simply came from abusive/neglectful homes, whom were perfectly comparable to their peers, but rather had their emotional imbalance (being nuts) equivalent to cognitive deficiency.

    It was a money grab for a school district already struggling to pay the bills.

    As technology improves, the need for low to medium talent work will diminish, and more children will be seen as mentally deficient.

    I’m only describing a small blade of grass in an entire pasture concerning this danger, but it’s a big one, I saw it in my school, and you NEED to question these school councilors conclusion about your children’s intelligence.

    Many of these counselors are trying to “Pad” department budgets.

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