Administrator Loses Case Over Surreptitious Phone Call

By Mark Walsh — March 04, 2009 1 min read
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Call it the Revenge of the School Administrator’s Scorned Wife.

A New Mexico assistant principal made a “sexually explicit” phone call to his school secretary, as court papers put it. It isn’t clear whether there was a romantic interest between the two, or whether the call was a form of sexual harassment.

What is clear is that the assistant principal’s wife had installed a recording device on the couple’s home phone. After her husband’s call to the secretary, the wife played the recording for a school board member, who passed a tape along to the district superintendent.

The Hobbs, N.M., municipal school district declined to renew the annual contract of the assistant principal, David Castillo. He was offered a position as a 1st grade teacher, which he initially accepted, although he ended up taking an administrator’s job in another New Mexico school district instead.

Castillo sued the Hobbs school district, various administrators, and his estranged wife, alleging employment discrimination and violations of a federal wiretap law. Both a federal district court and a federal appeals court ruled against Castillo.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, ruled unanimously on March 2 that Castillo’s job-bias claims lacked merit because his contract was merely non-renewed, which is not akin to dismissal under New Mexico education law.

As for Castillo’s claims that he should receive damages because the telephone recording and the dissemination of it violated federal wiretap law, the appeals court said the assistant principal failed to raise such claims in the district court and thus they merited no consideration at the higher court.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.