Todd lawsuit raises issues about hearing law

By Patsy Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

Wednesday, Todd’s attorneys – Waide and Associates of Tupelo – filed notice with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office that she questions the constitutionality of Section 37-9-111 of the Mississippi Code, which is the compilation of state laws. The statute lays out employee hearing procedures for school boards.
At issue, says attorney Rachel Pierce, is that after a hearing before the board or a hearing officer hired by the board, board members are not likely to do anything but rubber-stamp the hearing recommendation.
“We just think it doesn’t make sense, in the case of a school board, that an impartial decision can be made,” she said.
Essentially, she states, it’s unlikely that the school board will not support the discipline or other actions taken on its behalf toward the employee.
“A better option is just to go straight to court before a qualified judge,” Pierce said.
State law requires notice to the attorney general if a lawsuit questions the constitutionality of a law.
Todd was fired earlier this year after she reportedly forced a second-grade special education student to stick his tongue out virtually all day. She also was accused of further punishments and of lying to his parents that the boy was provided lunch that day.
She sued the school district and two officials, whom she claimed conspired to ensure that her termination was upheld.
She claims she was denied her constitutional rights to due process and that her employment contract was breached. The defendants deny her claims. They also claim that state and federal courts have repeatedly held that findings by “quasi judicial” bodies like the school hearing should not be re-litigated.
In their answer to her claims, they say she could have appealed the board’s decision to chancery court but filed no appeal, only to take her case to federal court.
It’s set for trial Nov. 5, 2012.
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com