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Kallenberg v. Knox County Board of Education

August 12, 2008

KIMBERLY L. KALLENBERG, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KNOX COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leon Jordan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

Now before the court is the motion for summary judgment [doc. 40] filed by defendant Knox County Board of Education ("KCBE").*fn1 Plaintiff has responded to the motion [docs. 67-69].

Also before the court is the motion for summary judgment [doc. 29] filed by defendant Russ Oaks in his individual and official capacities. The parties have submitted responses, replies, and surreplies [docs. 46, 50, 51, 53, 65].

For the reasons that follow, Oaks's individual motion will be denied, and the remaining defendants' motion will be granted in part and denied in part. This civil action remains set for a jury trial on January 20, 2009.

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party may discharge its burden by demonstrating that its opponent has failed to establish an essential element of that party's case for which it bears the ultimate burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

After the moving party has carried its initial burden of showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to present specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue for trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). In order to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must present significantly probative evidence in support of its complaint. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986). The non-movant's evidence is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in that party's favor. Id. at 255. The court determines whether the evidence requires submission to a jury or whether one party must prevail as a matter of law. Id. at 251-52.

II. Background

Plaintiff is the former vice principal of KCBE's Powell High School. She was placed on administrative leave with pay in July 2006. On July 21, 2006, defendant Charles Lindsey, who at that time was KCBE's Superintendent, wrote to plaintiff advising that

. . . you will remain on Administrative Leave with pay until we are able to complete our investigation of the allegations made regarding your conduct as an administrator at Powell High School.

Based on the information currently available, I believe you can no longer be an effective administrator at Powell High School. At the conclusion of our investigation, I will contact you regarding placement. [Doc. 40, ex. 1].

According to plaintiff's complaint, on July 25, 2006, defendant Oaks (KCBE's Director of Public Affairs) "sent a blast email to school administrators and employees and [sic] publicly confirming that Kallenberg had been placed on administrative leave for 'grade changing/tampering and an inappropriate relationship with a student.'" [Doc. 1, ¶ 25]. The complaint further alleges that on that same day Oaks "spoke with various members of the print and television media wherein he directly and/or indirectly confirmed the identity of the student in addition to the fact that Kallenberg was under investigation for grade chang-ing/tampering and that the allegations involving 'sex' had been referred to the Department of Children's Services." [Doc. 1, ¶ 26].

Plaintiff remained on administrative leave. In April 2007, KCBE notified her that her employment contract would not be renewed. In June 2007, plaintiff's status was changed to administrative leave without pay, and tenure revocation proceedings were initiated against her. Plaintiff resigned in September 2007. Her attorney explained,

The reason for Mrs. Kallenberg's resignation is the fact that [KCBE] would serve as the trier of fact/jury regarding the issues of Mrs. Kallenberg's tenure revocation. Mrs. Kallenberg strongly feels that there is an inherent conflict with [KCBE], which is her employer as well as a named defendant ...


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