BEAUMONT – The 9th District Court of Appeals at Beaumont has affirmed a trial court’s dismissal of claims where a Port Arthur Independent School District employee claimed free speech violations by the district and key superiors.
Joann Compton begin working as a speech language pathologist for the Port Arthur Independent School District in August 2009, and filed suit roughly a year later alleging violations of her right to free speech.
In her filing, Compton stated that her troubles commenced soon after taking the job when she discovered that student reports she printed at one of the three schools she was assigned to were being routed to a printer that was located in a public hallway at another school, causing her to grow concerned such open access created issues about federal student privacy rights.
After voicing her concerns about the situation and attempting to have the printer setup corrected through the District’s IT department, Compton alleges that superiors created a hostile work environment by giving her an “exhausting and rigorous schedule of meetings,” court documents state.
Later board leaders began a “Medicaid fraud” investigation centered on Compton that led to her being placed on administrative leave and later reassigned as a content mastery teacher.
Soon after that, Compton formally filed suit naming the Port Arthur District Superintendent Johnny E. Brown and her supervisor Emily King as defendants. Charging violations of her right to free speech, Compton sought a declaratory judgment and an injunction against future violations, as well as costs and attorney’s fees.
Compton’s appeal sought a new trial on grounds that included claims of a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, an injunction sought by her was not moot and claims Brown and King were not entitled to immunity under the Texas Tort Claims Act.
In rendering its verdict, the appeals court found that Compton’s complaints about harassment were rendered moot prior to her filing by virtue of her transfer. The court also ruled Compton failed to cite legal authority in keeping with Declaratory Judgment Act standards and that her argument was “legally inaccurate” in the way it looked past the trial court’s basis for awarding award of attorney’s fees.
The order was signed by Justice Charles Kreger with Justices C.J. McKeithen and JJ Horton.