Sample of Writing Court Cases
For Dr. Kritsonis’ Classes
William Allan Kritsonis
EDUCATIONAL LAW & POLICY
Public School Law
PRAIRIE VIEW A&M UNIVERSITY
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 independent contractor.”
United States Court of Appeals,
Emilio MONTEZ, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
SOUTH ANTONIO INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant-Appellee
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 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 property interest.
The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, at San
Antonio, H. F. Garcia, J., granted summary judgment against instructor.
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
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. 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
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
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
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. Peters
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 Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and
under 42 U.S.C. series 1981.
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 records.
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
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 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 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 teacher appealed.
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
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 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.
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.
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,
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 required intent.
“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
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 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 appealed.
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
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 was arbitrary and capricious and
was an impermissible reason for terminating employment.
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.
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, 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
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 rehire him.
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 did not.
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.
“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
“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 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 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 action and rendered judgment in favor of the
District. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
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 year.
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 the evidence.
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.
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
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
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. 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