Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Administrators prevail over teachers and students who follow them to lunchtime trysts

This case interested me because it is somewhat similar to what happened at Castle Park Elementary, except that it was not students, but teachers, who followed a district administrator to a lunchtime tryst in the California case. Castle Park Elementary had a very disturbed culture among the teachers, who wanted to retaliate after several teachers had been transferred out of the school.

The teachers didn't seem to appreciate that the district was in the middle of a court case in which it paid $100,000s to lawyers to defend these very teachers for illegal actions. The teachers styled themselves as "The Castle Park Family", and they were furious.

They caused a big public brouhaha, but the lunchtime stalking incident did not reach the newspapers. The board and the district administrators should have disciplined the teachers at the beginning instead of paying $100,000s of tax dollars to conceal their illegal actions. They became drunk with power, and could not be controlled by any principal. The school had eleven principals in eleven years. Also, one of their leaders, Peg Myers, became the President of Chula Vista Educators, and retains that position today. During the strife at Castle Park Elementary, Peg Myers worked closely with CTA director Jim Groth.

Court Decisions Favor Schools
National Association of Secondary School Principals
Nov. 2000

Principal Prevails

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas found in favor of a school principal on legal issues related to the intended use of dubious photographs that could have potentially compromised the principal’s integrity.

In Riggan v. Midland Indep. Sch. Dist. (86 F. Supp. 2d 647 [W.D. Tex. 2000]), Casey Riggan, a senior at Midland (Tex.) Senior High School, along with several o f hi s f r i ends, followed the school’s principal to the house of a teacher and photographed the principal’s car in front of the house. Not long after, administrators investigating rumors of the principal’s sexual impropriety learned that Riggan had photos that might be linked to their investigation. The principal himself also learned of the photos and contacted Riggan’s father for a conference.

Although the parties disputed exactly what was said at that meeting, the principal alleged that Riggan intended to print the photograph on a T-shirt with the statement “I never had sex with that woman” for graduates to wear during graduation to publicly humiliate him.

Additionally, the principal charged that Riggan’s photos were taken in retaliation for prior disciplinary actions and attempted to punish Riggan by suspending him and temporarily assigning him to the Alternative Education Program and requiring him to write apologies or be banned from graduation. Riggan claimed that the photos were absolutely protected under the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of expression and that, as a result, the school could not regulate the photos or their use. The court held that although the photo-bearing T-shirt would be considered an expressive activity, regulation of the photographs in this case would not violate the First Amendment because Riggan did not have the absolute right to publicly humiliate the principal at graduation. Additionally, the court explained that if the p h o t o h a d b e e n p r i n t e d o n t h e Tshirts for graduation, the resulting disruption would have justified Riggan’s punishment by the school.

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