By Chris McGuinness
Killeen Daily Herald
On Thursday, the Texas Eighth Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's decision to dismiss a 2008 lawsuit filed by a former employee against the Killeen Independent School District.
In its decision, the El Paso court agreed with the 2010 summary judgment of the 146th District Court in Bell County that Phyllis Nairn, a former special education coordinator at Shoemaker High School, failed to "exhaust all remedies" before seeking redress in state court.
"It is undisputed that Nairn did not perfect under the relevant provisions of the Texas Education Code," stated the state appellate opinion.
In various complaints filed with the Killeen school district and state education officials, Nairn claimed that she was demoted, harassed and eventually fired as punishment for reporting wrongdoing at her school and in the district.
Killeen school district officials maintained that Nairn was terminated due to performance issues and making false allegations.
"The decision speaks for itself, and we have no further comment beyond what the court has ruled," wrote district spokesperson Leslie Gilmore Thursday in an email statement.
Nairn, now an educational consultant and parent-support representative, wrote in an email that she had no comment on the appellate court's ruling.
During the 2006-2007 school year, Nairn reported alleged violations of law to her supervisor, Shoemaker principal Ronald Gray and then-superintendent Jim Hawkins.
The purported violations included Gray's alleged sexual harassment of another teacher, and the school district's alleged failures to follow standardized and special education testing and classification requirements.
At the end of the school year, Nairn was reassigned to a teaching position. She filed a grievance with the school district in June 2007, challenging the job change.
That September, the Killeen school board determined that Nairn's claims were unsubstantiated. She was placed on paid leave and later informed that her employment contract wouldn't be renewed.
In April 2008, Nairn filed a complaint with the state education commissioner, alleging that the school district's non-renewal of her contract was retaliation for reporting wrongdoing.
But the education commissioner upheld the Killeen district's decision a month later, determining that other facts, including reprimands and issues with Nairn's performance, supported "nonretaliatory" reasons for the termination.
Nairn then filed suit in state district court against the school district in July 2008, alleging violations of the state's whistle-blower act as well as claims of discrimination, retaliation, due process violations and wrongful termination.
Roughly two years later, the district court granted a summary judgment in favor of the Killeen school district, deciding it didn't have any jurisdiction over Nairn's claims. The Bell County court determined that Nairn failed to appeal the education commissioner's decision within the 30-day time frame required by Texas education law.
In its recent decision, the state appellate court also shot down Nairn's other claims against the Killeen school district, including allegations of discrimination, a hostile work environment and retaliation.
Contact Chris McGuinness at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.