Justices Decline Cases on Teacher’s Gun Rights, Race Bias

By Mark Walsh — April 01, 2013 3 min read
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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal from a Louisiana teacher who was fired because, among other reasons, she acknowledged that she kept a gun in her home and would likely shoot a trespasser first “and ask questions later.”

The justices also declined to hear an Ohio school district’s appeal of lower-court findings that it had discriminated based on race in the transfer of a school custodian.

The gun-related case stems from what turned out to be a very bad day at work for Mary Angelloz, who was a 27-year veteran teacher in the Iberville Parish school system in Louisiana. On Aug. 26, 2010, Angelloz’s cellphone was stolen at school, allegedly by a student. The same day, Angelloz, a borderline diabetic, suffered the shakes from low blood sugar and when she traveled off campus to get lunch she received a speeding ticket.

According to court papers, Angelloz spent much of the rest of the day upset over the loss of her cellphone, crying, yelling in the hallways, and kicking and hitting tables and chairs in the teacher’s lounge. At the end of the school day, in a discussion with two other teachers, Angelloz said she was known as a “crazy bitch” because if someone stepped on her property she would shoot them and that she was going home to load her guns.

School district officials charged Angelloz with four counts of willful negect of duty, including for her crying and yelling tirades in her school and for her comments about her guns. The Iberville Parish school board voted 9-2 to terminate her employment. Angelloz sued, but state trial court and appeals court upheld her dismissal and the Louisiana Supreme Court declined to hear her case.

In her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in Angelloz v. Iberville Parish School Board (Case No. 12-934), the teacher argued that her dismissal violated her due process rights as well as her First Amendment right of free speech and her Second Amenment right to bear arms.

The school board “violated Angelloz’s constitutional rights in terminating her for either having a gun in her home or saying she did so,” the teacher’s appeal said.

The Iberville Parish school board did not file a response, and the Supreme Court declined without comment to review Angelloz’s case.

Custodian’s Case

The race-discrimination case involved Clifford Litton, an African-American who was head custodian at Talawanda High School in the Talawanda, Ohio, district. After 16 years in his post, Litton in 2006 was stripped of his title and transferred to a middle school. Officials told Litton, the only black employee in the district’s facilities department, that he no longer “fit in” at the high school, court papers say.

After he was denied in several efforts to transfer back to the high school, Litton sued the district for race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1967. A jury found that Litton’s transfer to the middle school and the refusal to return him to the high school were not adverse job actions. (He did not suffer an reduction in pay or benefits.) But the jury did find that the district’s actions were motivated by race, and it awarded Litton $50,000 in compensatory damages, although no back pay or front pay.

In affirming the verdict, a federal district judge evoked civil rights icon Rosa Parks, saying that “just as requiring a human being to sit in the back of the bus because of her race is unlawful racial discrimination even though it does not cause economic loss ... , so is the decision to remove [Litton] from the high school because of his race unlawful discrimination as this jury rightfully found.”

The school district appealed but lost in a ruling last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati.

In its appeal to the Supreme Court in Talawanda School District v. Litton (No. 12-692), the district argued that because Litton faced no adverse employment actions, he did not suffer discrimination under Title VII. The ruling below “violates the very logic of Title VII and threatens to dramatically expand the class of those who can recover damages,” the district said.

In a response, lawyers for the custodian said that Title VII “protects employees from a wider range of discriminatory practices than just hiring, terminations, and/or promotions.”

The justices declined without comment to hear the school district’s appeal.

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