United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
SHARON L. WILLIS PLAINTIFF
JACKSON PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT; SHIRLEY WALTON; LACHARLES BRISTER; DERICK WILLIAMS; JOHN DOES 1-20 DEFENDANTS
CARLTON W. REEVES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is the individual defendants’ motion to
dismiss. Docket No. 51. The matter is fully briefed and ready
for adjudication. The legal standard for motions to dismiss
is familiar and need not be recited here.
L. Willis was a bus driver with the Jackson Public School
District (JPS). She worked in the “Transportation
alleges that she was repeatedly physically and verbally
harassed by her coworker Shirley Walton, who eventually tried
to run Willis over with a school bus. When Willis filed a
formal complaint about this in October 2016, her supervisor
LaCharles Brister retaliated against Willis by
issuing a disciplinary warning.
12, 2017, Willis asked a different JPS supervisor, Derick
Williams, why she had not been considered for a “Bus
Driver/Mechanic’s Helper” position-a position she
believed she was already performing. According to her
complaint, she told Williams in that meeting that “she
was not one of the people liked by” him and confronted
him “about some unpleasant things he had said about her
that were not true.” But this only led to more
days later, yet another supervisor placed a Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) in Willis’ employment file. It
transferred her to the “Transportation South”
unit effective July 27, 2017. Willis declined to sign the MOU
because she wished to consult legal counsel. On July 26,
2017, Willis quit. She contends that she was constructively
2018, Willis was scheduled to interview for an administrative
assistant position with JPS. The day before the interview,
however, she was informed that she would not be considered
“based on the instructions” of Williams.
suit followed. Willis has asserted federal and state claims
against JPS, Walton, Brister, and Williams. Her first federal
cause of action claims that the defendants unlawfully
retaliated against her in violation of the First Amendment.
Her second federal cause of action claims that the defendants
violated her due process rights under the Fourteenth
Amendment. After some discovery, the individual defendants
filed the present motion.
Willis’ factual allegations as true, as any court must
at this early stage, this Court concludes that she has not
stated a claim under either amendment.
First Amendment retaliation claim fails because Willis was
not speaking on a matter of public concern. See Sanders
v. Leake Cty. Sch. Dist., 546 F.Supp.2d 351, 356
(S.D.Miss. 2008). As this Court has explained before,
“when a public employee speaks not as a citizen upon
matters of public concern, but instead as an employee upon
matters only of personal interest, absent the most unusual
circumstances, a federal court is not the appropriate forum
in which [to] review the wisdom of a personnel
decision.” Patton v. Hinds Cty. Juv. Det.
Ctr., No. 3:10-CV-138-CWR-LRA, 2011 WL 2912897, at *10
(S.D.Miss. July 18, 2011) (quoting Connick v. Myers,
461 U.S. 138, 147 (1983)). Here, Willis communicated about
Walton’s harassment and Williams’ dislike, then
requested an attorney to review the MOU. These addressed
“personal matters such as personnel and employment
disputes, ” which fall “outside the protection of
the First Amendment.” Salge v. Edna Indep. Sch.
Dist., 411 F.3d 178, 186 (5th Cir. 2005) (citation
omitted). Willis says the public is concerned with bullying
of students in schools, but the Court can discern no public
interest in Willis’ complaints here, which
arguably involve the bullying of one adult by another.
Fourteenth Amendment due process claim, meanwhile, cannot
proceed because Willis did not have a property interest in
her employment. Mississippi’s education laws provide
that “[b]efore being so dismissed or suspended any
licensed employee shall be notified of the charges against
him and he shall be advised that he is entitled to a public
hearing upon said charges.” Miss. Code Ann. §
37-9-59. Those laws, however, define “licensed
employee” as those employees “required to hold a
valid license by the Commission on Teacher and Administrator
Education, Certification and Licensure and
Development.” Id. § 37-9-1(1).
Willis’ job as a bus driver did not require her to have
such a license. As a result, state law did not provide her a
property interest in her continued employment.
asserts that Mississippi’s laws concerning bullying and
harassment in schools create a property interest. But those
laws do not amend § 37-9-59, and Willis has pointed to
no case holding or suggesting any implicit expansion of a
property interest to persons like herself.
these reasons, the motion is granted.
Court has stopped short of adjudicating the movants’
arguments under state law, pursuant to the general rule that
when all of a plaintiff’s federal causes of action are
resolved, courts should decline supplemental jurisdiction
over the remaining claims. See Enochs v. Lampasas
Cty., 641 F.3d 155, 161 (5th Cir. 2011). The problem
here is that JPS has not moved ...