Dr. William Allan Kritsonis

Professor

Public School Law & Educational Laws and Policies

Case Five

Court of Appeals of Texas,

Beaumont.

Nora Kathryn CONROY, Appellant

v.

NACOGDOCHES INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, Appellee.

No. 09-05-362 CV.

LITIGANTS

Plaintiffs-Appellant: Nora Kathryn CONROY

Defendants-Appellee:  NACOGDOCHES INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT

BACKGROUND

            At the time Conroy filed her petition, she had been employed as a special education diagnostician by NISD for three years. In November 2002, Conroy and sixteen other special education staff members at NISD filed and signed a complaint with the TEA reporting violations of state and federal law in the NISD special education program. The TEA conducted an initial investigation of the special education program. In January 2003, the TEA sent NISD Superintendent Dr. Tony Riehl a letter advising him of the allegations contained in the complaint and directing the district to take corrective action. In March 2003, in a letter to the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, Conroy again complained of violations of state and federal regulations in the special education program. Twelve of the original sixteen signatories to the TEA complaint also signed this letter.

            In August 2003, NISD’s Special Education Director Debbie Walker informed Conroy she would be transferred from the elementary school to the high school for the 2003-2004 school year. Conroy had previously told Walker that Conroy did not want to go to the high school and Conroy’s specialization was in working with very young children. In October 2003, while working at the high school, Conroy received a directive from High School Principal Elizabeth Ballenger instructing her to follow the admission, review, and dismissal procedures. Conroy brought suit against NISD under the Texas Whistleblower Act alleging her transfer to the high school and the October 2003 directive were retaliation for her reports to the TEA and U.S. Department of Education.

FACTS

            Appellant Nora Kathryn Conroy, a diagnostician employed in the Nacogdoches Independent School District’s special education department, filed suit against the school district under the Whistleblower Act. Conroy appeals the trial court’s final order granting NISD’s no-evidence motion for summary judgment. NISD cross-appeals the trial court’s order denying NISD’S motion to transfer venue. We affirm the trial court’s judgment as modified.

DECISION

                        For Conroy to prevail on her claim, she must establish (1) she is a public employee; (2) she acted in good faith in making her report; (3) the report involved a violation of law; (4) the report was made to an appropriate law enforcement authority; and (5) she suffered retaliation as a result of making the report. Employees filing a whistleblower action must prove all elements of their claim by a preponderance of the evidence. Conroy argues the trial court erred in granting NISD’s no-evidence motion for summary judgment because more than a scintilla of evidence established “causation” between Conroy’s report of violations and her transfer and the October 2003 directive. To show causation, a public employee must demonstrate that after he or she reported a violation of the law in good faith to an appropriate law enforcement authority, the employee suffered discriminatory conduct by his or her employer that would not have occurred when it did if the employee had not reported the illegal conduct.

DICTA

            The Court of Appeals, Beaumont, Judge David V. Wilson ruled that Conroy failed to present more than a scintilla of evidence to support the causation element to her claim and we affirm the trial court’s judgment as modified. We need not address NISD’s cross appeal.

IMPLICATIONS

            A whistleblower is a person who publicly alleges concealed misconduct on the part of an organization or body of people, usually from within that same organization. This misconduct may be classified in many ways; for example, a violation of a law, rule, or regulation. The Appellant was not successful in her suit because of lack of evidence regarding reasons for her termination and dismissal.



Source by William Allan Kritsonis, PhD