Appeals court rules Frisco ISD discrimination suit can proceed

FRISCO — A former Frisco High School coach can pursue his lawsuit alleging discrimination and retaliation by the school district after all, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

Alvin Jackson, who taught world history along with being a basketball and track coach, filed a suit against the Frisco school district in 2012, saying his contract was not renewed because he complained about discrimination and racial hostility at the high school. He was the only black coach and core subject teacher at the campus then.

Jackson alleged that at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, another coach at the school made racially charged statements toward him. When Jackson said he intended to complain to the district’s administration, campus leaders urged him not to and then began giving him bad evaluations despite his positive reviews just months before, according to his suit.

Jackson alleged he was urged to resign because he was not a good “fit” for the school, and after refusing to do so, his contract was not renewed.

Last year, a lower court ruled in favor of the school district by dismissing his suit in a summary judgment.

But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling this week finding that with so many facts about the case in dispute, it could not be dismissed in such a fashion. More evidence had to be heard, the appeals court ruled.

Jackson’s attorney, Matthew Scott, said he expected the case to move forward. Since losing his job in Frisco, Jackson had a hard time finding work and eventually moved out of Texas when his wife found employment elsewhere, Scott said. He now coaches at a junior college.

“When you have that non-renewal on your record as a teacher, it’s like a clove of garlic around your neck,” Scott said.

The Frisco school district issued a statement noting that officials are reviewing the appeals court ruling.

“We believe it is important to note the ruling states that a question of fact remains for a jury to decide, not that the teacher’s claims are valid,” district spokeswoman Shana Wortham said in the statement.

“We are confident that a jury would conclude that he was non-renewed because of teaching performance, as was the reason given and upheld previously in the lower court.”

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