723 F.2d 640 (8th Cir. 1983), 82-2119, Bowman v. Pulaski County Special School Dist.

Docket Nº:82-2119, 82-2120 and 83-1437.
Citation:723 F.2d 640
Party Name:Bob BOWMAN and James Mackey, Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers, Mary Ann DeLaney; Doris Golden; and Billie L. and Geneva Martin, as parents and next friends of Terry Martin, Appellees/Cross-Appellants, v. PULASKI COUNTY SPECIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Appellants/Cross-Appellees. Bob BOWMAN and James Mackey, Pulaski Association of Classroom
Case Date:December 29, 1983
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 640

723 F.2d 640 (8th Cir. 1983)

Bob BOWMAN and James Mackey, Pulaski Association of

Classroom Teachers, Mary Ann DeLaney; Doris Golden; and

Billie L. and Geneva Martin, as parents and next friends of

Terry Martin, Appellees/Cross-Appellants,

v.

PULASKI COUNTY SPECIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al.,

Appellants/Cross-Appellees.

Bob BOWMAN and James Mackey, Pulaski Association of

Classroom Teachers, Mary Ann DeLaney; Doris

Golden; and Billie L. and Geneva

Martin, as parents and next

friends of Terry

Martin, Appellees,

v.

PULASKI COUNTY SPECIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Appellants.

Nos. 82-2119, 82-2120 and 83-1437.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

December 29, 1983

Submitted June 17, 1983.

Page 641

Philip E. Kaplan, Karen L. Arndt, Kaplan, Hollingsworth & Brewer, P.A., Richard Roachell, Cearley, Mitchell & Roachell, Little Rock, Ark., for Bowman et al.

Before ROSS, Circuit Judge, HENLEY, Senior Circuit Judge, and McMILLIAN, Circuit Judge.

ROSS, Circuit Judge.

These consolidated appeals arise out of an action brought under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, 28 U.S.C. Secs. 2201, 2202 and 1343, and an action to recover attorney fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1988. This court's jurisdiction is based on 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1291.

I. Facts

This case addresses the question of the extent of protection afforded to instructors in the public school system by the first amendment to the United States Constitution. The events giving rise to this appeal are as follows:

Bob Bowman and James Mackey, appellants and cross-appellees (hereinafter appellants), were teachers and coaches at Jacksonville Junior High School Northside (hereafter JJHSN) in Jacksonville, Arkansas. Bowman taught science at JJHSN and

Page 642

was an assistant football coach. Mackey also taught science and was an assistant coach in both football and basketball. The appellants are certified, tenured non-probationary teachers in the state of Arkansas and each has an excellent record as an educator.

The appellants were under the direction and control of head coach Jimmy Walker when performing their duties as assistant coaches. On April 29, 1982, coach Walker disciplined five students in his office. The punishment, described at trial as "licks," consisted of striking the student on the buttocks and thighs with a paddle. The single lick given to each student by coach Walker was excessive as it raised welts or bruises on the back of the student's thighs.

Pulaski County Special School District permits corporal punishment of students but regulates the practice. One of these regulations requires a second faculty member to witness the actual punishment and to listen as the student is informed of the reason for the disciplinary action. The witness must then fill out and sign a form reporting the incident.

On April 29, 1982, the appellants were sitting in coach Walker's office at the time the students were brought in to be disciplined. Mackey left the room about the time the first lick was struck. Bowman remained in the room throughout the entire course of the punishment. He testified that though the room was small he was unable to actually see the students as a stereo on a desk screened his view. Coach Walker did not request either of the appellants to act as a witness at this time though he did explain to the students the reason for the punishment.

Several of the students who were paddled approached Bowman shortly after the incident and displayed their bruises to him. Bowman had the students put ice on the bruises and called coach Walker's attention to the effects of the paddling. Mackey was also approached by several of the students and he helped them gain access to a telephone.

Upset over the incident, the parents of the students made coach Walker's method of discipline, both on this and past occasions, a matter of public debate. The appellants discussed the punishment with the parents, made public statements about the unwarranted severity of the licks, and expressed their individual opinion on the question of how coach Walker should be disciplined. The incident drew a considerable amount of press coverage, caused some turmoil in the community, and is blamed for dividing a previously harmonious faculty and student body. In addition to the above, coach Walker requested Bowman to complete and sign a witness form. This request, made after the undue effects of the punishment were known, was refused. Bowman's refusal to sign the form increased the tension existing among the faculty.

The school board and administration then took action in an attempt to resolve the problem. Coach Walker was briefly suspended and his authority to administer corporal punishment was curtailed. He also issued a public apology. The appellants on the other hand were involuntarily transferred to Scott Middle School, a recently reopened facility. The appellants after exhausting the available administrative remedies filed suit in the United States...

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