Ninth Court shuts down teacher’s bid to overturn PAISD’s jurisdiction win

By David Yates | Apr 20, 2017

BEAUMONT – The Ninth Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court’s ruling granting the Port Arthur School District’s plea to the jurisdiction in a suit brought by the former principal of Booker T. Washington, who sued the district and Superintendent Johnny Brown alleging she was demoted after exercising her right to free speech.

Cynthia Jackson filed her suit March 15, 2013 in Jefferson County District Court.

According to the lawsuit, Jackson, a black female, was initially assigned as Washington principal for the 2010-2011 school year until being reassigned to become one of the first assistant principals at Memorial High School.

The reason given by Brown for the demotion was that she “couldn’t accept change,” the suit states.

“The real reason behind plaintiff’s demotion were her comments to Brown and his wife,” the suit alleges.

“Plaintiff wrote to Brown on February 1, 2013 informing him that her students had been denied services and complaining to Brown about the assignment to BTW of a woman who she had neither needed or requested. The supernumerary female was a reportedly intimate friend of Brown’s who had used in a created position of ‘Assistant to the Superintendent.’”

A month later, she was reassigned.

Court records show the district and Brown challenged Jackson’s amended pleadings, arguing her claims were barred by governmental immunity and the court lacked jurisdiction in the case.

On March 27, 2015, Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, found that Brown was entitled to qualified immunity regarding Jackson’s allegations of tortious interference with employment relationship.

Also, the court found that PAISD was immune from suit because it is a political subdivision of the state of Texas and Jackson failed to aver any waiver of PAISD’s governmental immunity, appellate briefs state.

The Ninth Court affirmed the ruling on April 20, finding Jackson has also not shown that she did not have a sufficient opportunity to amend her pleadings and allege sufficient facts to show that she had any facially valid state or federal constitutional claims.

Jackson alleged the defendants violated her Texas Constitutional rights.

Missouri City attorney Larry Watts represents her.

PAISD and Brown are represented by Melody Chappell, attorney for the Beaumont law firm Wells, Peyton, Greenberg & Hunt.

Trial case No. E194-159

Appeals case No. 09-15-00227-CV

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