Appeals court affirms ruling in contract lawsuit

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, June 12, 2011

A federal appeals court has upheld a ruling in favor of theBrookhaven School District against a former assistantsuperintendent who sued over the nonrenewal of her contract in2005.

In a ruling handed down this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals, FifthCircuit, affirmed a district court ruling in a lawsuit brought byDr. Dorothy Alexander. In the lawsuit against the school districtand then-Superintendent Lea Barrett, Alexander had alleged claimsof racial discrimination, retaliation and unequal pay.

According to Wednesday’s ruling, the district court dismissed someclaims, granted qualified immunity to the superintendent on anotherand ultimately awarded summary judgment to the school district onanother.

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Alexander, who is black, worked for the Brookhaven School Districtfrom 1987 to 2005.

In 2005, Alexander was notified her contract would not be renewed.Reasons stated in the letter included Alexander’s handling of a2001 investigation involving student allegations against a teacher,her actions involving a similar case in 2002 and a relatedsubsequent lawsuit against the district and “disrespectful writtencorrespondence” to Barrett during her investigation of Alexander’sdestruction of student records.

“According to the letter, these incidents caused Barrett to loseconfidence in Alexander’s ability to handle her duties in aresponsible manner,” Wednesday’s court ruling said.

According to the record, Alexander requested a hearing before theboard of trustees on her contract’s nonrenewal. The hearing wasreset to accommodate Alexander’s schedule, but neither she nor herattorney appeared at the later meeting.

In reviewing Alexander’s various claims against the school districtand Barrett, the court found them to be either without merit orthat she had failed to satisfy the necessary burdens of proof inorder for the court to rule in her favor.