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Karl Peterson v. Bonneville Joint School District No. 93

June 2, 2011

KARL PETERSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BONNEVILLE JOINT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 93, ET AL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable B. Lynn Winmill Chief U. S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION

INTRODUCTION

The Court has before it cross motions for summary judgment. The Court heard oral argument on May 25, 2011, and took the motions under advisement. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant the defendants' motion and deny the plaintiff's motion.

BACKGROUND

On September 11, 2008, Plaintiff Karl Peterson signed a teaching contract with Bonneville Joint School District #93 ("District 93") in Idaho Falls. This contract covered the 2008-2009 school year and was labeled "Category 1 Teaching Contract." Joint Stip. Facts, Dkt. 14-3 at ¶ 5-6. Peterson was a tenured teacher on a renewable teachingcontract with Idaho Falls School District #91 ("District 91") previously in his career. Prior to 2008, Peterson left his teaching position with District 91, and did not teach again until being hired by District 93. Id. at ¶¶ 3-4.

On May 15, 2009, Peterson signed a teaching contract with District 93 for the 2009-2010 school year. This contract was labeled "Category 2 Teaching Contract." Id. at ¶ 9. On April 23, 2010, Peterson received a letter from District 93 informing him that it would not recommend that the school board extend him a teaching contract offer for the 2010-2011 school year. Id. at ¶ 11. Peterson, represented by counsel, objected to the recommendation and requested an evidentiary hearing at a school board meeting on May 18, 2010. Id. at ¶ 12. No action was taken until a subsequent school board meeting on May 24, 2010. Peterson, represented by counsel, again objected to the recommendation and requested an evidentiary hearing. The school board declined to offer Peterson a teaching contract offer for the 2010-2011 school year. Id. at ¶ 15-18.

Peterson filed the complaint in this matter on September 3, 2010. Named defendants consist of District 93, the District 93 school board, and the board's individual members (Craig Lords, Annette Winchester, Wendy Horman, Devere Hunt, Randy Haws, and Kip Nelson). The complaint asserts claims of (1) deprivation of due process under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (2) deprivation of due process under the Idaho Constitution, and (3)breach of contract. See Complaint, Dkt. 1. Defendant Haws was subsequently dismissed. See Order, Dkt. 10. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. See Motions, Dkts. 14 & 16.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate only when there "is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists when there is "sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 243 (1986). The moving party bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record that establish the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and come forward with specific facts to demonstrate that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). The non-movant must, however, do more than show that there is some abstract doubt as to the material facts. It must present significant probative evidence in support of its opposition to the motion for summary judgment in order to defeat the motion for summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

To establish a prima facie case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate that (1) the action complained of occurred under color of state law, and (2) the action resulted in a deprivation of a constitutional right or a federal statutory right. McDade v. West, 223 F.3d 1135, 1139 (9th Cir. 2000).

ANALYSIS

The essence of this dispute is whether Peterson should have been offered a Category 3 or renewable contract for his first two years of employment with District 93, because he possessed the requisite experience from the years he taught in District 91. Peterson undisputedly signed, and worked under, Category 1 and Category 2 contracts during the two years he was employed by District 93. Category 3 and renewable contracts carry heightened termination protection, requiring a statement of reasons for termination and, upon request, informal review of a termination decision.

Both parties have moved for summary judgment. Defendants (hereinafter referred to as "Bonneville") argue that Peterson's signed contracts accurately reflected his status as first a Category 1 and then a Category 2 teacher, and that District 93 adhered to the termination procedures required under such contracts. Peterson responds that his signed contracts erroneously categorized him, and that he was owed a Category ...


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