From exceptional employee, excellent evaluations – to suddenly unsatisfactory performance. What happened?
What caused this exceptional school nurse’s fall from grace?
Linda McGreevy advocated for kids with disabilities. She did the right thing!
On June 28, 2005, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that school administrators and the school district may be officially and individually liable for retaliating against a school nurse who advocated for kids with disabilities.
Linda McGreevy – a licensed professional nurse, a pediatric nurse practitioner, and a certified school nurse.
She holds a school nurse certificate from Millersville University, a Masters of Education from Penn State University, a certified nurse practitioner degree from the College of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Rutgers, and a Bachelor of Science Nursing Degree from Fairleigh Dickenson University.
She is also qualified to be a school principal.
Between 1994 and 1999, Linda McGreevy received outstanding employment ratings, scoring 75 or higher out of a possible 80 points. Under the District’s categories of ratings, 75-80 is considered “excellent,” the highest possible category.
In 1999, her evaluations suddenly dropped to unsatisfactory levels.
Doing the Right Thing
Ms. McGreevy reported that school officials began retaliating against her in 1999, after she took several actions:
- She advocated for two students with disabilities. At one point, she contacted the State Dept of Education and expressed concerns that the children were in danger of being physically injured. During a subsequent meeting, concerns were expressed that the principal was gathering information to use against the children’s mother so the children would be removed from her custody.
- She reported that the school allowed “unlicensed pesticide spraying at the school” which made many students and teachers sick. After an investigation, the district was fined.
- She advised state officials that she was the school nurse for the elementary school, not for the middle school (as represented by the school district) After an investigation, the Department of Health withheld funds for school nurse services.
After taking these actions, principal Stroup, assistant principal Tsosie, and superintendent Soltis “constantly criticized and berated” Ms. McGreevy. As a result of their treatment, Ms. McGreevy began to have constant severe migraine headaches. When the retaliation did not stop, she submitted her letter of resignation.
But the Bermudian Springs School District refused to accept her resignation because they claimed it was “ineffective.” They sent letters advising her that she had “abandoned” her employment and threatening her with “the possible loss of her RN degree.”
In August, 2001, she filed suit against the superintendent, principal, assistant principal, and the Bermudian Springs School District.
After several pretrial motions over nearly two years, the U. S. District Court dismissed most of her claims against the district. Linda McGreevy appealed.
Court Says She Has a Right to Advocate
In a unanimous decision issued on June 28, 2005, the Court of Appeals held that Ms. McGreevy had a right to advocate on behalf of the disabled students, a right to object to pesticide spraying by an unlicensed individual, and a right to clarify where she worked (and didn’t work).
The Court held that the principal, assistant principal and superintendent who retaliated against Linda McGreevy were not entitled to qualified immunity in their official capacities; that they may also be liable in their individual (personal) capacities; that because the superintendent was the final policymaker, when he supported the negative performance ratings, he made the District liable.
The Court remanded “the matter to the District Court for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.”
Read the decision in Linda McGreevy v. Stroup, Tsosie, Soltis, Bermudian Springs Sch. District.
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