By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
AMORY – Former school principal Leigh Todd’s federal appeal of her firing was rejected Thursday on a point of law.
Chief U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills pointed to a recognized principle that if a judicial body, such as a school board, rules on a matter without a subsequent appeal, it’s over and no further review is necessary.
In March 2007, Todd was terminated by then-Amory Schools Superintendent Gearl Loden. She’d been cited for disciplining a second-grade special education student by depriving him of lunch and forcing him to stick out his tongue for several hours.
Amory School District’s board agreed with Loden’s decision after a three-day public hearing on the matter, called at Todd’s request.
She did not appeal the decision to state court.
On June 16, 2011, Todd sued Loden, the board and special ed director Candace Moore, saying she was terminated without cause, deprived due process and was defamed. She asked for reinstatement, as well as actual and punitive damages.
Attorneys for the defendants appealed to the federal court, saying that because she did not appeal the board decision, she is barred from trying the same issues in any court.
In Thursday’s decision, Mills agreed and said she could not challenge the facts of her firing.
However, he did not say that the other issues, such as whether she was deprived of due process, are dead since they had not occurred when the board approved her termination.
Brad Dillard, an attorney for the school board, said he was glad the issues of fact are decided, terming them “pretty much over.”
Todd’s attorney, Jim Waide, said he did not appeal Todd’s case to the state courts because the purpose of an appeal is to see if there is evidence and an appeal doesn’t guarantee a new hearing.
Also, Waide said it’s unclear what Mills intends to dismiss in the case. Once he gets clarification from Mills, he will decide if an appeal is necessary.