Employee not entitled to injunctive relief in Whistleblower Act case

Beaumont Independent School District v. Shaunte Guillory 09-15-00531-CV (Tex. App. – Beaumont, May 12th 2016)

This is a Whistleblower Act case where a teacher unsuccessfully tried to get a temporary injunction to prevent retaliation (i.e. a vote by the school board to terminate her.)

Guillory was an principal at Jones-Clark  Elementary School. An investigator from the Texas Education Agency (“TEA”), was investigating the previous principal for test cheating and Guillory cooperated fully. According to Guillory’s petition, “[t]hat incident clearly sparked the successive acts of retaliation against Guillory.” Guillory asserted she met and was interviewed an investigator from the District Attorney’s office, who was inquiring about the previous principal and improper testing during the STAAR exam. On the same date, she received a letter from BISD which stated that she was reassigned to King Middle School as an assistant principal and her annual salary would be cut. Guillory asserted claims for retaliation under the Texas Whistleblower Act and retaliation for exercise of free speech. She requested a temporary restraining order, temporary injunction, and permanent injunction contending the loss of her employment would “cause irreparable financial loss.” BISD asserted it had been investigating alleged testing improprieties since the 2012-2013 school year.  BISD also asserted it was unaware she made any reports to investigators. Finally it asserted she was reassigned to an assistant principal position at a different campus, and that the “decision was made after learning that Jones-Clark Elementary School would receive a ‘Needs Improvement’ rating for the second consecutive year based on the campus’[s] STA[A]R test results.”  BISD filed a plea to the jurisdiction. The trial court conducted a lengthy hearing on Guillory’s application for temporary injunction. The trial court signed an order granting Guillory’s application for temporary injunction. BISD appealed.

The court first examined the testimony and pleadings present as held Guillory has failed to establish that she suffered retaliation under the Whistleblower Act as a result of making a report since no one knew she reported anything to law enforcement. Further, since Guillory did not raise retaliation in her administrative hearing, she cannot raise it in the judicial review phase. The trial court enjoined BISD from taking action to propose termination or nonrenewal of Guillory’s employment. Because the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Guillory’s two causes of action  the trial court likewise lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to enter a temporary injunction against BISD.

If you want to read the opinion please click here. Panel: Chief Justice McKeithen, Justice Kreger and Justice Horton. Opinion issued by Chief Justice McKeithen. Attorneys for Shaunte Guillroy are Iain Gordon Simpson and Larry Watts. Attorneys for Beaumont Independent School District are Jonathan Griffin Brush and Clay T. Grover.