Tweedall v. Fritz

Decision Date19 December 1997
Docket NumberNo. EV 97-6 C B/H.,EV 97-6 C B/H.
PartiesDaniel TWEEDALL and Debra Tweedall, Plaintiffs, v. Steven W. FRITZ, Phillip W. Schoffstall, William Miller, and the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Indiana

Jack N. Vanstone, Evansville, IN, James A. Kornblum, Lockyear & Kornblum, Evansville, IN, for Plaintiff.

James D. Johnson, Mattingly Rudolp Fine & Porter, Timothy A. Klinger, Kightlinger & Grey, Evansville, Indiana, for Defendant.


BARKER, Chief Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiffs' claims that Defendants (1) violated Daniel Tweedall's ("Tweedall") Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process rights when they suspended him with pay and constructively discharged him, (2) sexually harassed Tweedall by falsely accusing him of sexual harassment, (3) defamed Tweedall by falsely accusing him of sexual harassment, (4) suspended and constructively discharged Tweedall because of his race, and (5) suspended and constructively discharged Tweedall because of his sex. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED on all five claims.


Plaintiff, Daniel Tweedall ("Tweedall"),1 was employed as a science teacher at McGary Middle School ("McGary") by the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation ("EVSC") during the 1994-95 school year. Tweedall Aff. ¶ 3. In early May, 1995, Cynthia Pate ("Pate"), another McGary teacher, informed William Miller ("Miller"), McGary's Principal, that she had overheard a conversation in which some of her students stated that Tweedall had been sexually inappropriate towards them, prompting Miller to begin an investigation into the matter.2 Miller Depo. at 8, 11. That same day, Miller interviewed the students involved and notified Steven Fritz ("Fritz"), Executive Director for Student and Personnel Services, of the situation. Id. at 16. On May 4, 1995, Fritz informed Tweedall for the first time that some of his students had made allegations that he had used inappropriate language and had engaged in inappropriate touching of students.3 Id. at ¶ 10; Fritz Aff. ¶ 4. At that time, Fritz also informed Tweedall that Child Protective Services would be consulted on the matter. Tweedall, however, was not told the names of his accusers or provided any specific details of their allegations. Tweedall Depo. at 12.

Subsequent to the May 4th meeting, Principal Miller expressed to Fritz concerns that Tweedall's continued presence at the school could jeopardize the integrity of the investigation. Miller Depo. at 21. Accordingly, on May 9, 1995, Fritz notified Tweedall that he was suspended with full pay and benefits pending the outcome of the investigation. Miller Depo. at 21; Fritz Aff. ¶ 6; Tweedall Depo. at 34. On May 17, 1995, Tweedall's attorney requested that EVSC reveal the general nature of the allegations against Tweedall. Fritz Aff. ¶ 7. Due to various scheduling conflicts among all the parties, a hearing was not held until July 26, 1995, during which Tweedall was informed of the students' specific allegations and given an opportunity to respond.4 Id. at ¶ 7-8; Tweedall Aff. ¶ 13. Tweedall stated his position in the presence of his attorney and a representative from the Evansville Teacher's Association ("ETA"), who were both in attendance throughout the proceedings. Id.

On August 25, 1995, Fritz advised Tweedall via letter that the Board of Trustees of EVSC would consider the issue of cancellation of his teaching contract at an October 2, 1995 hearing. Id. at ¶ 10; Tweedall Aff. ¶ 14. On August 29, 1995, Tweedall requested a written statement of the reasons the Board was considering for canceling his teaching contract. Fritz Aff. ¶ 10. Soon thereafter, EVSC provided Tweedall such a written statement of reasons in the form of a letter dated September 1, 1995. Id. at ¶ 11; Defendants' Exhibit N.

In a letter dated September 6, 1995, Tweedall also requested an evidentiary hearing. Id. at ¶ 12; Defendants' Exhibit O. The parties conducted a pre-conference hearing on September 11, 1995 and the following day Fritz informed Tweedall that an evidentiary hearing was scheduled for September 27, 1995. Id. at ¶ 13. The date for the evidentiary hearing was continued by agreement until December 4, 1995, however, Tweedall ultimately chose not to proceed with the hearing, having reached a settlement agreement ("the Agreement") with the EVSC immediately prior to the time the hearing was scheduled to commence.5 Id. at ¶ 13, 15; Tweedall Aff. ¶ 15; Defendants' Exhibit Q.

Pursuant to the Agreement, Tweedall was suspended without pay effective December 19, 1995 until the commencement of the 1996-97 school year. Id. at ¶ 16. Both Tweedall and EVSC ultimately fulfilled all their obligations under the Agreement,6 Tweedall Depo. at 90-91, and, at the conclusion of his suspension, Tweedall was reassigned to teach at the Stanley Hall Enrichment Center ("Stanley Hall") beginning on August 22, 1996. Tweedall Aff. ¶ 17.

Tweedall did not have a smooth start at Stanley Hall. On September 4, 1996, Stanley Hall's principal, Patricia Cato, advised Tweedall not to have any contact with student Jennifer Collins at the request of Collins' mother, Donna Hagerdorn. Id. at 108-109; Tweedall Aff. ¶ 18. Tweedall accepted Cato's directive, but felt as if he were a "marked man." Tweedall Depo. at 109.

The following week, on September 9, 1996, Tweedall experienced an emotional breakdown after patting one of his female, African-American students on the shoulder. Tweedall Aff. ¶ 20. That same day, Tweedall cleaned out his desk, gave school officials a doctor's statement, and left the building. Id. at ¶ 20. Tweedall has not reported to work since and currently is on disability leave. Id. at ¶ 21.


Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.Pro. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists if there is sufficient evidence for a jury to return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party on the particular issue. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Methodist Med. Ctr. v. American Med. Sec., Inc., 38 F.3d 316, 319 (7th Cir.1994).

In resolving a motion for summary judgment, a court must draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmovants. Patel v. Allstate Ins. Co., 105 F.3d 365, 366 (7th Cir.1997); Spraying Sys. Co. v. Delavan, Inc., 975 F.2d 387, 392 (7th Cir. 1992). However, we must not "ignore facts in the record merely because they are unfavorable.... [A non-movant] gets the benefit of the doubt only if the record contains competent evidence on both sides of a factual question." Patel, 105 F.3d at 366. Thus, if genuine doubts remain, and a reasonable fact-finder could find for the party opposing the motion, summary judgment is inappropriate. Shields Enters., Inc. v. First Chicago Corp., 975 F.2d 1290, 1294 (7th Cir.1992); Wolf v. City of Fitchburg, 870 F.2d 1327, 1330 (7th Cir.1989).


Defendants move the Court for summary judgment on all five counts of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, including claims that Defendants: (1) violated Tweedall's procedural due process rights, (2) sexually harassed him, (3) defamed him, (4) suspended and constructively discharged him because of his race, and (5) suspended and constructively discharged him because of his sex. Although Plaintiff puts forth five counts, the heart of this litigation is the due process claim.7


Plaintiff contends that Defendants deprived him of his Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process rights, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, when they suspended and then constructively discharged him. Defendants respond that Tweedall's suspension and constructive discharge were carried out consistent with all appropriate procedural due process standards.

A successful 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action must possess two elements: "the conduct complained of must have been under color of state law, and it must have deprived a person of rights, privileges, or immunities guaranteed by the Constitution or laws of the United States." Larsen v. City of Beloit, No. 97-1831, 1997 WL 754606, *4 (7th Cir. Dec.5, 1997). In this case, Defendants concede that they were operating under color of state law when they suspended and constructively discharged Tweedall. Thus, the only remaining issue is whether Defendants deprived Tweedall of his procedural due process rights.

Procedural due process claims require a two-step analysis. See Doherty v. City of Chicago, 75 F.3d 318, 322 (7th Cir. 1996). The first step requires a determination of whether the plaintiff has been deprived of a protected property or liberty interest; the second requires a determination of what process is due. See id.; Wallace v. Tilley, 41 F.3d 296, 299 (7th Cir.1994). Regarding the first step, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that an interest entitled to Fourteenth Amendment procedural protection exists. See Larsen v. City of Beloit, supra. Defendants concede that Tweedall's constructive discharge and suspension with pay constitute deprivations of a property interest entitled to Fourteenth Amendment protection.8

Determining what process Tweedall was due includes examining what process he was given. Regarding his suspension with pay, Tweedall was provided scant pre-deprivation process. Defendants simply informed Tweedall the day before his suspension that some of his students had accused him of "inappropriate language and touching" and that the child protection team would be consulted on the matter. Tweedall was...

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    ...v. Tilley, 41 F.3d 296, 299 (7th Cir.1994); Cushing v. City of Chicago, 3 F.3d 1156, 1159-1160 (7th Cir.1993); Tweedall v. Fritz, 987 F.Supp. 1126, 1130 (S.D.Ind.1997). Still, Mr. Curry has presented insufficient evidence to raise a reasonable inference that he was deprived of his property ......
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    • United States
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    ...courts have arrived at the same conclusion. See Landefeld v. Marion General Hosp., Inc., 994 F.2d 1178 (6th Cir.1993); Tweedall v. Fritz, 987 F.Supp. 1126 (S.D.Ind.1997); Pollard, 904 F.Supp. Accordingly, the defendant's contention that Ms. Kleckley has failed to allege a prima facie case o......

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