1. PRAIRIE VIEW A&M UNIVERSITY
EDUCATIONAL LAW & POLICY
Robert L. Marshall, Ed.D.
Arthur L. Petterway
April 22, 2006
2. Arthur L. Petterway
When we speak of employment, we find that the public school
system is the largest employer in the state of Texas. The full scope of the
employment relationship examines the constitutional concept of due
process of law, the different employment arrangements that are available
to public schools in Texas, the hiring and firing process, and the legal
issues that arise in that context (Walsh, Kemerer, and Maniotis, 2005).
For the purpose of this report, we will present ten cases as they
relate to the different employment arrangements found in public
education. The findings are intended to be informative and beneficial in
terms of “at-will employees”, “Non-Chapter 21 Contracts”, “probationary
contracts”, “term contracts”, “continuing contracts”, and “third-party
United States Court of Appeals,
Emilio MONTEZ, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
SOUTH ANTONIO INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant-
No. 87 – 5501
Plaintiffs-Appellants: Emilio Montez, et. al
Defendant-Appellee: SOUTH San Antonio INDEPENDENT SCHOOL
In 1979 Montez was hired to teach in the Junior Reserve Officer
Training Corps program. Montez has never been certified as a teacher
by the responsible authorities of the State of Texas. His initial
employment was validated on October 15, 1979 when the Texas
Education Agency issued him an Emergency Teaching Permit. That
permit expired on August 31, 1980 and was never reissued. Montez
continued to work until September 1985 when he was notified of the
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anticipated termination of his employment. After two hearings before
the school district authorities, Montez was discharged at the end of
the 1985-86 school year.
Emilio Montez appeals a summary judgment rejecting his claims
under the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments and 42 U.S.C. series
1983. He alleges wrongful termination by the SAN ANTONIO ISD of
his employment as an instructor in the JROTC program. The district
court found no genuine issue of material fact and concluded that
Montez had not been denied due process as relates to a claimed
The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas,
at San Antonio, H. F. Garcia, J., granted summary judgment against
instructor. Instructor appealed.
In order to establish due process deprivation of property interest
under the Fourteenth Amendment, plaintiff must establish that he
had “legitimate claim of entitlement” to that interest. Montez who was
hired to teach in the JROTC program was employed under
“continuing contracts” after his emergency teaching permit expired.
When he was subsequently discharged by the school district, it
was determined that he was not “teacher”, for purposes of Texas
“tenure law” granting “teachers” legitimate claim of entitlement to,
and protection under the due process clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment. The instructor never held required permanent teaching
certificate, and any contract purporting to give instructor more than
that allowed by Texas law was beyond the power of the school district
and could not bestow property interest on instructor.
Montez contends that, even if his contracts were not valid, the
circumstances surrounding his employment gave him property
interest in his job because he relied on the words “continuing
contract”, and he was never notified of the certificate requirement.
This contention overlooks the Hornbook rubric that knowledge of the
law is presumed.
Montez asserts estoppel, but that claim also founders. Estoppel
cannot be used to create a contract right where none exists. Further,
estoppel may be asserted only rarely against a governmental entity.
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Nor may Montez advance a claim of deprivation of a liberty interest.
He had two hearings before the school authorities prior to his
termination. Liberty interests are not implicated.
The Court of Appeals, Politz, Circuit Judge, held that: (1) instructor
was not “teacher” for purposes of Texas tenure law granting “teachers”
Fourteenth Amendment interest in their jobs; (2) instructor failed to
demonstrate facts sufficient to establish that circumstances
surrounding his employment gave him “property” interest in his job;
(3) instructor could not prevail on estoppel theory; and (4) instructor’s
liberty interests were not implicated.
Montez’s brief pointedly focuses on what appears to be a gap in the
Texas Education Code’s coverage as respects the treatment accorded
JROTC instructors. Montez’s complaints should be addressed to the
Texas legislature. It is not cognizable as a constitutional or civil rights
claim in this forum.
United States District Court, N. D. Texas, Dallas Division.
Chris BARBRE (Plaintiff)
GARLAND INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, the Board of
Trustees of the Garland Independent School District, Doug Butler,
Charles Cooper, Ronnie Rogers, R. E. Dodson, Harry Hill, Jim
Kennedy and Darwin Morris, Eli Douglas, Charles Price and W. E.
No. CA 3 – 77 – 0187 – C
The plaintiff, Chris Barbre, a former untenured teacher’s aide at
Garland Independent School District, brings her main claim under 42
U.S.C. series 1983, and under the First Amendment of the U.S.
Constitution, alleging that her employment was not renewed because
of her protected First Amendment speech. The plaintiff also brings
procedural due process claims under the Fifth and Fourteenth
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Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and under 42 U.S.C. series
The individual defendants, all of them officials of the Garland
Independent School District, are sued individually and in their official
capacities. The plaintiff seeks reinstatement, back wages, actual and
exemplary damages and attorney’s fees and costs. In addition, the
plaintiff seeks to have “all references to her alleged ‘disloyalty’,
termination and non-renewal,” expunged from her employment
Former untenured teacher’s aide’s speech at school board meeting
was not protected by First Amendment, where nature of aide’s
communications related to immediate terms and conditions of her
employment, and only tangentially to matters of public concern, aide’s
communications raised questions of maintaining either discipline by
immediate superiors or harmony among co-workers, aide’s
relationship with superior was such that certain forms of public
criticism of him by her would seriously undermine effectiveness of
working relationship between them, aide’s speech impeded proper
performance of her daily duties, and aide could have achieved her
purposes in less disruptive ways.
Contention of former teacher’s aide that she was terminated
without procedural due process provided no basis for relief. There was
no basis to hold that there was any property interest in aide’s
employment contract, so as to entitle her to procedural safeguards,
because she did not have any type of tenure.
Reasons for termination or non-renewal of a public employee that are
not made public cannot form basis of claim that a due process
“liberty” interest has been impaired, so as to entitle public employee
to procedural safeguards.
A public employee does not have a claim under Fourteenth
Amendment denial of a hearing on his non-renewal, when disclosure
of his employment file would amount to stigmatization, unless he
asserts that report in files is substantially false and thus deprives him
of protected liberty interest.
After considering all the evidence presented at trial, the pleadings,
briefs and oral argument of counsel, the Court concludes that plaintiff
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fails to establish any violation of the U.S. Constitution or federal
statutory law by the School District or its officials. The First
Amendment claim, although plausible, does not succeed on the facts
of this case, nor on applicable law. Therefore, the Court must deny
plaintiff all requested relief.
The District Court, William M. Taylor, J., held that: (1) under
circumstances, aide’s speech at school board meeting was not
protected by First Amendment, and (2) even if aide’s speech before
and during school board meeting was protected by First Amendment,
and even though such speech was a motivating factor in her non-
renewal, her insubordination, subsequent to board meeting, was a
valid and separate explanation for her non-renewal apart from any of
her prior expressions.
The First Amendment requires striking a balance between interests
of teacher, as a citizen, in commenting upon matters of public
concern and interest of state, as an employer, in promoting efficiency
of public services it performs through its employees. Unless such
balance favors state, it should not be permitted to punish a teacher
for truthful speech, or for false speech made without malice or
reckless disregard of truth.
United States Court of Appeals,
James W. Russell, Jr., Plaintiff-Appellant
EL PASO INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT
et al., Defendants-Appellees.
A teacher, the plaintiff, whose employment contract was not
renewed, filed this action alleging infringement of constitutionally
protected rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the
United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. series 1983 (1970). The
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district court dismissed the case on the pleadings because of the
plaintiff’s failure (1) to exhaust his administrative remedies under
Texas state law, and (2) to raise a substantial federal question. The
United States District Court for the Western District of Texas at El
Paso, William S. Sessions, J., dismissed the case on the pleadings and
The parties to this appeal differ as to what is the applicable
Texas law governing appellant’s employment contract with the El Paso
District. Under Section 13.104 of the Texas Education Code (1972),
the school board’s decision not to renew Russell’s contract would be
“final and nonappealable.” Russell contends that this is the applicable
statute. For that to be the case, however, it must be shown that the
school board in question had adopted the tenure plan contained in
Chapter 13 of the Education Code. The contract in question was
executed on August 24, 1973. It was not until December 13, 1973
that the Board of Trustees of the School District adopted the tenure
plan. We see no reason to apply retroactively the terms of the tenure
plan to an employment contract already in existence.
With regard to the substantiality of the federal question presented
by Russell, it is important to note that the contract under which he
was employed was for one year. More importantly, this was his first
year of employment with the school district.
Similarly, there was no impermissible denial of a liberty interest.
“Where a person’s good name, reputation, honor or integrity, is at
stake because of what the government is doing to him, notice and an
opportunity to be heard are essential.” Russell requested, and was
given a full and fair hearing on this matter.
Teacher employed for one year did not have a reasonable
expectation of reemployment after the first year of employment. The
teacher whose employment contract was not renewed and who
requested and was given a full and fair hearing sustained no
impermissible denial of liberty interest.
The Court of Appeals, Gewin, Circuit Judge, held that terms of
tenure plan adopted subsequent to execution of teacher’s contract
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would not be applied retroactively and adoption of the plan did not
render applicable section of Education Code under which board’s
decision not to renew teacher’s contract would be final and
nonappealable. Teacher was required to exhaust administrative
remedies; that teacher employed for one year had no reasonable
expectation of reemployment; and that there was no impermissible
denial of liberty interest.
The federal court is not the appropriate forum in which to review
the multitude of personnel decisions that are made daily by public
agencies. We must accept the harsh fact that numerous individual
mistakes are inevitable in the day-to-day administration of our affairs.
The United States Constitution cannot be feasibly construed to
require federal judicial review for every such error. In the absence of
any claim that the public employer was motivated by a desire to
curtail or to penalize the exercise of an employee’s constitutionally
protected rights, we must presume that official action was regular,
and, if erroneous, can best be corrected in other ways. The Due
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is not a guarantee
against incorrect or ill-advised personnel decisions.
Court of Civil Appeals of Texas,
Reynaldo RUIZ, Appellant,
The STATE of Texas, Appellee
Reynaldo Ruiz was elected Justice of the Peace for Precinct 3, Place 2
in Hidalgo County, Texas, for a second term in November 1974 and has
been discharging his duties as Justice of Peace since January 1, 1975.
Ruiz has also been employed in a teaching capacity as ‘Coordinator of
the Cooperative Part Time Training Program’ for the La Joya Independent
School District, a job he has held since 1967. In September of 1975, the
Hidalgo County Auditor and Treasurer, upon advice of the County
Criminal District Attorney, began withholding the appellant’s pay checks
for his services as Justice of Peace.
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Appeal was taken from an order of the 92nd District Court, Hidalgo
County, Paul A. Martineau, J., declaring that the appellant was not
qualified to be paid compensation as a justice of the peace while he also
maintained employment as a public school teacher.
Provision of Constitution prohibiting any person from holding more
than one office of emolument specifically excepts justice of peace from
dual emolument prohibitions, and teacher was an employee rather than
an “officer”; thus, person employed in teaching capacity for independent
school district and who also served as elected justice of peace was
eligible to receive compensation for both positions.
The Court of Civil Appeals, Nye, C. J., held that the constitutional
provision prohibiting persons from holding more than one office of
emolument specifically excepted from its prohibitions the office of the
justice of the peace; and that the separation of powers provision of the
Constitution did not prevent appellant from receiving a salary and
serving as both a public school teacher and a justice of the peace.
Reversed and rendered.
Separation of powers provision of the State Constitution did not
prevent public school teacher from also serving and receiving salary as
justice of peace where such person, as teacher, was not exercising
sovereign powers of State, and where there was no evidence that his
activities and duties as public school teacher interfered in any way with
his constitutional duties as justice of peace.
10. Arthur L. Petterway
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF TEXAS
No. 01- 0557
Midland Judicial District Community Supervision and Corrections
Ruthie Ann Jones, Respondent
On Petition for Review from the
Court of Appeals for the Eight District of Texas
On July 30, 1993, the Midland Judicial District Community
Supervision and Corrections Department (CSCD) informed Ruthie Ann
Jones that she had been hired as a Pretrial Services Administrative
Technician III. At that time she was given a memorandum that stated
that she would start work on August 9, 1993. The memorandum also
discussed her salary. She would receive a starting monthly gross pay of
$1,558.00 in August; $14 would be added to her pay starting 1/1/94;
another $13 increase effective 4/1/94; and she would have a monthly
gross salary on 9/1/94. The salary figures were contingent upon her
future performance evaluations and available county funding.
In December 1993, Jones’ position was eliminated due to budget
constraints. Jones filed suit against the CSCD, alleging wrongful
termination and breach of employment contract. The trial court granted
CSCD’s motion for summary judgment on the ground that Jones was an
at-will employee. The court of appeals held that Jones’ employment was
for a fixed term, reversed the trial court’s summary judgment, and
remanded the case for trial.
For well over a century, the general rule in this State, as in most
jurisdictions, has been that absent a specific agreement to the contrary,
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employment may be terminated by the employer or the employee for good
cause, bad cause or no cause at all.
The general statements indicating that Jones’ salary increases were
contingent on “future performance evaluations and available county
funding” do not indicate CSCD’s intent to be bound not to terminate her
employment except under clearly specified circumstances. The court of
appeals erred in concluding that the memo constituted a contract of
employment for one year. The written form of CSCD’s general statements
does not change the fact that they do not unequivocally indicate the
“The issue in this case is whether the respondent’s employment with
the petitioner was for a fixed term or at-will. Because we conclude that
there was no fixed term of employment, we reverse the courts of appeal’s
judgment and render judgment that the employee take nothing by her
claims against the employer.
When a contract is made by the employer and the employee, the
terms of employment have to be specific and clear and may not be
subject to other interpretations in the future by either party.
United States Court of Appeals,
Frances FISHER, Appellee
James SNYDER et al., Appellants
Mrs. Fisher, a middle-aged divorcee, was employed at the high school
in Tyron, Nebraska from 1970 to 1972. Her married son, then 26 years
old, lived and taught in the neighboring town of Stapleton, Nebraska.
Mrs. Fisher lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment. On several
occasions, young ladies, married couples, and young men who were
friends of her son, visited Tyron. Because hotel and motel
accommodations were generally sparse and unavailable in Tyron, Mrs.
Fisher followed the advice of the secretary of the school board and
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allowed these guests to stay overnight at her apartment. Cliff Rowan, age
26, was a particularly frequent visitor. Rowan’s parents lived in
California. He therefore, regularly visited Mrs. Fisher during his school
vacation and at other times, and she referred to him as her second son.
In the spring of 1972, Rowan spent about a week in Tyron visiting school
classes as a means of fulfilling certain of his college requirements. Mrs.
Fisher made arrangements with school administrators for this visitation
and it was reported in the local newspaper. Following Rowan’s visit, the
school board notified Mrs. Fisher that her contract would not be renewed
at the end of 1972 school year. At her request, pursuant to provisions of
Nebraska law, the board afforded Mrs. Fisher a hearing relating to the
notice of dismissal. Civil right action by school teacher whose contract
was terminated because of alleged conduct unbecoming a teacher. The
United States District Court for the District of Nebraska, Warren K.
Urbom, Chief Judge, ordered reinstatement, and the board members
Nebraska by statute requires that notice and a hearing be given non-
tenured teachers who are to be terminated. The appellees concede that
the school board, in dismissing Fisher, complied with the statute, and its
judgment, therefore, must be afforded judicial deference “so long as the
board does not act unreasonably, arbitrarily, capriciously or unlawfully.”
However, a high school teacher may successfully argue that his
dismissal was arbitrary and capricious if he can prove that each of the
stated reasons (underlying his dismissal) is trivial, or is unrelated to the
educational process or to working relationships within the educational
institution or is wholly unsupported by a basis in fact.
Thus, while a school board may legitimately inquire into the character
and integrity of its teachers, it must be certain that it does not arbitrarily
or capriciously dismiss a teacher based on unsupported conclusions
drawn from such inquiries.
That middle-aged divorced high school teacher, who inquired of
school board’s secretary and was advised to keep guests in her one
bedroom apartment because other accommodations were limited, had
overnight guests did not provide basis in fact for inference by school
board of rural Nebraska county district that there was strong potential
for sexual misconduct. Thus, inference that teacher’s activity was social
misbehavior not conducive to maintenance of integrity of school system
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was arbitrary and capricious and was an impermissible reason for
The Court of Appeals, Bright, Circuit Judge, held that fact that
middle-aged divorced high school teacher, who inquired of school board’s
secretary and was advised to keep guests in her one-bedroom apartment
because other accommodations were limited, had overnight guests did
not provide basis in fact for inference by school board of rural Nebraska
county district that there was strong potential for sexual misconduct.
Thus, board’s inference that teacher’s activity was social misbehavior
not conducive to maintenance of integrity of public school system was
arbitrary and capricious and was an impermissible reason for
terminating employment. Judgment affirmed.
High school teacher’s dismissal is arbitrary and capricious if each of
stated reasons underlying dismissal is trivial, or is unrelated to
educational process or to working relationships within educational
institution or is wholly unsupported by a basis in fact.
Though school board may legitimately inquire into character and
integrity of its teachers, it may not arbitrarily or capriciously dismiss
teacher based on unsupported conclusions drawn from such inquiries.
BOARD OF REGENTS OF STATE COLLEGES ET AL. - Appellant
David ROTH - Appellee
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
408 U.S. 564 (1972)
In 1968, David Roth was hired for his first teaching job as assistant
professor of political science at Wisconsin State University-Oshkosh. He
was hired for a fixed term of one academic year. The notice of his faculty
appointment specified that his employment would begin on September 1,
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1968, and would end on June 30, 1969. Roth completed that term. But
he was informed that he would not be rehired for the next academic year.
David Roth had no tenure rights to continued employment. Under
Wisconsin statutory law a state university teacher can acquire tenure as
“permanent” employee only after four years of year-to-year employment.
Having acquired tenure, a teacher is entitled to continued employment
“during efficiency and good behavior.” A relatively new teacher without
tenure, however, is under Wisconsin law entitled to nothing beyond his
one-year appointment. There are no statutory or administrative
standards defining eligibility for reemployment. State law thus clearly
leaves the decision whether to rehire a non-tenured teacher for another
year to the unfettered discretion of university officials.
Roth filed suit in court. He alleged that he was not rehired because of
statements he made against the University’s administration and
therefore it violated his right to freedom of speech. He also alleged that
his right to procedural due process (Fourteenth Amendment) was
violated when the University officials failed to give him reasons not to
The District Court granted summary judgment for Roth on the
procedural issue, ordering the University officials to provide him with
reasons and a hearing. The Court of Appeals, with one judge dissenting,
affirmed this partial summary judgment. The only question presented to
the Supreme Court at this stage of the case is whether Roth had a
constitutional right to a statement of reasons and a hearing on the
University’s decision not to rehire him for another year. We hold that he
The Fourteenth Amendment does not require opportunity for a
hearing prior to the non-renewal of a non-tenured state teacher’s
contract, unless he can show that the non-renewal deprived him of an
interest in “liberty” or that he had “property” interest in continued
employment despite the lack of tenure or a formal contract. Here the
non-retention of respondent, absent any charges against him or stigma
or disability foreclosing other employment, is not tantamount to a
deprivation of “liberty,” and the terms of respondent’s employment
accorded him no “property” interest protected by procedural due process.
The courts below therefore erred in granting summary judgment for the
respondent on the procedural due process issue.
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“The only question presented to us at this stage in the case is whether
the respondent had a constitutional right to a statement of reasons and a
hearing on the University’s decision not to rehire him for another year.
We hold that he did not.”
“Our analysis of the respondent’s constitutional rights in this case in
no way indicates a view that an opportunity for a hearing or a statement
of reasons for non-retention would, or would not, be appropriate or wise
in public colleges and universities. For it is a written Constitution that
we apply. Our role is confined to interpretation of that Constitution.”
“We must conclude that the summary judgment for the respondent
should not have been granted, since the respondent has not shown that
he was deprived of liberty or property protected by the Fourteenth
Amendment. The judgment of the Court of Appeals, accordingly, is
reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent
with this opinion.”
A contract is a property only during the term. In this case, Roth did
not have a property right beyond its term. Due process is required during
the contract or when the contract becomes the property of the employee.
United States Court of Appeals,
John M. DENNIS, Plaintiff-Appellee
S & S CONSOLIDATED RURAL HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT
et al., Defendants-Appellants
No. 76 – 3803
Suit was brought by the non-tenured public school teacher alleging
that manner in which school decided not to renew his contract deprived
him of liberty and property without due process in violation of the
Fourteenth Amendment. The United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Texas at Sherman, William Wayne Justice, J., found that
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allegations of a drinking problem subjected teacher to “badge of infamy”
which violated his liberty interests and ordered administrative hearing,
and appeal was taken.
In this appeal, S & S contends that the district court erred in holding
that the actions of the school board violated any protected liberty
interest. Significantly, S & S has not argued that either the March or the
June, 1974, hearings afforded Dennis procedural due process, assuming
the existence of a protected liberty interest. Neither party challenges the
district court’s holding that Dennis had no property interest in continued
employment with S & S.
Appellee John M. Dennis was hired by the Board of Trustees of the
Sadler & Southmayd Consolidated Rural High School District (S&S) as a
science teacher and high school principal for the 1968-1969 school year.
Each year thereafter, through the 1972-1973 school year, S & S voted to
renew Dennis’ contract. At the regular school board meeting in February,
1974, however, S & S voted not to renew the one year contract under
which Dennis was employed. Although Dennis was given no advance
notice of the Board’s February action or the reasons for it, he had
previously been involved in several disputes with S & S concerning
student discipline. In response to Dennis’ request, the S & S Board of
Trustees met publicly in March, 1974, to discuss the non-renewal of
Dennis’ contract. Prior to this meeting, Dennis was not given a list of
charges against him, the reasons for his non-renewal, or the names of
the persons who had made charges against him. At the meeting, the only
reason for non-renewal given by the Board as a body was that the action
was in “the best interest of the school.” However, individual board
members cited their reasons for not renewing Dennis’ contract:
“neglected his duties”; “was too inefficient to continue in his position”;
had “a drinking problem.” Dennis denied all allegations and later
demanded a hearing before the Board in the hopes of clearing his name.
The Board granted Dennis a hearing, which was held in public on June
3, 1974 and at which substantially the same allegations were made
against Dennis as at the March meeting.
The Court of Appeals, Simpson, Circuit Judge, held that: (1) teacher,
who had no property interest in renewal of his contract, was nevertheless
entitled to Fourteenth Amendment due process when school board
subjected him to badge of infamy in course of refusing to renew his
contract, but (2) teacher was only entitled to opportunity to “clear his
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name” and was not entitled to retention on school payroll or to back pay
since his right to due process did not encompass right to continued
employment. Affirmed in part, reversed in part.
The critical issue raised by this appeal is whether a non-tenured
public school teacher with no property interest in the renewal of his
teaching contract is entitled to Fourteenth Amendment due process
when the school board subjects him to a badge of infamy in the course of
refusing to renew his contract. We hold that he is.
Where state has conferred right upon certain citizens, it may not alter
or extinguish that right without due process; similarly, when government
employs an individual, it may not terminate relationship in manner
which might seriously damage individual’s standing and associations in
his community or foreclose his freedom to take advantage of other
employment opportunities without affording him a due process hearing
at which he can make a fair fight to clear his name.
Supreme Court of Texas.
Gary GROUNDS, Petitioner,
TOLAR INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, Respondent
Gary Grounds, a teacher and a head football coach with a losing
record was fired by the Tolar Independent School District. He brought
suit against the District for breach of contract and for an alleged
violation of his civil rights. After lengthy litigation, the District recognized
that it mistakenly failed to give him timely notice and a hearing before he
was fired. After settling the breach of contract suit, the coach decided to
litigate the tort action. The trial court found “zero” damages on the tort
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action and rendered judgment in favor of the District. The Court of
Petitioner, Gary Grounds, was a teacher and a coach for the Tolar
Independent School District (the District) during the 1983-84 school
year. In February of 1984, the District notified Grounds that his one-year
teaching contract would not be renewed. Grounds’ requests for an
explanation of the nonrenewal and for a hearing were denied. Grounds
appealed to the Commissioner of Education (the Commissioner) who
ordered the District to renew Grounds’ contract for the 1984-85 school
The District declined to either abide by or appeal the Commissioner’s
order. Grounds then sued the District, alleging both breach of his
employment contract and violation of his right to procedural due process.
Grounds claimed that the due process violation arose not from the
District’s failure to renew his 1983-84 contract, but solely from its
refusal to provide him with its reasons for nonrenewal of his contract
and a hearing. The parties eventually settled the contract claim,
expressly reserving the due process claim for judicial determination,
including Grounds’ request for damages and attorneys’ fees.
After a bench trial, the district court concluded that even if Grounds
established a due process violation, he sustained no damages as a result.
The trial court, accordingly, rendered judgment that Grounds take
nothing. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment but did
so because it concluded that the TCNA does not create a property
interest in term contract renewal. As a result, the appellate court did not
reach Grounds’ complaint that the trial court’s failure to award damages
and attorney’s fees was against the great weight and preponderance of
Public school teacher whose term contract was not renewed brought
action against school district, alleging violation of due process. The 355th
District Court, Hood County, Dan B. Grissom, J., held for school district,
and teacher appealed. The Court of Appeals, 827 S.W. 2d 10, affirmed
and writ of error was sought. The Supreme Court, Cornyn, J., held that
school district’s failure to provide reasons for nonrenewal, in violation of
term contract Nonrenewal Act, violated teacher’s due process rights.
Reversed and remanded.
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In this case we consider whether the legislature conferred upon public
school teachers in Texas a constitutionally protected property interest by
virtue of the Term Contract Nonrenewal Act (TCNA). For the reasons set
out below, we hold that the legislature did grant teachers a property
interest. We, therefore, reverse the court of appeals’ judgment and
remand this case to that court for consideration of points of error relating
to damages and attorney’s fees not previously addressed.
Term Contract Nonrenewal Act (TCNA) sufficiently limits school
district’s discretion not to renew teacher’s contracts to create property
interest in term contract renewal entitled to due process protection, and
thus school district’s failure to provide reasons for nonrenewal, in
violation of Act, violated teacher’s due process rights.
Robert Johnson – Petitioner
HOUSTON INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT - Respondent
BACKGROUND AND FACTS
Robert Johnson’s continuing contract with Houston Independent
School District (HISD) was terminated during the 2000-2001 school year.
The reasons for Johnson’s termination were his excessive absences,
failure to provide proper lesson plans and grade books.
Johnson appealed to the Commissioner of Education. His arguments
were that the District’s decision to terminate his contract was not valid
because of the lack of substantial evidence. He also argued that the
problems regarding his unacceptable lesson plans and grade books could
be remediated and the District failed to adopt a standard for excessive
absences, when he was referring to his absence on the first day of school
without proper notice or excuse.
Ample time was given to the petitioner to correct and improve his
grading and lesson plans. Because this time frame was given to him,
there was no right to remediation, which raised the level of good cause.
20. Arthur L. Petterway
The Commissioner defined excessive absences as “those absences for
which leave under federal and state law or district policy is not properly
invoked” which was constituted as good cause for his termination.
Petitioner’s appeal is denied.
“Good cause exists for the termination of Petitioner’s continuing
contract. Petitioner’s appeal should be denied.”
When a teacher is given a warning to correct a problem, that teacher
needs to follow up on it in order to make it evident that effort is being
made to improve.