Eastop v. Bennion, Case No. 1:18-cv-00342-BLW

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Idaho
Writing for the CourtB. Lynn Winmill U.S. District Court Judge
PartiesCRAIG EASTOP, Plaintiff, v. SHAWN BENNION, ROB CLAYTON, KELLY GREEN, ELLEN MANDEVILLE, KEVIN GARRISON, all in their official Capacities as members of the BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE BLAINE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, and GWENCAROL HOLMES, in her official capacity as Superintendent, Defendants.
Docket NumberCase No. 1:18-cv-00342-BLW
Decision Date04 November 2019

CRAIG EASTOP, Plaintiff,
KEVIN GARRISON, all in their official Capacities as members of the BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE BLAINE
COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, and GWENCAROL HOLMES, in her official capacity as Superintendent, Defendants.

Case No. 1:18-cv-00342-BLW


November 4, 2019



Before the Court are Plaintiff's Partial Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 15), Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 17), Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Declaration of Jetta Hatch Mathews (Dkt. 22), and Defendants' Motion to Substitute Declarations and Briefing nunc pro tunc (Dkt. 24). The Court heard oral arguments on August 22, 2019 and took the motions under advisement. For the reasons explained, the Court will deny Plaintiff's motion for partial summary

Page 2

judgment, deny in part and grant in part Defedants' motion for summary judgment, deny Plaintiff's motion to strike, and deny Defendants' motion to substitute.


Plaintiff Craig Eastop filed a complaint for wrongful termination alleging violations of Idaho law, breach of contract, violation of the Rehabilitation Act, and constitutional violations. Due to the complexity of the claims and corresponding facts, specific facts will be discussed in the context of each claim, what follows is a general factual background.

Craig Eastop was an elementary school teacher in the Blaine County School District from 2000 until he was terminated on November 17, 2017. Complaint ¶¶ 6, 7. Eastop taught elementary Physical Education from 2006 until 2017. Eastop Depo., Def.'s Ex. 20 at 27-28, Dkt. 17-3. During his employment Eastop received positive teaching evaluations and was regarded as a good teacher. Evaluation, Pl.'s Ex. C, Dkt. 15-6 at 7-14; Henson Depo., Def.'s Ex. 21 at 51, Dkt 17-3.

Beginning in the fall of 2016 and continuing through spring of 2017 school district officials received reports of Eastop's inappropriate behavior and struggle with alcohol. In September, Principal Brad Henson received an email from a teacher regarding sexual comments Eastop made to her. Def.'s Ex. 3, Dkt. 29-4. Principal Henson sent Eastop an email addressing these comments and raising

Page 3

concerns about his alcohol use. Def.'s Ex. 4, Dkt. 29-4. In October, Eastop was arrested for driving under the influence, the charges were dismissed because he was below the legal limit. Eastop Depo. at 21-22, Dkt. 17-3. Superintendent John Blackman1 and Human Resources Director Shannon Maza met with Eastop regarding the arrest and to discuss a plan for his sobriety. Id. at 43-44.

In April, 2017, Principal Henson was contacted by PTA members regarding Eastop's behavior at a PTA fundraiser off school grounds, the PTA members reported that Eastop was noticeably altered and his thoughts were unconnected to the point that their children asked what was wrong. Pl.'s Ex. J, Dkt. 15-15. Principal Henson emailed Eastop and Maza about the report. Id. In late April, 2017, Eastop led a school assembly in Principal Henson's absence. Eastop had previously been hit in the face with a rock on the playground and described using the assembly as a teachable moment. Eastop Depo. at 61-64, Dkt. 17-3. Principal Henson received multiple reports about Eastop's behavior at the assembly. Henson Depo. at 20-23, Dkt. 17-3. Eastop's behavior was described as erratic and inappropriate. Cassalia Letter, Def.'s Ex. 9, Dkt. 29-4. On May 11, 2017 Principal Henson found Eastop with chewing tobacco in his lip in violation of the District's anti-tobacco

Page 4

policy. Compl. ¶ 13. On May 12, 2017 Principal Henson was called outside based on a report Eastop had been hit with another rock and was screaming at the students. Henson Depo. at 25, Dkt. 17-3. Henson found Eastop again had tobacco residue in his lip. Id. at 25-26. Following this incident, Henson and Maza met with Eastop and Joy Spencer, the teacher's union representative. Id. at 26. Henson and Maza discussed the concerns raised about Eastop's behavior at the assembly and Eastop's tobacco use. Id. When asked if he knew about the Tobacco Policy, Eastop said he knew about it and chose to violate it. Id.; Eastop Depo. at 31, Dkt. 17-3. Following the meeting Eastop was placed on administrative leave pending investigation of his behavior. Henson Depo. at 27; Def.'s Ex. 27, Dkt. 29-3. Henson subsequently searched Eastop's office and found a can of chewing tobacco. May 12, 2016 Meeting Notes, Pl.'s Ex. F, Dkt. 15-10 at 14. On May 23, 2017 a parent of a student communicated to Maza that Eastop had previously stopped by their house and seemed intoxicated. Def.'s Ex. 12, Dkt. 29-5. Eastop said he had a couple of beers but was not intoxicated. Eastop Depo. at 46, 120-21, Dkt. 17-3. During the investigation, Maza received reports from teachers that Eastop appeared to be under the influence at school. Maza Depo. at 41-43, Dkt. 17-4.

On May 25, 2017 Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes recommended to the Board of Trustees that Eastop be placed on probation. Holmes Depo. at 7, Dkt. 17-3; Maza Depo. at 32, Dkt. 17-4. Maza had previously recommended termination to

Page 5

Holmes. Maza Depo. at 13-14, 32, Dkt. 17-4. Henson also felt that termination was appropriate. Henson Depo. at 32, Dkt. 17-3. The Board ultimately voted to begin termination proceedings. Bennion Depo. at 17-18, Dkt. 17-4. At some point between the May decision to begin termination proceedings and August 15, 2017 the Board changed its decision and instead placed Eastop on Probation. See Notice of Probation, Pl.'s Ex. F, Dkt. 15-10 at 15. The August 15 notice of probation included a Program for Supervision and Evaluation ("Probation Terms") setting out Eastop's terms of probation. Id. at 16. The Probation Terms contained a requirement that Eastop submit to drug and alcohol testing at the discretion of "Mr. Henson or designee or any administrator from the District office." Probation Notice, Def.'s Ex. 17, Dkt. 17-3 at 16. On August 22, 2017 Maza, Henson, Eastop, and Eastop's Union Representatives Linda Jones and Tryntje VanSlyke met to discuss the terms of probation and Eastop's employment. Maza Depo. at 53, Dkt. 17-4; Eastop Depo. at 83-85, Dkt. 17-3. At the meeting, Eastop signed his employment contract but refused to sign the Probation Terms, because he objected to the testing provision. Eastop Depo. at 84, 86-87, Dkt. 17-3; Maza Depo. at 53-54, Dkt. 17-4. Also, at the meeting, Jones raised concerns that the Board of Trustees may be biased against Eastop. Transcript, Pl.'s Ex. N, Dkt. 15-20 at 3.

The Probation Terms were modified on August 23, 2017 to remove "or any administrator from the District office," but were otherwise unchanged. Compare

Page 6

Def.'s Ex. 17, Dkt. 17-3 at 16 with Pl.'s Ex. F, Dkt. 15-10 at 20. Henson and Maza both signed the Probation terms, but Eastop did not. Pl.'s Ex. F, Dkt. 15-10 at 20. On the August 23, at the direction of Superintendent Holmes, Maza asked Eastop to submit to drug and alcohol testing. Maza Depo. at 63, Dkt. 17-4. Maza did not suspect Eastop was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at that time, instead she described the test as a "baseline." Id. at 64. Eastop refused to submit to testing. Id. at 65; Eastop Depo. at 93-94, Dkt. 17-3. Eastop was subsequently placed on administrative leave for violating the terms of his probation, specifically refusing to submit to drug and alcohol testing. Notice of Admin. Leave, Pl.'s Ex. G, Dkt. 15-12 at 41.

On September 12, 2017 Board of Trustees Chairman, Shawn Bennion, notified Eastop that the Board had voted to begin termination proceedings and had scheduled a due process hearing. Notice of Due Process Hearing, Pl.'s Ex. H, Dkt. 15-13 at 10. The Due Process Hearing was held on October 25, 2017. Transcript, Def.'s Ex. 1, Dkt. 17-2. Marvin Smith presided as the hearing officer, the School District was represented by Scott Marotz of Anderson, Julian & Hull LLP, and Eastop was represented by Paul Stark of the Idaho Education Association. Id. at 1-2. At the beginning of the hearing Stark and Marotz conducted voir dire of the Board. Id. at 10. The Board members testified that there was no reason they could not have an open mind, hear evidence, and make a decision based on that evidence.

Page 7

Id. at 27-28. Following the hearing, the Board decided to terminate Eastop for his refusal to submit to testing as prescribed by the Probation Terms. Findings of Fact, Conclusions, and Decision, Pl.'s Ex. H, Dkt. 15-13 at 19.

Eastop filed this action against the Board of Trustees, and each individual board member in their official capacities, and against GwenCarol Holmes in her official capacity. Compl. at 1. Eastop alleges violation of Idaho law, breach of contract, infliction of emotional distress, violations of the Rehabilitation Act, and violations of the Constitution, including an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment and violation of his procedural due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. at 12-25. He seeks reinstatement as a teacher and damages. Id. at 26.


1. Motion to Strike

Federal Rule 56(c) governs the procedures that the parties must comply with to support or dispute a motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Under Rule 56(c)(2), a party "may object that the material cited to support or dispute a fact cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence." Id. An affidavit is an acceptable form in which to present evidence in the summary judgment context. However, "[a]n affidavit or declaration used to support or

Page 8

oppose a motion must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant or declarant is competent to testify on the matters stated." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(4).

Rule 56 makes clear then that only admissible evidence may be considered in ruling on a motion for summary judgment....

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT