511 F.2d 1242 (10th Cir. 1975), 74--1478, Adams v. Campbell County School Dist., Campbell County, Wyoming

Docket Nº:74--1478.
Citation:511 F.2d 1242
Party Name:Yvonne A. ADAMS et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. CAMPBELL COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, CAMPBELL COUNTY, WYOMING, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:February 28, 1975
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
 
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Page 1242

511 F.2d 1242 (10th Cir. 1975)

Yvonne A. ADAMS et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

CAMPBELL COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, CAMPBELL COUNTY, WYOMING,

et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 74--1478.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

February 28, 1975

Argued Jan. 23, 1975.

Page 1243

Jerry D. Anker, of Lichtman, Abeles, Anker & Nagle, P.C., Washington, D.C. (Lawrence J. Sherman, of Lichtman, Abeles, Anker & Nagle, P.C., Washington, D.C., and Ronald W. Hofer, of Leimbeck, Aspinwall & Hofer, Casper, Wyo., on the brief), for plaintiffs-appellants.

R. R. Bostwick of Murane, Bostwick, McDaniel, Scott, Greenlee & Owens, Casper, Wyo. (Wade Brorby, of Morgan & Brorby, Gillette, Wyo., on the brief), for defendants-appellees.

Before BREITENSTEIN, BARRETT and DOYLE, Circuit Judges.

WILLIAM E. DOYLE, Circuit Judge.

This is a civil rights action which arises under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343. It results from the non-renewal by the Campbell County, Wyoming School Board of the contracts of appellants as teachers in the high school at Gillette, Wyoming. The Complaint alleges that there existed a connection between the non-renewal of appellants' employment and activities of plaintiffs which were constitutionally protected. Appellees denied this. They asserted that there were other reasons. The district court, after an extensive and full trial, made specific findings that the activities which the plaintiffs had relied on were not the causes of the School Board's action in not renewing the contracts. In addition, the court made positive findings as to the causes and determined that these pertained to the manner of carrying out course work. The trial court's findings are supported by the evidence, are not clearly erroneous and hence we affirm.

The activities which are in issue in this case took place during the academic year 1969--70.

The three appellants were first year contract, non-tenured teachers. Only appellant Brooks who had taught for one year at Northeastern Shelby County Consolidated School District in Indiana had had previous teaching experience. Appellant Adams had in the spring of 1969 graduated from the University of Wyoming. Appellant Wiseman had graduated the previous spring from Colorado State College at Greeley, Colorado.

I.

EVIDENCE AS TO THE CAUSES FOR NOT RENEWING THE CONTRACTS

The decisions not to renew the contracts took place after the principal of Gillette High School, Mr. MacDonald, recommended that the appellants not be rehired for the school year 1970--71. It was the School Board's final decision as to whether they should be rehired and that body approved the recommendation of Mr. MacDonald.

Reasons given by MacDonald for not rehiring:

The evidence of actions of plaintiffs which allegedly were constitutionally protected was presented by the plaintiffs. At trial they called the principal, Mr. MacDonald, as an adverse witness and questioned him as to the reasons for his recommendation of non-renewal. His testimony as to plaintiff Adams was that he could obtain better teachers; that her seating arrangements in class were too informal and that there was a lack of discipline in the classroom; that she engaged on one occasion in a loud argument with another teacher in an area where students could overhear what was being said; that she, together with Mr. Wiseman and a Miss Armel who, although terminated did not join the action, tended to have a clique and to cause disharmony among the remaining members of the faculty. He also said that she discussed current events in class and did not devote full attention to English, the course she was assigned to teach.

As to Wiseman, according to MacDonald, he played records including 'Alice's Restaurant' and 'Hair' in class and in doing so disturbed other classes. He did not cover the material; he also was part of the exclusive clique; and the students complained that they were not learning anything.

Page 1244

As to Brooks, Mr. MacDonald said that he was often late to work on Mondays; that he had trouble getting along with the staff; that on one occasion he had an altercation with one of the coaches; and that in another instance he was guilty of insubordination toward MacDonald in that he refused to allow his students to go to a general assembly until after an embarrassing confrontation with MacDonald.

There is no controversy as to the existence of differences between MacDonald, Wiseman and Adams as to teaching methods and course content, nor is there any dispute concerning the general assembly incident between Brooks and MacDonald. Appellants' positions are that their many and varied activities, all of which were forms of expression (First Amendment), were the actual reasons and that appellees' assigned reasons were in effect pretexts.

Appellants' versions as to the terminations:

An underground newspaper was published by some of the students, and Adams and Wiseman say that they were blamed for having published it. MacDonald testified, however, that he accepted Adams' and Wiseman's statements that they had nothing to do with this paper and that this was not a causal factor.

Adams and Wiseman had a book club for students which was conducted once every two weeks from 7:00 to...

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