United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Spartanburg Division
Howe Hendricks United States District Judge
matter is before the Court upon the Magistrate Judge's
Report and Recommendation (“Report”), which was
made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and
Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.). In his Report,
which was issued on May 23, 2016, United States Magistrate
Judge Kevin F. McDonald recommends that the Court grant
Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's First
Amendment cause of action; deny Plaintiff's motion to
amend his complaint; and decline to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over Plaintiff's remaining state law claims.
Plaintiff filed written objections to the Report, and the
matter is ripe for review.
was a drafting and design teacher at Swofford Career Center,
a high school career center serving Spartanburg County School
Districts One and Two. Dr. Ronald W. Garner
(“Garner”) is the Superintendent of District One.
to Plaintiff's complaint, at the end of the spring 2015
semester, while giving the first of a three-part final exam,
Plaintiff witnessed two students talking and one student
copying the other student's exam. When Plaintiff graded
the exams, he noticed that the students' drawings were
identical and that they both incorrectly drew the same
portion of the drawing. Plaintiff gave both students a score
of 50 on that portion of the exam.
the students' parents complained, the District ultimately
allowed the students to take a retest of the first part of
the exam. Only one student showed up for the retest, and that
student scored a 25. The other student scored 0. Plaintiff
entered his students' final grants into PowerSchool, the
District's student information system, but Plaintiff
subsequently learned that “someone from District
One” changed the cheating students' grades in
PowerSchool and gave them a final course grade of 85, which
translates to a “B” letter grade. (ECF 1-1 at 9.)
Plaintiff does not identify who changed the grades, but he
asserts that he tried to open his PowerSchool account to see
what had been altered but discovered that his account had
been deleted. Plaintiff informed Joel Griggs, an investigator
for the South Carolina Department of Education, about the
incident, and according to Plaintiff, Griggs told him that
the school was not cooperating in the investigation.
Plaintiff claims that “[r]ather than be a party to the
criminal conduct committed by the District, ” he
“decided to resign.” (Id.)
Plaintiff agreed to meet with Defendant Garner and
Spartanburg County School District Two's Superintendent,
Dr. Mercer. During this meeting, Garner asked Plaintiff what
it would take to keep him at Swofford, and Plaintiff stated
he would return if the grades for the students he caught
cheating were changed to reflect the grades he had given
them. Defendants refused to change the grades, and Plaintiff
alleges he was “constructively discharged . . . when it
became clear that the District would require Plaintiff to
violate a criminal law of this state to retain his
employment.” (Id. at 10.) Specifically,
Plaintiff cites section 16-13-15 of the South Carolina Code,
which provides in pertinent part:
(A) It is unlawful for any person to falsify or alter a
transcript, a diploma, or the high school equivalency diploma
known as the GED from any high school, college, university,
or technical college of this State, from the South Carolina
Department of Education, or from any other transcript or
diploma issuing entity.
(C) Any person who knowingly violates the provisions of this
section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must
be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned for
not more than one year, or both.
S.C. Code Ann. § 16-13-15.
complaint, Plaintiff alleges a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for violation of his First Amendment rights, as
well as state-law claims for wrongful termination in
violation of public policy and violation of the South
Carolina Payment of Wages Act, SC Code Ann. § 41-10-10
through -110. On March 1, 2016, Defendants filed a motion to
dismiss, asserting that Plaintiff's complaint fails to
state a cognizable First Amendment claim and that even if
Plaintiff's complaint does state a cognizable First
Amendment claim, Defendant Garner is entitled to qualified
filed a response in opposition as well as a motion to amend
his complaint. In his motion to amend, Plaintiff maintains
the same causes of action but seeks to include additional
facts to demonstrate Defendants' alleged pattern and
practice of altering students' grades.
filed a response in opposition to Plaintiffs' motion to
amend, asserting that the proposed amendment would be futile
and that the new facts alleged did not cure Plaintiff's
failure to state a First Amendment claim.
23, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued his Report,
recommending that the Court grant Defendants' motion to
dismiss, deny Plaintiff's motion to amend, and decline to
exercise supplemental ...