Without using an attorney, former Harvard school psychologist Peter Koehn won reversal of the dismissal of a suit concerning his termination by Harvard Unit School District 50.
Then-Superintendent Lauri Tobias is listed as the lead defendant. Judges William Bauer, John Daniel Tinder and David Hamilton rendered the decision.
At the Federal Circuit Court level, the school district was granted a summary judgment in its favor.
Here is more of the Federal Court Court of Appeals decision:
That September, after the start of classes, Koehn discovered that Principal Segersten had ordered cuts in individualized instruction for some special education students at the junior high. Around September 10,
Segersten called Koehn to a meeting to discuss those cuts.
Koehn voiced concern that Segersten had violated federal and state law by reducing the amount of individualized instruction.
Koehn thought those cuts had been made without adequately involving parents and the team of professionals responsible for developing Individualized Education Programs.
Four weeks later, on October 7, Principal Segersten wrote Koehn directing him to attend an “investigatory meeting” on October 12 to discuss “job performance” and “conduct” deficiencies.
In her letter Segersten accused Koehn of not providing and documenting special education services.
She also accused him of disregarding District 50 policies concerning attendance and Internet usage.
Her letter warned that he could face discipline, including discharge.
Koehn replied by e-mail that he would not attend without his choice of representative.
Koehn asserted in his e-mail that Segersten was trying to bully him into accepting her decisions without exercising independent professional judgment, and he called the timing of her letter—“about the day after” he and some parents had discussed the junior high’s “lack of interventions” in math and reading—an “interesting coincidence.”
Koehn did not attend the October 12 meeting.
Two days later Principal Segersten wrote again rescheduling the session and warning that Koehn could not “dictate” terms or “set conditions.”
Koehn replied on October 15 with a sharply worded e-mail demanding documentation that Segersten was authorized to discipline, or even supervise, him.
Segersten did not answer this demand.
At summary judgment the defendants did not dispute Koehn’s assertion, citing his job description, that Superintendent Tobias, not Segersten, would have been his direct supervisor at this time (a role she would have assumed after becoming superintendent more than two years before).
Nor did the defendants submit any evidence that Segersten’s position as principal of the junior high imparted authority to convene an “investigatory meeting” about Koehn’s performance as a psychologist with district-wide responsibilities.
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