HOUSTON (CN) – A high school teacher sued two students, claiming she was suspended and may be fired because they told the principal she’d asked her class to use Facebook to help recover property stolen from her son.
Elizabeth Ethredge sued Demi Alysse Gray and Dylan Noble Wells in Harris County Court.
Ethredge worked for the Waller Independent School District for 8 years, she says in the complaint.
Waller County, pop. 43,205, is northwest of Harris County, whose seat is Houston.
“Plaintiff was assigned to teach at Waller High School as an English teacher during the 2012-2013 school year,” the complaint states. “On or about November 8, 2012, plaintiff modeled oral storytelling for her classes and shared with her students that personal property had recently been taken from her son at his high school in another school district.
“This oral storytelling exercise was directly related to and in compliance with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, the state standards for curriculum in public schools in Texas.
“Defendants were enrolled in the plaintiff’s English class during the 2012-2013 school year and were aware of the story about the property taken from plaintiff’s son.
“On or about November 13, 2012, as a continuation of the oral storytelling exercise, plaintiff mentioned to her students that they might be able to help recover her son’s property. Because plaintiff does not have an account on the social media website ‘Facebook,’ she invited any student who might have had a ‘Facebook’ account to help by emailing or texting the student suspected of perpetrating the theft and asking if they could buy the stolen item from him.”
Ethredge claims that Gray and Wells “did not complain about the storytelling exercise at the time,” but brought it up months later.
“Defendants have a history of causing problems in plaintiff’s classroom, including disrupting the instructional period, dress code violations, and other violations of the Waller Independent School District Student Code of Conduct,” the complaint states.
“Plaintiff dealt with defendants’ behavior in a variety of ways, including but not limited to phone calls to parents, individual conferences with the students, classroom redirection, and email communications with the parents and the students.
“On March 22, 2013, defendants entered plaintiff’s classroom in a loud and boisterous manner. Plaintiff, just coming off of her lunch period, was finishing up a phone call before the late bell rang and the class period began.”
Ethredge says Wells popped off when she asked him to sit down at his desk, and she “responded with the discipline management technique known as ‘temporary change of placement’ and sent him to the office.”
Gray then tried to stick up for Wells, Ethredge says. The teacher responded by telling Gray that her clothing violated the school dress code.
“Defendant Gray responded to plaintiff’s attention to her dress code violation with further disrespectful behavior and comments; plaintiff responded to defendant Gray by implementing a ‘temporary change of placement’ and sent her to the office with defendant Wells,” the complaint states.
Ethredge claims that Gray and Wells “successfully derailed the disciplinary process” by complaining to the principal about her oral storytelling exercise, five months after it happened.
“Defendants wrote statements about the oral storytelling exercise that were clearly retaliatory in nature, designed to take the focus off of their inappropriate behavior and to instead focus the principal’s attention on plaintiff,” the complaint states.
“Defendants’ statements were defamatory in that they asserted that plaintiff encouraged defendants and others to harass the student who allegedly stolen plaintiff’s son’s property.
“Defendants also complained that plaintiff ‘is always on her phone’ and ‘shares too much personal stuff.’ Plaintiff’s performance appraisals demonstrate no evidence that plaintiff’s supervisors have ever addressed with plaintiff (nor have they ever seen the need to) excessive phone use or over-sharing of personal information.” (Parentheses in complaint.)
Ethredge says she was suspended with pay on April 3.
Them, “On April 8, 2013, the Board of Trustees of the Waller Independent School District proposed termination of plaintiff’s employment contract. …
“As further proof of defendants’ deliberate and malicious intent to injure plaintiff’s reputation in the educational community, during school hours on April 4, 2013, plaintiff Gray posted a comment on her ‘Facebook’ page that said: ‘Hey Ethredge, “I threw stones at your house” what you got for me big badass? Case closed!’
“Approximately eight hours after defendant Gray’s posting on ‘Facebook,’ defendant Wells commented: ‘Hahahahah bitch ain’t got SHIT!'” (Citations to exhibits omitted.)
Ethredge seeks punitive damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
She is represented by Susan Soto of Missouri City, Texas.
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