United States District Court, D. Nevada
the court is defendants Elko County School District
(“ECDS”), Steve Cook, Lynn Manning John, Jeff
Zander, and Mike Smith (collectively
“defendants”) motion for summary judgment (ECF
No. 27). Plaintiff has responded (ECF No. 30) and defendants
have replied (ECF No. 33) to plaintiff's response. The
defendants' motion is therefore ripe for judgment.
sued ECSD and four individual administrators, alleging
federal Constitutional and state law claims relating to her
First Amendment rights and protected speech. In addition to
ECSD, plaintiff has named various members of ECSD and the
Owyhee Combined School (“OCS”) including (1) OCS
vice principal Lynn Manning John, (2) OCS principal Steve
Cook, (3) ECSD superintendent Jeff Zander, and (4) ECSD
deputy superintendent Mike Smith.
alleges one retaliation claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
arguing that she was subjected to an adverse employment
action because of her constitutionally protected speech (ECF
No. 1 (Complaint)). Plaintiff also alleges a state law claim
for tortious discharge. Id. Defendants have moved
for summary judgment on both of plaintiff's claims.
Plaintiff's employment and licensure
commenced the Nevada teacher license application process with
the Nevada Department of Education (“NDE”) in
September 2015 in preparation for an interview for a teaching
job in Elko, Nevada (Def. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 3 (Deposition of
Heidi Chiat)). On September 22, 2015, plaintiff was offered a
contract to teach fifth-grade at OCS (Def. Mot. Summ. J. Ex.
4). Plaintiff accepted the employment offer in a letter
received by ECSD on September 30, 2015 (Def. Mot. Summ. J.
September 22 contract offer states that it was made
“pending receipt of a copy of your certification for
the state of Nevada and receipt of official transcripts in
[the ECSD superintendent's] office . . . final approval
by the Board of Trustees.” (Def. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 4).
On October 28, 2015, Plaintiff was advised by the NDE in an
Your application for an initial K-8 Elementary license has
been evaluated and does not currently meet the minimum
requirements. The license you applied for is a core teaching
area and the requirements below must be met before a license
may be issued: Praxis II Elementary. . . . You do not have a
valid [Nevada] educator license until these steps are taken
and you receive confirmation that the license has been
issued. Your non-refundable fee and application are valid
through November 29, 2015. If you do not provide the required
information prior to that date you will need to submit a new
application, new fingerprint card and new application fee.
(Def. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 6).
March 18, 2016, defendant Smith notified plaintiff by letter
that her conditional employment with ECSD would be
terminated. In that letter, quoting NRS 391.120(3), defendant
Smith stated “it is unlawful for the board of trustees
of any school district to employ any teacher who is not
legally qualified to teach all the grades which the teacher
is engaged to teach.” (Def. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 12). NRS
391.120(3) further provides that “the board of trustees
shall suspend or terminate, as applicable, the employment of
any teacher who fails to maintain a license.” At the
time of her termination, plaintiff had failed to meet the
minimum requirements to be licensed as a teacher in Nevada
and no license had been issued to the plaintiff by the state
Alleged protected speech and adverse employment
complaint, plaintiff claims that “[p]rior to a negative
evaluation received by Plaintiff on February 29, 2016,
Plaintiff had complained up her chain of command regarding
efforts by Defendant John and her family members to harass
Plaintiff regarding her discipline and grading of
students.” (Complaint). Plaintiff further claims that
her complaints “alleged favoritism by John of students
that were related to John by blood.” Id.
Plaintiff asserts that her complaints of favoritism and
harassment constitute protected speech.
also claims that she engaged in protected speech when she
reported to defendants Cook and Zander, the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs rumors that
“an underage student was having an affair with a
teacher at” OCS (Complaint).
alleges she suffered adverse employment actions in the form
of a negative evaluation and termination as a result of her
protected speech in ...