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Jackson v. Frisco Indep. Sch. Dist.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

June 15, 2015

ALVIN JACKSON, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
FRISCO INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant - Appellee

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

For Alvin Jackson, Plaintiff - Appellant: Matthew Roy Scott, Kendall Law Group, L.L.P., Dallas, TX.

For Frisco Independent School District, Defendant - Appellee: Charles J. Crawford, Director, Abernathy, Roeder, Boyd & Joplin, P.C., McKinney, TX.

Before BARKSDALE, SOUTHWICK, and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 593

RHESA HAWKINS BARKSDALE, Circuit Judge:

Primarily at issue in this appeal from a summary judgment is whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists for the reasons given for nonrenewal of a teacher's contract. Alvin Jackson challenges the summary judgment awarded Frisco Independent School District (FISD) against his claims tat, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ; Tex. Labor Code § § 21.051, 21.055, FISD discriminated against him because of his race and retaliated against him for reporting such claimed discrimination. AFFIRMED IN PART; REVERSED IN PART; REMANDED.

I.

During his first year (2010-2011) at Frisco High School in Texas, Jackson was one of four black teachers, as well as the only black coach, in a faculty of approximately 100 teachers. During that first year, Jackson received generally positive reviews, including a positive annual appraisal from his supervisor, associate-principal Smith.

In August 2011, Jackson complained to Smith about difficulties in working with another coach, Reiter. Smith advised Jackson not to contact the human resources department (HR). The parties dispute whether this complaint constituted a report of racial discrimination. In any event, in his declaration, Jackson states: he advised Smith he wanted to file a formal complaint with HR regarding race-based discrimination; Smith instructed him not to contact HR; and Smith never investigated the claimed discrimination.

Three weeks after Jackson complained to Smith, Smith performed a walkthrough evaluation of Jackson's classroom, noting a number of deficiencies. That October, Smith conducted and prepared an observation summary appraisal of Jackson, ranking him as " below" or " unsatisfactory" in a number of teaching areas. And, that November, Jackson was placed on an intervention plan for teachers in need of assistance (TINA). Following several walkthrough evaluations, he was found non-compliant with the TINA.

Earlier in the fall of 2011, after Jackson's unsuccessful attempt to have Smith address his August complaint, Jackson complained about race-based discrimination to the principal, Palacios. In her deposition, Palacios admitted Jackson claimed Reiter's conduct was on account of Jackson's race. After Jackson stated to Palacios that he was considering filing a grievance with HR, Palacios convinced him to wait. And, in her deposition, Palacios recalled stating to Jackson: " [M]aybe FISD was not the fit for him" . Similarly, in his declaration, Jackson claims Palacios stated he was " not a 'good fit' for 'this school district'" . There is a genuine dispute regarding exactly what Palacios stated; but, again, she admits she stated " maybe FISD was not the fit for him" . Moreover, Palacios admits not investigating Jackson's complaint.

By its 10 April 2012 letter, FISD's board informed Jackson that his contract would be recommended for nonrenewal. He responded by a 23 April letter, in which he charged race-based discrimination and retaliation. He requested being provided any evidence of failure as a teacher or

Page 594

insubordination, as well as a public hearing under Texas Education Code § 21.207(a).

Regarding Jackson's claims of discriminatory and retaliatory treatment, FISD promised to investigate the claims and sought permission from Jackson to postpone the nonrenewal hearing until after the investigation. Jackson refused to delay the hearing.

During an 8 May hearing, each party was initially permitted only 45 minutes to present their case, during which they were allowed to make opening statements, present witnesses and exhibits, cross-examine witnesses, and make closing arguments. A brief extension of time was granted, and each party exceeded the 45-minute limit. Although the record does not indicate by exactly how much time the parties exceeded 45 minutes, the examiner stated he was willing to exceed the limits by five or 10 minutes, but not 30.

On 18 and 23 May, Jackson requested dismissal, by nonsuit, of his challenge to his nonrenewal. But, rather than the challenge being dismissed, the hearing officer issued written findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations that: there was insufficient evidence of racial discrimination and retaliation; and FISD had legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for nonrenewal of Jackson's contract.

On 18 June, relying on the hearing-examiner's recommendations for nonrenewal, the school board voted unanimously not to renew Jackson's contract. Jackson did not challenge the nonrenewal before the commissioner of education or in state court; instead, he filed this action.

Following discovery, during which FISD did not depose Jackson, summary judgment was requested by FISD. Regarding FISD's asserting collateral estoppel based on Jackson's administrative hearing, the district court ruled: Jackson did not have a fair opportunity to litigate his claims in that hearing; and, therefore, his claims were not collaterally estopped. Jackson v. Frisco Indep. Sch. Dist., No. 4:12-CV-318, slip op. at 8-11 (E.D. Tex. 31 Mar. 2014). Although the court ruled Jackson established a prima-facie case for racial discrimination and retaliation, it ruled he failed to show a ...


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