Lee v. Russell County Bd. of Educ., No. 80-7761

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore GODBOLD; GODBOLD
Citation684 F.2d 769
Parties29 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 1508, 30 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 33,022, 5 Ed. Law Rep. 1094 Anthony T. LEE, et al., Plaintiffs, United States of America, Plaintiff-Intervenor and Amicus Curiae, National Education Association, Inc., Plaintiff-Intervenor-Appellant, v. RUSSELL COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, et al., Defendants-Appellees. Edward G. BARNES, Plaintiff-Appellant, Chanchal Narang, Plaintiff-Intervenor-Appellant, v. RUSSELL COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION OF RUSSELL COUNTY, ALABAMA, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Decision Date01 September 1982
Docket NumberNo. 80-7761

Page 769

684 F.2d 769
29 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 1508,
30 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 33,022, 5 Ed. Law Rep. 1094
Anthony T. LEE, et al., Plaintiffs,
United States of America, Plaintiff-Intervenor and Amicus Curiae,
National Education Association, Inc., Plaintiff-Intervenor-Appellant,
v.
RUSSELL COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Edward G. BARNES, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Chanchal Narang, Plaintiff-Intervenor-Appellant,
v.
RUSSELL COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION OF RUSSELL COUNTY,
ALABAMA, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
No. 80-7761.
United States Court of Appeals,
Eleventh Circuit.
Sept. 1, 1982.

Page 770

Gray, Seay & Langford, W. Troy Massey, Montgomery, Ala., for NEA, Crenshaw and Walker.

George Beck, Montgomery, Ala., Jeremiah A. Collins, Gary L. Sasso, Washington, D. C., for Barnes and Narang.

Ronald G. Davenport, Phenix City, Ala., for defendants-appellees.

Page 771

Appeals From the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

Before GODBOLD, Chief Judge, MERRITT * and HENDERSON, Circuit Judges.

GODBOLD, Chief Judge:

This appeal in a school desegregation case originated as a motion for further relief made by plaintiff National Education Association. NEA contended that the Russell County (Alabama) Board of Education's decision not to reemploy untenured black teachers Leon Crenshaw and Margie Walker violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and violated a prior court order in the case to make employment decisions without regard to race. 1 Plaintiffs Dr. Edward G. Barnes and Chanchal Narang intervened, Narang contending that she was not reemployed because of her race and Barnes contending that he was not reemployed in retaliation for his support of the other three. After a bench trial the district court denied relief. We remand for further consideration, finding that the district court applied an incorrect legal analysis to the facts and that its findings of fact were inadequate.

I. Facts

This controversy arose at the end of 1978-79 school year when the Russell County School Board decided by a three to two vote not to reemploy Crenshaw, Walker, and Narang, untenured teachers at Chavala High School, and Barnes, their principal. Chavala High School consisted of grades 7-12 2 and its student racial make-up was approximately 60% black and 40% white.

Crenshaw, a black male, taught science in the junior high grades for two years and was also athletic director and football coach in the senior high grades for those two years. Walker, a black female, taught 11th and 12th grade English for three years. Narang, a female (Asiatic) Indian, taught reading in the junior high grades for two years. Barnes, a white male, was principal for one year. All three teachers received satisfactory evaluations throughout their teaching careers and received a recommendation for reemployment by their principal, Barnes, and by Warren Richards, the county superintendent of education, at the end of the 1978-79 school year. The day before the school board met to make its decision the three members who eventually constituted the majority called Barnes in separate phone conversations inquiring whether he continued to stand by his recommendations, which he did. The following day the board made its decision not to reemploy the plaintiffs, and at the same time it voted not to reemploy three white teachers at Chavala. These other three teachers had already declared their intentions not to return the following year, however. Crenshaw was replaced by a white football coach. A black man was named as a temporary principal. The evidence is not clear, though, concerning the race of the replacements for Walker and Narang and the race of the permanent principal.

Principal Barnes, who had several years of experience in school desegregation and civil rights matters, testified that in his opinion there was no valid administrative reason not to reemploy Crenshaw, Walker and Narang and that race was definitely a factor in the school board's decisions. Richards, who had been superintendent of education in Russell County for almost two decades and had worked with the then current members of the school board for several years, testified that there was no administrative reason not to reemploy the three plaintiff teachers and principal Barnes and that race was a factor in the decisions. The two members of the school board who voted

Page 772

in the minority testified that they saw no administrative reason for not reemploying plaintiffs. Barnes testified that shortly after he began as principal in 1978, Mr. Pugh, a member of the school board who voted with the majority, told him that he was concerned about getting a greater "white presence" in the junior high grades and in all grades of the English Department and said "you play ball with us, and we'll work with you." Narang and Crenshaw taught in the junior high grades and Walker taught English. Barnes also testified that later during the year when he hired a new English teacher, Pugh was pleased that she was white and stated "it's a good step," referring to her race. According to Barnes, during the same conversation in which Pugh mentioned getting a greater "white presence" he also discussed many teachers that he felt had problems. Plaintiffs Crenshaw, Walker, and Narang were included, and only one white teacher was discussed. Pugh asked Barnes to "build files" on those teachers discussed. Barnes testified to similar conversations with the other two school board members who voted with the majority. Superintendent Richards testified that there were discussions at school board meetings from time to time about "build(ing) cases, tak(ing) notes, go(ing) unannounced, listen(ing) in on the public address system ... so that the teacher would not know they were listening." Richards stated that "generally the context of the conversation led you to believe they were talking about black teachers more than anyone else." Crenshaw testified that the principal prior to Dr. Barnes asked Crenshaw to move down to coach of the junior high grades in order to stop white flight because white students would not play football for a black coach.

The three members of the school board who voted not to reemploy plaintiffs each testified that race was not a factor in his decision and denied much of plaintiffs' evidence just summarized. They gave as their reasons for nonrenewal the following:

Crenshaw: Complaints about his leaving his classes unattended and not being on campus, and about his work with athletes.

Walker: Complaints about poor spelling and grammar.

Narang: Complaints about the inability of her students to understand her.

Barnes: He was influenced by teachers, "was not his own man," and "was not the leader we needed."

There was evidence introduced supporting these reasons and other evidence contradicting the validity of these complaints.

II. The district court's opinion

At the end of the two and one-half day trial the court ruled from the bench that plaintiffs had not met their burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that their nonrenewals were unconstitutional. 3 The court outlined the four-part test for a prima facie case of racially motivated discharge derived from McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973), and it discussed the nature of the necessary rebuttal to a prima facie case. The court did not indicate whether a prima facie case had been established or whether it believed plaintiffs' evidence but instead focused its analysis on the rebuttal evidence, that is, the school board's articulated reasons for nonrenewal. The court stated that there is broad discretion in the school board in making employment decisions concerning nontenured teachers and that "there doesn't have to be any substantial reason" for nonrenewal, nor is the board "required to prove total absence of any discriminatory motive." 4 The court further found that in each case the board members had stated valid, nondiscriminatory reasons not shown to be pretextual and therefore no plaintiff had met the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she was unconstitutionally

Page 773

nonrenewed. After a motion for definite findings of fact the court gave as the "substantial and motivating factors" behind the board's decision:

Crenshaw: Failure to properly account for school funds in his custody and conduct that caused substantial bad publicity about school matters.

Walker: Difficulty in use of proper grammar.

Narang: Difficulty in making herself...

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  • LaFleur v. Wallace State Community College, Civil Action No. 94-D-747-N.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • June 18, 1996
    ...F.2d 665, 668 (5th Cir.1979) (citing Wright v. Southwest Bank, 554 F.2d 661 (5th Cir. 1977)). See also Lee v. Russell County Bd. of Educ., 684 F.2d 769, 776 n. 5 (11th Cir. 1982) (stating that the court has "broad discretion over the admission of evidence in a bench FINDINGS OF FACT Defenda......
  • Anderson v. Dunbar Armored, Inc., Civil Action File No. 1:08-CV-3639-BBM.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • August 18, 2009
    ...meet defendant's rebuttal burden." IMPACT v. Firestone, 893 F.2d 1189, 1194 (11th Cir. 1990) (quoting Lee v. Russell County Bd. of Educ., 684 F.2d 769, 775 (11th Cir. Defendants appear to assert that even if Plaintiffs could establish a prima facie case, they have identified legitimate, non......
  • Wright v. Southland Corp., No. 97-3458
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • September 3, 1999
    ...and (3) she was replaced by a male (or that males with similar qualifications were retained). See Lee v. Russell County Bd. of Educ., 684 F.2d 769, 773 (11th Cir.1982).158 F.3d 1177, 1183 (11th Cir.1998). The defendant-employer can rebut this presumption only by articulating a legitimate, n......
  • Calloway v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., Civ. A. No. 77-34-ATH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Georgia
    • August 4, 1986
    ...into the washroom department because if she were allowed in, all women would want to enter); Lee v. Russell County Board of Education, 684 F.2d 769, 774-75 (11th Cir.1982) (direct evidence was evidence that school board members and a past principal sought to maintain a "white presence" and ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
241 cases
  • LaFleur v. Wallace State Community College, Civil Action No. 94-D-747-N.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • June 18, 1996
    ...F.2d 665, 668 (5th Cir.1979) (citing Wright v. Southwest Bank, 554 F.2d 661 (5th Cir. 1977)). See also Lee v. Russell County Bd. of Educ., 684 F.2d 769, 776 n. 5 (11th Cir. 1982) (stating that the court has "broad discretion over the admission of evidence in a bench FINDINGS OF FACT Defenda......
  • Anderson v. Dunbar Armored, Inc., Civil Action File No. 1:08-CV-3639-BBM.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • August 18, 2009
    ...meet defendant's rebuttal burden." IMPACT v. Firestone, 893 F.2d 1189, 1194 (11th Cir. 1990) (quoting Lee v. Russell County Bd. of Educ., 684 F.2d 769, 775 (11th Cir. Defendants appear to assert that even if Plaintiffs could establish a prima facie case, they have identified legitimate, non......
  • Wright v. Southland Corp., No. 97-3458
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • September 3, 1999
    ...and (3) she was replaced by a male (or that males with similar qualifications were retained). See Lee v. Russell County Bd. of Educ., 684 F.2d 769, 773 (11th Cir.1982).158 F.3d 1177, 1183 (11th Cir.1998). The defendant-employer can rebut this presumption only by articulating a legitimate, n......
  • Calloway v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., Civ. A. No. 77-34-ATH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Georgia
    • August 4, 1986
    ...into the washroom department because if she were allowed in, all women would want to enter); Lee v. Russell County Board of Education, 684 F.2d 769, 774-75 (11th Cir.1982) (direct evidence was evidence that school board members and a past principal sought to maintain a "white presence" and ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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