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Fairley v. Jackson County School Board

March 24, 1998

FAIRLEY
v.
JACKSON COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD



Before McMILLIN, P.j., Diaz, And Herring, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herring, J

FLORRITA FAIRLEY, APPELLANT v. JACKSON COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD, APPELLEE

THIS OPINION IS NOT DESIGNATED FOR PUBLICATION AND MAY NOT BE CITED, PURSUANT TO M.R.A.P. 35-B

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/29/96

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. GLENN BARLOW

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: JACKSON COUNTY CHANCERY COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - OTHER

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY JUDGMENT DISMISSED

DISPOSITION REVERSED AND REMANDED - 3/24/98

Florrita Fairley appeals from the dismissal of the declaratory judgment action which she filed in the Chancery Court of Jackson County, Mississippi. The chancellor dismissed the Appellant's complaint on the basis that he was without jurisdiction to hear the matter. We rule that the chancery court had jurisdiction to hear Ms. Fairley's complaint. Therefore, we reverse and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

THE FACTS

Florrita Fairley was a teacher in the public school system in Jackson County, Mississippi, and had been teaching in the system for seventeen years. Mrs. Ella Gibson and her husband were janitors working in the same school as Ms. Fairley. Apparently, Mrs. Gibson believed that her husband and Ms. Fairley were having an affair. Thus, Mrs. Gibson confronted Ms. Fairley, which led to an altercation between the two women on school property during after-school hours on December 11, 1991.

On December 17, 1991, the Superintendent of Schools, William E. Lee, Jr., terminated Ms. Fairley's employment with the school system on the ground that Ms. Fairley was in violation of her contract, that her presence on the school campus created a potential threat of danger to the safety and welfare of the students and interfered with school operations, and that her presence caused a "substantial disruption to the educational process." This action was apparently taken by the superintendent pursuant to section 37-9-59 of the Mississippi Code, as amended. The Jackson County School Board (School Board) upheld Ms. Fairley's termination. Thereafter, Ms. Fairley appealed her case to the Jackson County Chancery Court, and the chancellor affirmed the School Board's decision. She then appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which assigned her case to the Mississippi Court of Appeals. Her case was styled Fairley v. Jackson County School Board, No. 93-CC-0589-COA. An opinion by this Court was issued on February 7, 1995, which reversed the decision of the lower court and the School Board. On petition for rehearing, this Court denied rehearing, but issued a revised opinion on June 13, 1995. In that opinion, we ruled that the School Board's decision to dismiss Ms. Fairley was arbitrary, capricious and unsupported by substantial evidence. We stated that the School Board did not decide whether Ms. Fairley had in fact had an adulterous affair with Mr. Gibson and that Mrs. Gibson, who was also terminated from her employment with the school system, was the one who created a danger to the school and its students. Further, we ruled that Ms. Fairley should be reinstated under her existing contract and was entitled to receive all remaining compensation due to her under the terms of her 1991-1992 contract, subject to mitigation of damages. Therefore, in addition to reversing the decisions of the lower court and the School Board, we remanded the action to the Jackson County School Board for a determination of the amount of back pay due to Ms. Fairley with a hearing to be held on the issue of mitigation. Finally, this Court stated:

Fairley's rights as to subsequent school years are governed under the School Employment Procedures Law of 1997. See Miss. Code Ann. ยง 37-9-101 to -113 (1972). Such rights as may exist are based upon facts not before this Court and upon considerations of law, some of which are significantly different from the issues dealt with in this case. We, therefore, conclude that this Court is without jurisdiction in this proceeding to grant relief ...


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