790 F.2d 1349 (8th Cir. 1986), 85-5119, Raposa v. Meade School Dist. 46-1

Docket Nº:85-5119.
Citation:790 F.2d 1349
Party Name:Michele RAPOSA, Appellant, v. MEADE SCHOOL DISTRICT 46-1; Arnold Wold, Individually and in his capacity as Superintendent of Meade School District 46-1; Marlyn Murphy, individually and in her capacity as Principal of Rural Meade School District 46-1; Meade School District 46-1 Board: David Hersrud, Linda Matkins, Bruce Hubbard, Curtis Nupen, Darrel
Case Date:May 13, 1986
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 1349

790 F.2d 1349 (8th Cir. 1986)

Michele RAPOSA, Appellant,

v.

MEADE SCHOOL DISTRICT 46-1; Arnold Wold, Individually and

in his capacity as Superintendent of Meade School District

46-1; Marlyn Murphy, individually and in her capacity as

Principal of Rural Meade School District 46-1; Meade School

District 46-1 Board: David Hersrud, Linda Matkins, Bruce

Hubbard, Curtis Nupen, Darrel Forrester, Margariette Kleven,

Ross Lamphere, Joe Isaacs and Carl Wahl, Individually and in

their capacity as Board Members of School District 46-1, Appellees.

No. 85-5119.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

May 13, 1986

Submitted Dec. 9, 1985.

Page 1350

Cynthia A. Howard, Deadwood, S.D., for appellant.

William H. Coacher, Sturgis, S.D., for Meade School Dist.

Debra D. Watson, Rapid City, S.D., for Marlyn Murphy.

Before ROSS, Circuit Judge, BRIGHT, Senior Circuit Judge, and BOWMAN, Circuit Judge.

ROSS, Circuit Judge.

Appellant Michele Raposa, a nontenured school teacher, brought an action under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 to recover compensatory and punitive damages against appellees Board of Education and its members, the School Superintendent, Wold, and the School Principal, Murphy. Raposa claimed that appellees' actions, culminating in her transfer to another school in the school district, violated her constitutional rights of due process and freedom of speech. The district court 1 granted summary judgment for defendants and Raposa appeals. For the reasons below, we affirm.

Facts

Michele Raposa was hired by Meade School District 46-1 in 1981 to teach the lower grades at a two-room school house in Stoneville, South Dakota. Stoneville was a rural school with nineteen students, ten in the elementary grades. This was Raposa's first teaching position. Her contract was renewed for the 1982-83 school year. Teacher evaluations were done twice each year by the principal, according to school district policy. Although a personality conflict had developed between Raposa and the principal Murphy, all of Murphy's formal evaluations of Raposa had been favorable according to Superintendent Wold. Both administrators agreed that Raposa was a good classroom teacher.

About mid-April of 1983 Raposa contacted the South Dakota Department of Social Services and reported a case of suspected child abuse. Within the next two weeks a social worker from that department visited with Raposa and the child at Stoneville

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school, and then called on the child's parents. The child's parents, later that same day, complained to Raposa about her report. Raposa refused to talk with them without a social worker present. In late April 1983, the school principal for the first time began receiving complaints from parents concerning Raposa. The principal typed a Form 1312, "Complaint Concerning School Personnel" at the request of one parent. This complaint contained only the following general allegation: "We feel the Board of Education should be aware of certain things concerning Miss Raposa, lower grade teacher at Stoneville." This form was subsequently signed by six families. This "1312" complaint was given to one of the school board members who delivered it to the school superintendent.

At the late-April board meeting, held to discuss contract renewals and teaching assignments, the superintendent advised the board members of the "1312" complaint and the complaint was discussed. The president of the board cautioned that if a child abuse report was the precipitating factor of the complaint, that report did not furnish the foundation for taking any action. He said the board had to protect their employee who had a statutory duty to report suspected child abuse. The board voted to place Raposa in an unassigned status until they received more information. The next day the superintendent advised the signers of the "1312" complaint, in writing, that they would need to submit individual complaints and would need to be more specific before the board could consider their complaints. Board members began to receive telephone calls from parents. Between May 5 and May 17, 1983, eight Stoneville families submitted "1312" complaints. Two mentioned the child abuse report. Other complaints were that Raposa threw out Weekly Readers instead of using them, that she failed to teach social studies as required, did not cooperate with upper grade teachers, was unable to accept criticism from parents, failed to properly supervise playground activities, and created dissension in the community.

In May the superintendent wrote Raposa advising her that he would be recommending to the board that she be reassigned to Sturgis, another, larger, school in the district, for the next school year. Wold's letter invited Raposa to come to his office, review the criticisms received, and to write responses if she would like. Evidently Raposa did not so respond. In May, at the next regular board meeting, a spokesman for a delegation of parents read a statement stating that nine out of twelve families of the Stoneville school, with one family remaining neutral, requested that Raposa not be assigned to Stoneville for the next school year. At the June board meeting, attended by Raposa and her attorney, the superintendent said he felt the strong negative feelings of some of the parents would carry over into the classroom and create an unfavorable teaching situation. However, the superintendent felt she was an excellent classroom teacher and wanted to keep her in the system. The board members agreed and voted to assign Raposa to the Sturgis school. Raposa was informed of this in writing on...

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