The U.S. Supreme Court declined today to hear the appeal of an Ohio superintendent in a lawsuit brought by a parent who says she faced retaliation for publicly criticizing the school district’s treatment of her daughter, who has diabetes.
The court’s refusal without comment to hear the appeal in Evans v. Jenkins (Case No. 07-1210) means that the parent’s suit will go forward on a First Amendment retaliation claim.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, had ruled unanimously in January to reinstate the First Amendment claim brought by Shara Jenkins against Lloyd Evans, the superintendent of the Rock Hill school district, and the district itself. The court said that the parent may have a valid claim that the superintendent retaliated against her for public criticisms that were protected by the First Amendment. The appeals court upheld the dismissal of certain other claims in the suit.
I blogged about the 6th Circuit ruling here. As I said at the time, the case stems from what appears to have been a nasty spat between the parent and the district over such things as whether the school nurse would administer the student’s insulin shots and whether the superintendent tried to bar the student from returning to her school.
In an appeal of the 6th Circuit decision brought only by the superintendent, lawyers for Evans sought to convince the justices that there was a split among the federal circuit courts over whether a parent’s criticism of public school officials must be on a matter of public concern for it to be considered speech protected by the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal is not a decision on the merits of any part of the case, but it does mean the parent will be able to pursue the First Amendment claim at the trial court level.
A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.