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Samuelson v. Laporte Community School Corp.

May 22, 2008

GREGORY G. SAMUELSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
LAPORTE COMMUNITY SCHOOL CORPORATION, KENNETH BLAD, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, MITCH FEIKES, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS TRUSTEE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. No. 05 C 99-Robert L. Miller, Jr., Chief Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ripple, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED DECEMBER 6, 2007

Before EASTERBROOK, Chief Judge, and CUDAHY and RIPPLE, Circuit Judges.

Gregory Samuelson brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the district court against LaPorte Community School Corporation ("LSC"). His complaint alleged violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments and the Indiana Constitution.*fn1 After discovery, Mr. Samuelson and LSC filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Mr. Samuelson's response to LSC's motion abandoned his claims under the Fourteenth Amendment and the Indiana Constitution. The district court granted summary judgment on Mr. Samuelson's remaining First Amendment claims. Mr. Samuelson timely appealed.*fn2 For the reasons stated in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I. BACKGROUND

Mr. Samuelson became a teacher at LSC in 1992. Over the years, Mr. Samuelson also had other duties collateral to his instructional obligations. These duties included service on a technology committee that provided information and recommendations to the Superintendent and School Board, service as the union representative on a hiring committee that recommended candidates for a principal's position, and coaching at both the middle school and high school levels. At least some of these coaching positions were undertaken on the basis of a separate contractual arrangement with LSC. In 2003, the Board declined to renew Mr. Samuelson's contract as coach of the high school girls' varsity basketball team. That decision did not affect Mr. Samuelson's contract as a teacher.

A.

LSC has a chain-of-command policy. That policy is embodied in LSC's guidelines and bylaws. Guideline 1110, which is entitled "Line and Staff Relations," states:

All staff members shall be responsible to the Board through the Superintendent. Each shall refer matters requiring administrative action to the person in charge of the department, who shall refer such matters to the next higher authority, when necessary.

Each staff member is to keep the person s/he is immediately responsible to informed of his/her activities by whatever means the supervisor deems appropriate.

All staff members have the right to appeal any decision made by an administrative officer, through approved procedures as defined by contract, agreements, policies, administrative guidelines, or by State law.

R.59.

Guideline 1110A, "Definition of Management Team," states in part:

The ultimate decision concerning policy in the School Corporation resides by law with the Board of School Trustees under the leadership of the Superintendent of Schools. The management team concept, or shared decision making, is the process by which a recommendation for Board of School Trustees action is developed and the decision implemented.

The management team represents a means of establishing orderly lines of organization and communication as management personnel unite with the Board of Trustees to promote an effective educational program for the students and the community. It is more than an organizational system since it does establish a climate in which team members are able to experience a feeling of mutual trust, support and a sense of professional dignity.

R.74, Ex. F.

The Guidelines are supplemented by Bylaw 3310, entitled "Freedom of Speech in Non-instructional Settings," which states:

The School Board acknowledges the right of its professional staff members, as citizens in a democratic society, to speak out on issues of public concern. When those issues are related to the Corporation, however, the professional staff member's ...


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