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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO

JOYCE ROCK, Plaintiff, v. No. CIV-____________________

DON LEVINSKI, individually and in his official capacity; PHIL KASPER, individually and in his official capacity; and BOARD OF EDUCATION OF CENTRAL CONSOLIDATED SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendants.

COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES FOR CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATION

Joyce Rock, by and through her attorneys Valdez and White Law Firm, LLC, (Timothy L. White) brings this lawsuit for damages arising from the violation of her First Amendment and New Mexico Constitutional rights to free speech, resulting from termination as principal of Career Prep High School in Shiprock, N.M. Since November 23, 2009, Joyce has served as the Principal at Career Prep High School in Shiprock, New Mexico, which is the alternative high school for the Central Consolidated School District (“CCSD” or “the District”). CCSD sits largely in the Navajo Nation. While Joyce served as principal at Career Prep,

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graduation rates at the school went from 11% to 67%, and the District heralded the increased graduation rate in at least one article available on its website1: In April and May 2013, the District came to believe it was facing a huge budget deficit for the coming year. The District announced that it was closing Career Prep. At a meeting held on Wednesday, May 8, 2013 by Superintendent Don Levinski for concerned community members, as a member of the Shiprock community, Joyce spoke out against closing the school. On Monday May 13, despite never being reviewed as other than an excellent principal, Joyce was put on a “growth plan” to “get her attention”. The so-called growth plan specifically warned her about voicing her opposition to the “superintendent’s decisions” or “district direction” only within her own or the superintendent’s office. Her previously received recommendation for reemployment for another two years as “the perfect Alternative High School principal” was put on “hold”. On May 29, 2013 Joyce was fired, by placing her on leave until the last day of her then-pending contract, June 12. Ironically, only days after that last date of her employment, she was awarded the honor of Principal of the Year by the New Mexico Association of Secondary School Principals.

FACTS ALLEGED IN SUPPORT OF ALL CLAIMS 1. Jurisdiction and venue are proper in this court as all acts complained of

occurred in San Juan County, New Mexico.

1

http://www.ccsdnm.org/career-prep-grad-rate-doubles.html (available as of May 31, 2013).

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2.

This court has jurisdiction of these claims under 42 USC § 1983, 42 USC §

1988, 28 USC § 1331, 28 USC § 1343 (a) and 28 USC § 1367. 3. Plaintiff is now a resident of Muskogee County, Oklahoma having had to

move due to her termination. She was a resident of San Juan County, New Mexico at the times of the event described here. 4. Defendant Board of Education of Central Consolidated School District

(the Board) is a local governmental entity subject to suit under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act. Defendant Board is responsible for the operation of the School District. 5. Defendants Levinski and Kasper were at all times material to this

complaint, the Superintendent and Director of Administration of the District, respectively. 6. Defendants Levinski and Kasper are on information and belief residents of

San Juan County New Mexico. 7. Defendants Levinski and Kasper were each acting in the course and

scope of their employment and as state action under color of law at all times pertinent. 8. Defendants Levinski and Kasper are sued in their individual and official

capacities. 9. 10. Venue is proper in the District of New Mexico. Since November 23, 2009, Joyce has served as the Principal at Career

Prep High School in Shiprock, New Mexico, which is the alternative high school for the Central Consolidated School District (“CCSD”).

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11.

While Joyce served as principal at Career Prep, graduation rates at the

school more than tripled, going from a 2009 graduation rate of 11.5% to a graduation rate of 66.7% in 2013. 12. Based on her performance, on April 17, 2013, the Superintendant of

CCSD, Don Levinski, told Joyce orally that she would be given a two year contract renewal when her current contract expired in June 2013. 13. In April and May 2013, the District believed it would be facing a large

budget deficit for the coming year. 14. On May 6, 2013, Phil Kasper told Joyce that the District was closing Career

Prep High School. 15. Kasper then told Joyce she would become the principal at TBA Middle

School. 16. In Shiprock and Kirtland, many community members voiced strong

opposition to the District’s plan to close Career Prep. 17. The Farmington Times showed up at Career Prep on Wednesday May 8 to

ask about the closing. Joyce called Phil Kasper and James Preminger for guidance on how to respond. The reporter ended up taking a tour of the school while they waited on Mr. Preminger to arrive. 18. Don Levinski held a meeting on the afternoon of May 8, 2013 with the

administration and staff of Career Prep (“the Staff Meeting”). 19. During the Staff Meeting, Joyce asked Levinski why Career Prep was

going to be closed. She also asked whether the District had conducted any study to determine whether closing Career Prep would actually save CCSD any money.

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20.

Don Levinski also called a meeting of concerned parents and community

members to discuss the closing on Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. (the “Community Meeting”). 21. At the Community Meeting parents, students, and ex-students

passionately voiced their opposition to closing the school. As another concerned community member, Joyce spoke in favor of keeping the school open so that the students it was specifically designed to help could continue in school, and questioned the analysis upon which the District claimed it was necessary. 22. At the end of the meeting, Joyce was chastised by Kasper for allegedly

not thanking Levinski publicly for coming to meet with the community. Kasper said that Levinski had taken an “undeserved beating” from the public that spoke and he should be applauded for that. Joyce had already thanked Levinski for holding the meeting to hear the public’s concerns. 23. By the next day, the Board of Education announced that they had found

some additional money for the budget and Career Prep would not be closed for the coming year. 24. On the following Monday, May 13, Joyce was called in to Kasper’s office

and was put on a “growth plan”. All of the areas identified in the PIP for improvement related to Joyce’s failure to support the Superintendant at the May 8 meetings. Joyce was also told at this meeting that her recommendation for reemployment was being put on hold. 25. In the preceding years, Joyce had never been disciplined or counseled

about her performance as principal.

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26.

In the preceding years Joyce’s evaluations were always good to excellent

at the least. 27. Joyce was given an evaluation at that time grading her as unsatisfactory

in “demonstrating an understanding of the dynamics of the educational organization” and “work[ing] productively with administrators, supervisors, staff, students, parents and community members”. 28. Joyce was told in the so-called growth plan that she needed to “support

the educational organization that employs her by, among other matters: • Voicing her opposition to the superintendent’s decisions outside the work place and work time • Voicing her opposition to district direction within the confines of her office or her supervisor’s office 29. By May 20, 2013, Joyce was asking Kasper about the details of the

“growth plan” as she had never been subject to one before. Kasper told her he put her on the plan to “get her attention” and that he thought he had done that. 30. Joyce asked if she would be working at Career Prep for the following

year. Kasper replied that he and the director of Human Resources were in disagreement about whether she could be non-renewed when she was on a growth plan. Kasper said he would tell her by two weeks before the end of her contract. He kept telling her that he was just trying to get her attention. 31. On May 29, 2013, Joyce was placed on administrative leave until the end

of her contract, told not to come on to District property or talk to any CCSD employees about work related issues. She was asked to resign and given a copy

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of a resignation letter that was prepared by the District. She refused and was fired on that day.

COUNT I: VIOLATION OF 42 USC § 1983 BY ALL DEFENDANTS

32.

Plaintiff restates and realleges all other paragraphs of this complaint with

the same force and effect as if fully set forth herein. 33. Defendants Levinski and Kasper are persons subject to

lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 34. At all times material and relevant to this Complaint, all defendants were

acting under color of state law. 35. Defendants retaliated against Joyce for exercising her rights of free

speech by speaking in support of the community response opposing the closing of Career Prep High School in violation of her constitutional rights secured by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and Article 11 Section 18 of the New Mexico Constitution, by terminating her. 36. As a direct and proximate result of the Constitutional guarantees denied

to Joyce under color of state law, she has been damaged including the loss of income, consequential damages, loss of retirement benefits and emotional distress, all in amounts to be proven at trial. These damages are in excess of the jurisdictional limit of this Court. 37. Defendants denied the Constitutional guarantees due Plaintiff intentionally, willfully, wantonly, and recklessly, for which punitive damages should be imposed.

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COUNT II: VIOLATION OF THE NEW MEXICO WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION ACT AGAINST ALL DEFENDANTS 38. Plaintiff restates and reaffirms all other allegations of this complaint as

though set forth herein in their entirety. 39. Plaintiff opposed the closing of the school at the Staff and Community

meetings because she in good faith believed it was unethical, illegal, a misuse of public funds and abuse of authority by the individual defendants. 40. Defendants retaliated against Plaintiff by terminating Plaintiff for her

speech in the Staff and Community meeting. 41. Defendants’ retaliatory acts violate the New Mexico Whistleblower

Protection Act. 42. Defendants’ violations of the New Mexico Whistleblower Protection Act

caused Plaintiff to suffer damages including lost wages, lost retirement and other employment benefits, special damages, emotional distress, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

REQUEST FOR RELIEF For the reasons set forth in this complaint, Plaintiff respectfully requests that the Court enter judgment as follows: 1. Against all defendants jointly and severally for all lawful

compensatory damages in amount to be determined by the jury; 2. Against the individual defendants, severally, for all lawful punitive

damages in amounts to be determined by the jury;

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3.

Against the Board, for each act of the individual defendants for

which it is liable vicariously; 4. Against all defendants for costs, expenses and attorneys’ fees; and

all applicable pre- and post-judgment interest; 5. For such other relief as the Court finds plaintiff entitled.

Respectfully submitted, Valdez and White Law Firm, LLC By: /s/ Timothy L. White_ Timothy L. White P.O. Box 25646 Albuquerque, N.M. 87125 Phone: (505) 345-0289 Facsimile: (505) 345-2573

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