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December 15, 1988

SHERIDAN SCHOOL DISTRICT, THOMAS WARMACK, President, Sheridan School Board, In His Official And Individual Capacities; and DONALD TURNEY, Superintendent, Sheridan Public Schools, In His Official And Individual Capacities, DEFENDANTS

The opinion of the court was delivered by: HOWARD, JR.


 Trial was held before the Court and a jury from January 19th to the 21st, 1988. On January 21, 1988, the jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff and against the defendant school district on the breach of contract claim and awarding damages of $ 12,000.00. The remaining due process claims of his property and liberty interests were taken under advisement and a post-trial briefing schedule was set. Plaintiff thereafter submitted amended proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law along with supporting brief. Defendants, although given additional time, opted not to submit any further arguments in their behalf. In light of the evidence presented at trial, the findings by the jury and the applicable law, the court now makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:


 1. On July 3, 1985, plaintiff William Tolson and defendant Sheridan School District entered into a contract under which Tolson was to drive a school bus for the defendant.

 2. In exchange for driving the school bus, Tolson was to be paid $ 2,478.00 under the contract.

 3. The contract was for a definite term, September 3, 1985, through June 3, 1986. Furthermore, bus drivers were rehired each school year in the absence of a lawful termination or the driver quitting.

 4. Previous to the 1985-86 school year, Tolson had driven a school bus for the defendant. He had driven a school bus as a substitute driver during the 1984-85 school year and while a student at Sheridan High School. These previous bus driving experiences were without serious incident.

 5. School bus drivers in the Sheridan School District drive a morning and an afternoon route, and they did so during September, 1985.

 6. On September 30, 1985, Tolson returned from his normal morning bus route and proceeded to the school bus shop. He had had some discipline problems with the students on his bus that morning.

 7. He handed his "bus conduct reports", which are forms upon which drivers report unruly or improper student behavior on the buses, to Harvey Nelson, the defendants' head shop mechanic. James Zimmerman, Assistant Superintendent for Maintenance and Transportation, was also present. Among other things, Tolson said to Zimmerman that if the school district were not able to discipline the school children, they might have to find another bus driver. Neither Zimmerman nor Nelson responded to the comment.

 8. Thereafter, with Zimmerman still present, Nelson instructed Tolson to take home a bus other than Tolson's regular bus since there was a mechanical problem with the tailpipe and Nelson wanted it left in the shop so that it could be fixed. Nelson told Tolson that when he came back in the afternoon, he could get his regular bus.

 9. Tolson then drove the replacement bus home. It was the usual custom for school bus drivers to keep the buses at their homes overnight, and between morning and afternoon routes.

 10. When Tolson arrived home with the replacement bus, he parked on the road in front of his house and left in his pick-up truck to take care of some personal business in Pine Bluff.

 11. Meanwhile at the shop, Zimmerman instructed Nelson to go to Tolson's home to pick up the bus. Nelson, acting under the authority of Zimmerman, went to Tolson's home with another one of defendant's employees, Karen Wilkerson.

 12. Without giving notice of any kind, Wilkerson took the bus and drove it back to the bus shop, effectively terminating Tolson's employment. On January 21, 1988, the jury decided that Tolson had been discharged without cause by the defendant Sheridan School District at this point. This finding of fact is now the law of the case.

 13. Later that day, after Tolson returned home, he called Nelson to see where his bus was. Nelson told Tolson that Zimmerman had instructed Nelson to pick up the bus.

 14. Tolson asked Nelson if he was fired. Nelson told Tolson that he would not be needed any longer, and that he didn't know anything further. Nelson did not give Tolson any reasons for his dismissal.

 15. Later that day, Tolson contacted the office of defendant Donald Turney, who was superintendent of the Sheridan School District at that time. Tolson wanted to know the reasons for his firing, and he wanted to get his job back. Tolson was informed by Turney's secretary that Turney was not in and that he should contact Turney the next day.

 16. The next day, October 1, 1985, Tolson met with Turney at Turney's office. Turney said there had been some complaints about Tolson, but he would not tell Tolson the nature of the complaints or who made them. Tolson explicitly asked for the names of those parents who had allegedly made complaints. In addition, Turney would not go into any detail about the reasons for the dismissal.

 17. Tolson asked Turney for permission to go in front of the school board. Turney told Tolson that he should write a formal letter and submit it to his office. The only other thing that Turney told Tolson was the date of the next school board meeting.

 18. Neither Turney nor any other employee of the Sheridan School District gave Tolson notice of the specific charges against him. He ...

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