Former PAISD principal wasn't required to exhaust administrative remedies, justices rule

David Yates Feb. 17, 2012, 5:14pm

Dr. Edna Edwards was not required to exhaust her administrate remedies before filing a discrimination suit against the Port Arthur Independent School District, Texas justices on the Ninth Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday.

The Southeast Texas Record previously reported that Edwards filed a discrimination suit against PAISD on Feb. 7, 2008, in Jefferson County District Court.

After having its plea to the jurisdiction motion shot down, PAISD filed an appeal on Nov. 7, arguing that Edwards failed to exhaust her administrative remedies under the Texas Education Code.

On Feb. 16 the Ninth Court concluded that Edwards was not required to exhaust her administrative remedies and the lower court had jurisdiction over the lawsuit.

"Edwards alleged in her petition that she timely filed a complaint with the EEOC and received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC on Dec. 15, 2007," states the Ninth Court's opinion, authored by Justice Charles Kreger.

"Edwards' complaint was filed on April 23, 2007, and indicates that she requested it be dually filed with the 'Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division.' Edwards suit was filed on Feb. 7, 2008, at least 181 days after her dual filing and within the two-year statutory deadline.

"PAISD does not dispute Edwards's exhaustion of her administrative remedies under the TCHRA. We overrule PAISD's sole issue in this interlocutory appeal and affirm the order of the trial court."

Case background

Court records show that Edwards began her career with the Port Arthur Independent School District as a special education teacher in 1974. Twenty-five years later, she became the principal of Stephen F. Austin Middle School. She was then "demoted" to a position with the District Wide Alternative school, the suit states..

Edwards alleges the school district retaliated against her because she was "mentioned favorably" in a deposition in regards to a 2006 lawsuit filed against PAISD.

"After Dr. Edwards' name was mentioned favorably in (the) deposition, she was repeatedly and publicly harassed and berated by members of the PAISD administration for her alleged failure to support (the school district)," the suit states.

On April 23, 2007, Edwards responded to her co-workers "harassment" by filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Edwards also contends that after she was demoted she was replaced with someone less competent than herself, the suit states.

"The multiple demotions have halted the upward advancement of Dr. Edwards' career, which she has been establishing for decades," the suit states. "She has been forced to work in positions for which she is overqualified and over-experienced and which do not utilize her training and education."

Dr. Edwards is suing for punitive damages, "since PAISD's actions were committed intentionally," plus lost wages and mental anguish.

Beaumont attorney Kenneth W. Lewis of Bush Lewis represents her.

The district is represented by attorney Lori Hood.

Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd Judicial District, is assigned to the case.

Case No. E181-196

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