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Jones v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

April 13, 2017

TONI JONES
v.
METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY

          Session March 21, 2017

         Appeal from the Chancery Court for Davidson County No. 151475III Ellen H. Lyle, Chancellor

         This is an appeal from the grant of Appellee's Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6) motion to dismiss Appellant's 42 U.S.C. §1983 claim for alleged violation of her substantive and procedural due process rights to a public education. Appellant was removed from her Algebra I class and placed in a computer-based course. Because the right to a public education does not include a particular course placement or teaching method, Appellant's complaint fails to state a claim for relief. Affirmed and remanded.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Affirmed and Remanded

          Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and Brandon O. Gibson, J., joined. William Gary Blackburn and Bryant Beatty Kroll, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Toni Jones.

          Melissa S. Roberge and Catherine J. Pham, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson Co.

          Richard L. Colbert and Nina M. Eiler, Nashville, Tennessee, Amicus Curiae for Tennessee Education Association.

          OPINION

          KENNY ARMSTRONG, JUDGE.

         I. Background

         Appellant Toni Jones is a former student of Pearl-Cohn Comprehensive High School, a magnet school operating within the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County's ("Metro, " or "Appellee") public school system. During the 2013-2014 school year, Ms. Jones was enrolled in Algebra I. While enrolled in Algebra I, Ms. Jones was required to take practice tests known as Discovery Education Assessments, which were administered as a predictor of a student's performance on the final end of course exam. The end of the course exam is used to measure success within the individual Metro public schools. Ms. Jones did poorly on the practice tests and, in the second semester of the 2013-2014 school year, she was moved from the Algebra I class to a "remedial credit recovery program, " which was a computer-based course. The following school year, Ms. Jones was placed in a Geometry class, which she failed.

         On December 7, 2015, Ms. Jones filed suit against Metro, claiming violation of her procedural and substantive due process rights. Ms. Jones' causes of action are based on the following averments in her complaint:

11. . . . [Ms. Jones] was placed in a remedial "credit recovery" program, and instructed to complete a computer-based "A program" without any direct instruction from an actual teacher, thus depriving her of the education she was entitled to receive.
***
15. [Ms. Jones] had a constitutionally protected property interest in her public education, of which she has been deprived in an arbitrary and capricious manner. [Metro's] actions also have unusually harsh consequences because [Ms. Jones] was not promoted to the ...

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