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Humphries v. Lorain City School District

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Lorain

June 10, 2019

ALICESON HUMPHRIES Appellant
v.
LORAIN CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al. Appellees

          APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF LORAIN, OHIO CASE No. 16CV188922

          AVERY FRIEDMAN, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          ANTHONY GIARDINI, Attorney at Law, for Appellees.

          EMILY GRANNIS, Attorney at Law, for Appellees.

          TODD MARTI, Office of the Attorney General, for Apellees.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          JULIE A. SCHAFER JUDGE

         {¶1} Plaintiff-Appellant, Aliceson B. Humphries, appeals the judgment of the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas affirming the decision of Defendant-Appellee, the Lorain City School District Board of Education ("Board"), terminating Ms. Humphries' employment with the Board. This Court affirms.

         I.

         {¶2} This court previously summarized the relevant facts and history of this case in a prior appeal:

Ms. Humphries was employed by the Board in various positions from approximately 1996 until her termination in 2016. At the time of her termination Ms. Humphries served as the Director of Lorain Digital Academy, pursuant to a two-year administrative limited contract, and also held a continuing teaching contract. The Board's decision to terminate Ms. Humphries stems from her conduct at a Lorain City School District track meet and senior athlete recognition ceremony, which took place on school property at George Daniel Field on May 6, 2015.
Ms. Humphries attended the May 6, 2015 track event along with her sister, Natalie. Natalie's daughter, Ms. Humphries' niece, was a Lorain City School District student being recognized as a senior track athlete. At the track event the niece refused to participate in the recognition ceremony. This angered her mother, Natalie, and the two began to argue. Ms. Humphries intervened in this argument, which ultimately turned physical as a "brawl" ensued, involving Ms. Humphries, Natalie, and the niece. Security officers eventually escorted the niece to the parking lot. While she was being escorted, Ms. Humphries went up and "struck" or "bopped" her niece on the head.
Ms. Humphries was placed on paid administrative leave, but directed to stay off school property as of May 7, 2015 pending the Board's investigation of her conduct during the track incident. Upon the conclusion of the investigation, the Board issued notice to Ms. Humphries of a hearing to address the Board's anticipated recommendation to initiate termination proceedings against Ms. Humphries. After that hearing, which took place on July 22, 2015, the Board approved a resolution to initiate termination proceedings. In addition to finding that she engaged in inappropriate verbal and physical aggression toward a student-her niece-during the track incident, the Board also considered Ms. Humphries' conduct concerning an unrelated incident in June 29, 2009, wherein Ms. Humphries was disciplined for her use of profanities and physical confrontation with a student.
On August 19, 2015, the Board issued a notice of intention to consider termination based on its August 17, 2015 resolution, and suspended Ms. Humphries' contract without pay or benefits. Ms. Humphries made a timely demand for a hearing to be conducted before a referee. The hearing commenced on November 16, 2015, concluded with the parties' submission of post-hearing briefs in January, and the referee thereafter issued a report and recommendation on January 22, 2016. The referee's report summarized the proceedings and the testimony spanning the four-day long hearing, and issued findings of fact. Based on these findings of fact, the referee's conclusion of law stated:
[Ms. Humphries]'s actions in physically involving herself in attempting to get her niece to participate in the recognition ceremony, in involving herself physically in the ensuing brawl at the gate rather than involve security and in "bopping" her niece while the niece was being escorted by the security officer, constitute "just cause" under the statute for discipline.
However, the referee made a recommendation that, while "[d]iscipline is warranted," "termination of this high performing administrator ...

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