The SE Texas Record Jun. 10, 2015, 11:35am


By DAVID YATES

An appeals court has agreed to hear a whistleblower lawsuit against the Beaumont Independent School District, which seeks immunity from the claim.

Plaintiff George W. Thomas Jr., a former middle school teacher, filed suit against BISD on Dec. 23, 2013, in Jefferson County District Court, alleging he was fired for reporting illegal acts by the principal at South Park Middle School.

Court records show the problem-plagued district filed an appeal in January, asserting a trial court erred in denying its plea to the jurisdiction for governmental immunity.

On May 28 the Ninth Court of Appeals of Texas agreed to hear oral arguments in the case. The hearing is set for Sept. 24.

On Appeal, BISD asks whether Thomas’ retaliation claim under the Texas Whistleblower Act was untimely and is barred by the district’s governmental immunity.

In his suit, Thomas says he began teaching at South Park Middle School in the fall of 2008 in the position as In-School Suspension teacher until he was removed Aug. 26, 2013.

According to the complaint, Thomas received no adverse evaluations or reprimands during his tenure in the position. He alleges that former principal Duaine Harris asked him to add students who were out-of-school suspended to the in-school suspension attendance sheet.

The district was mired in attendance fraud controversy last year.

Thomas says shortly after June 2013, he consulted with the Texas State Teacher’s Association representative regarding illegal acts requested by Harris and began to cooperate with the Texas Education Agency for their investigation of the attendance fraud at South Park Middle School.

On Aug. 26, 2013, Principal Harris came to Thomas and advised him he was not on the teacher’s role, when he was, and instructed Thomas he had been relieved of his position, according to the lawsuit.

Attorney Kevin S. Laine is representing him in the case.

Attorneys Clay Grover and Caitlin Sewell represent the district.

Trial case No. B195-084

Appeals case No. March 2, 201029

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