MABLE CALEB, JACKIE ANDERSON, PATRICK COCKERHAM, DIANN BANKS, AND HERBERT LENTON, Appellants
RICHARD A. CARRANZA, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE HOUSTON INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, Appellee
Appeal from the 164th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 2010-21712
consists of Justices Bland, Massengale, and Lloyd.
Michael Massengale Justice
an appeal from the dismissal of a lawsuit against the former
superintendent of the Houston Independent School District.
The appellants, who are former employees of the school
district, sought injunctive and declaratory relief stemming
from an investigation that culminated in a recommendation to
terminate their employment.
pleadings do not allege a facially valid challenge to any
constitutional right, and they are barred by governmental
immunity. As such, the trial court properly granted the plea
to the jurisdiction. We affirm.
the appellants' pleadings as true for purposes of this
appeal. The dispute arises from an investigation by the
Houston Independent School District into allegations of
employee misconduct. Mable Caleb was the principal of Key
Middle School when, in the summer of 2009, she was appointed
principal of Kashmere High School. Caleb was asked to remain
as transitional principal at Key until a permanent
replacement could be found. After a replacement principal was
appointed at Key, Terry Grier became the superintendent of
HISD. Grier replaced the newly appointed Key principal with
another person, resulting in an outcry and demonstrations
from the community.
October 31, 2009, after being relieved of all
responsibilities relating to Key, Caleb moved all of her
personal belongings and some school property from Key to
Kashmere. She was assisted by appellant Herbert Lenton,
Key's operations manager, in accordance with HISD
procedures. In late November 2009, Grier hired a law firm to
investigate the transfer of property, which by then had
attracted some media attention. The investigation focused on
the transfer of property from Key to Kashmere and on
allegations that teachers at Key provided students with
actual test problems to practice for standardized tests in
order to increase their scores.
attorney-investigators questioned Caleb and Lenton, as well
as others connected to Caleb, including appellants Jackie
Anderson, Patrick Cockerham, and Diann Banks. Anderson was a
union representative and friend of Caleb who served as the
Special Education Department Chair at Key from 2008 to 2009.
Cockerham had been an aide to Anderson at Key, and he
transferred to Kashmere with Caleb. Banks had been a math
teacher at Key from August 2005 through June 2010.
completion of the investigation, the law firm reported its
findings to HISD. Grier shared the findings with the media,
the public, and the Texas Education Agency. Based on the
report, Grier terminated Caleb in April 2010, and he proposed
termination of Cockerham and nonrenewal of the one-year
contracts of Anderson and Banks. Upon instruction from Grier,
Lenton's supervisor recommended that he be terminated.
Administrative hearings cleared Anderson and Cockerham, and
the hearing officers recommended that they not be dismissed
from employment. Lenton also sought an administrative
hearing, but the appellate record does not indicate the
results of that hearing. Although Banks was cleared of
allegations that she participated in the standardized testing
scandal, she resigned due to an unpleasant work environment.
Anderson, Cockerham, Banks, and Lenton filed suit against
numerous defendants, including Grier in his official
capacity. Among the defendants, this appeal pertains only to
Grier. The live pleading at the time the claims against Grier
were dismissed was the fifth amended petition. That petition
alleged that Grier violated various provisions of the Texas
Constitution when he "terminated" the appellants
"based on a report he commissioned" without giving
them "the opportunity to refute the claims contained
within before making them public."
appellants sought a declaration that their constitutional
rights were violated by Grier. They requested an injunction
preventing Grier from violating their constitutional rights
and requiring him to reinstate them "to positions of
employment occupied or reasonably comparable to those
respectively occupied before November 12, 2009, with all
attendant benefits" and to expunge the report from their
personnel records. The appellants also sought recovery of
attorney's fees and costs.
filed a plea to the jurisdiction. He did not challenge any
jurisdictional facts. Instead, he argued that he was immune
from the claims. The trial court granted the plea and
dismissed the claims against Grier with prejudice. That order
the appeal was pending in this court, Caleb settled her
claims against Grier, and she filed an agreed motion to
dismiss her appeal, which we now grant. See Tex. R.
App. P. 42.1(a)(1). The granting of this motion leaves
Anderson, Cockerham, Banks, and Lenton as the remaining
appellants. While this appeal has been pending, Grier was
replaced by ...