Ellis sues TPSD over firing

By Patsy R. Brumfield and Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Former Tupelo Schools choral director Calvin Ellis on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit against his former employer.
Ellis claims five counts of wrongdoing by the Tupelo Public School District, including breaches of contract, interference with his contract, violation of his constitutional right to due process and violation of his right to equal protection.
His 29-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Oxford accuses the district, its board, its administration and others of “contriving false and fictitious charges” against him and refusing to afford him the same resolution procedures available to other accused teachers.
Through his attorney, David Butts of Tupelo, Ellis asks for a jury trial and to be compensated for his damages and attorney’s fees.
Board attorney Otis Tims said Thursday afternoon that he’d just received a copy of the lawsuit, which he and the district had hoped “would go away.”
“We’ll follow the normal procedures and deal with it in an appropriate manner,” he added.
TPSD hired Ellis in 2006 as a music teacher with a supplement to be the high school show choir director.
He was fired Oct. 28, 2011, about a month after a student’s mother complained about a “prank” on her daughter’s car during a “hair and makeup night” for show choir members supervised by Ellis and his wife.
Ellis insists standard resolution methods to resolve the mother’s complaint were not followed when he was placed on paid leave and wasn’t advised of any charge made against him.
Two days after his request to meet with the school board was refused, he said, he was fired.
When Ellis asked for another hearing, the school district hired a hearing officer. After 10 days of hearing, he said he disproved the majority of charges against him.
On March 28, the district’s board affirmed Ellis’ termination. He has since been hired as a choral director at Opelika High School in Opelika, Ala.
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.comchris.kieffer@journalinc.com