539 F.2d 656 (8th Cir. 1976), 75-1347, Cato v. Collins

Docket Nº:75-1347.
Citation:539 F.2d 656
Party Name:John E. CATO and Mrs. Lucille B. Cato v. Morgan COLLINS, President of Forrest City Special School District No. 7, et al., Appellees, Cecil Twillie, Appellant.
Case Date:July 30, 1976
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Page 656

539 F.2d 656 (8th Cir. 1976)

John E. CATO and Mrs. Lucille B. Cato


Morgan COLLINS, President of Forrest City Special School

District No. 7, et al., Appellees,

Cecil Twillie, Appellant.

No. 75-1347.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

July 30, 1976

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Submitted March 8, 1976.

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Philip E. Kaplan, Walker, Kaplan & Mays, Little Rock, Ark., argued; and Jack Greenberg, James C. Gray, Jr., and Fredric Cowden, New York City, on brief, for appellant.

Harold Sharpe, Forrest City, Ark. (on brief) argued; E. J. Butler, Forrest City, Ark., for appellees.

Before GIBSON, Chief Judge, and HEANEY and WEBSTER, Circuit Judges.

WEBSTER, Circuit Judge.

Cecil Twillie appeals from a judgment of the District Court denying his claim for reinstatement as a teacher in Forrest City, Arkansas, Special School District No. 7 with all benefits and rights, including attorneys fees. Appellant, an intervenor in the principal action, 1 asserted his claim in a "Motion for Further Relief". He bases his appeal from the denial of that motion on four grounds: (1) that he was deprived of due process by the failure of the school board to provide him with notice of and opportunity for a hearing prior to the board's decision not to renew his teaching contract; (2) that he was denied due process because the decision maker at the post-termination hearing was not impartial; (3) that he was deprived of due process by Ark.Stat.Ann. §§ 80-1245 and 80-1246, which he alleged were unconstitutional as applied; and (4) that the board's decision not to renew his contract violated his equal protection rights since that decision was based on racial motivations. Following careful examination of the record, we affirm the District Court. 2

Appellant is a black teacher who was first employed by the school district during the 1962-63 school year and served as a teacher and athletic coach within the district until his dismissal at the conclusion of the 1972-73 school year. Prior to the 1970-71 school year, the district operated a dual system of schools. During this period, Twillie supported and participated in the civil rights movement in Forrest City and gave testimony at a trial involving a fellow teacher who had been dismissed because of participation in civil rights activities. His basic contention here is that his civil rights activities were the real reason for his dismissal rather than his insubordination, as the district contends. The facts surrounding this dispute are summarized below.

In the 1972-73 school year, appellant was the head basketball coach at Forrest City Junior High School. During the basketball season, Twillie asked one of the players on the team, who he felt was not fully participating in a practice session, to do some extra exercises. The player refused to do the exercises, left the practice session, and quit the team. When the player sought to be reinstated on the team, an understanding was reached between Twillie and the principal of the school that the player would be allowed to return to the basketball program, but with the express condition that he could not play in any of the remaining regular season games. Twillie instead played the student in two regular season games in order to determine if the student would be able to work with the team in the upcoming state tournament games.

When the principal learned that the student had been allowed to play contrary to the ground rules which the principal had

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established, he informed Twillie that the student was not to play in any of the state tournament games and was to be dismissed from the team. Twillie complied with this order, but submitted to the tournament officials a list of players which included the name of the dismissed student. At the tournament, the student did not play, but another student did play in the games under the name of the dismissed student. Playing a student under an assumed name violated the rules of the state activities association; and the board, upon discovering the violation, reported the incident to the association.

On March 16, 1973, Twillie was informed by letter that the board was considering action as a result of the basketball incidents. On April 9, 1973, the principal sent a letter to the district superintendent informing him of the incidents and stated that Twillie's actions were, in his opinion, acts of insubordination, but that he would not make any recommendations as to what actions, if any, the board should take. On April 26th, the principal again wrote a substantially similar letter to the superintendent. Then on May 14th, the board informed Twillie in executive session that his teaching contract was still under consideration and had not yet been renewed because of the incidents. Finally, on June 6th, Twillie received a letter dated June 5th notifying him that his contract for the 1973-74 school year would not be renewed. The letter included a statement giving the reasons for nonrenewal. The reasons for nonrenewal, as summarized by the District Court, were:

Insubordination and failure to follow directions and instructions as given by Principal as related to basketball program;

Failing to comply with policy requirement, as agreed and approved by the Principal, Assistant-to-Principal, and Mr. Twillie;

Playing a student under an assumed name in the State Tournament, that is under the name of a dismissed student; and

Recommendation by Principal of Forrest City Junior High School. 3

Cato v. Collins, 394 F.Supp. 629, 638 (E.D.Ark.1975).

The decision not to renew the appellant's teaching contract was reached at a board meeting held in executive session on June 4, 1973, a meeting at which appellant was not present. Thereafter, in accordance with Arkansas law, appellant filed a request for a public hearing to reconsider the decision. The hearing was held on three dates, and the appellant was present at each hearing with counsel. The board produced various witnesses, but appellant did not testify or call any witnesses in his behalf. In August, 1973, the board again voted not to renew appellant's contract.

The District Court, after an evidentiary hearing, held that appellant had not been denied due process and that the nonrenewal of the contract was based upon appellant's insubordination and not upon racial motivations. Cato v. Collins...

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