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Ala. District's Case Turned Down by Supreme Court

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Washington--The U.S. Supreme Court refused last week to review a federal appeals court's ruling that prevented an Alabama school district from firing a teacher who bore a child out of wedlock.

The Homewood City, Ala., school board contended that its decision to seek the dismissal of the teacher, Jean Avery, was justified because she ignored a rule requiring her to notify school officials four months before she was scheduled to have her baby.

Ms. Avery argued that even if she had warned the school board on time, she would have been fired anyway because a board policy calls for the dismissal of teachers who have participated in "immoral" conduct, such as bearing children out of wedlock. Dismissal on such grounds, she continued, violated her right to due process under the law as guaranteed by the Constitution.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama ruled in favor of the school board's position in the case, Homewood City Board of Education v. Avery, in April, 1980. Although the court noted that the board policy requiring the firing of all unwed parents might well be unconstitutional, it upheld Ms. Avery's dismissal because of her failure to comply with the rule requiring timely notification of pregnancy.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned that decision in April, 1982, agreeing with Ms. Avery that the school board would have fired her whether or not she had notified it on time. The school board then appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the circuit court had no right to substitute its own findings of fact for those of the lower court.--tm

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