6th Cir. Allows Teacher Retaliation Lawsuit in School Bullying Case - U.S. Sixth Circuit
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6th Cir. Allows Teacher Retaliation Lawsuit in School Bullying Case

A teacher from Rock Hill can have her retaliation lawsuit go forward, ruled the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

This retaliation lawsuit was brought by the schoolteacher against a former superintendent, reports The Ironton Tribune. In addition to claims of retaliation, the teacher also brought claims of violation of free speech, which were dismissed by the lower courts.

The teacher, Joy McComas, spoke up to protect her daughter from school bullying and as a result, McComas claims she became a victim of bullying herself, by then-superintendent Lloyd Evans. The appeals court ruled, however, that much of McComas’ activities in support of her child did not fall under the heading of free speech.

Quick facts:

In 2007, Joy McComas' daughter and another girl (also a student) had an argument over a boy. The other girl allegedly brought a knife to school and told McComas' daughter to "watch her back." Although the girl was suspended, McComas nevertheless home schooled her daughter for the remainder of the year and expressed her concern to the principal and the school board.

In order to prepare for the case against the other girl, McComas had her daughter distribute a questionnaire around school, asking various questions, including whether any students heard the girl brag about bringing the knife to school. She was reprimanded for the questionnaire and subsequently suspended.

The law:

McComas alleged a violation of free speech in distributing the questionnaire and in her written complaints regarding what she believed was a relaxation of school policy regarding the student who brought the knife to school.

As for the questionnaire, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the preparation of the questionnaire was not on a matter of public concern and as such, she failed to establish that it was a protected activity.

Her claim for retaliation, however, was treated differently. The court held that there existed a genuine issue of material fact that there may have been a retaliatory motive behind her suspension.

McComas will be allowed to try her retaliation case before the lower courts. She is currently still employed by the school district.

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