A teacher filed a lawsuit against his former school district, alleging that he had been unlawfully terminated as retaliation for reporting inappropriate and illegal conduct by school district employees. The district filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the teacher had a probationary contract that had been terminated at the end of the school year. The teacher's remedy to challenge that termination was to file a grievance and he had not done so. Therefore, the lawsuit should be dismissed, the district said.
In reviewing the case, the court noted that the teacher had made reports with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Child Protective Services Division, alleging that various school employees had engaged in abusive conduct toward students. The teacher was placed on administrative leave with pay and was informed that the district intended to propose mid-year termination of his contract.
Even though he had a probationary contract, the teacher was entitled to a hearing before an independent hearing examiner before the district could terminate his contract mid-year, so the teacher requested a hearing. After he did this, the district withdrew its proposal to terminate his contract mid-year and instead decided to terminate his contract at the end of the school year. The district claimed that it was terminating the teacher's contract due to "excess staff." By doing this, the teacher would no longer be entitled to a hearing and was limited to filing a grievance to challenge the proposed termination of his probationary contract.
The teacher filed a grievance and the district dismissed it, saying that it hadn't terminated the teacher's contract yet. It stated that it had merely notified the teacher that it intended to terminate his contract at the end of the year and that therefore, the grievance had been filed too soon. The teacher then filed a lawsuit, which the district attempted to dismiss by arguing that the teacher had not filed a grievance. The trial court granted the motion and ordered that the lawsuit be dismissed and the teacher appealed that decision to the court of appeals.
The court of appeals held that the district court should not have dismissed the lawsuit. The court determined that the question of whether the teacher had properly filed a grievance should be decided at trial as a question of fact and that it was premature to say that the lawsuit should be dismissed. It sent the case back to the district court for a trial.