FARMINGTON — A federal judge has ruled against former Career Prep High School Principal Joyce Rock in her lawsuit against the Central Consolidated School District's Board of Education and Superintendent Don Levinski.
U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Karen Molzen issued a judgement on Aug. 8 in the case. The judge found Rock's constitutional rights were not violated by the school district when administrators chose to not renew the principal's contract after she spoke out against the closure of the alternative high school in a community meeting, according to court documents.
Rock and her Albuquerque-based attorney, Timothy White, declined comment on the decision because they are considering other possible actions.
CCSD spokesman James Preminger said the district is pleased with the judge's decision.
"CCSD supports the First Amendment, but there are other factors in this case, as the judge's ruling shows," Preminger said. "We cannot discuss this case beyond that, since it is a personnel matter."
In May 2013, district administrators determined they might need to close Career Prep due to budgetary reasons. Officials hosted a community meeting on May 8, 2013, to explain the situation to parents and students. Rock spoke publicly at the meeting and expressed opposition to closing the school.
In court documents, the point of contention was whether Rock was speaking as a citizen of the community or in an official capacity as head of the school.
The lawsuit's defendants stated in court documents that Rock's speech during the meeting was made in her capacity as principal, invalidating her claim that her First Amendment rights were violated.
Shortly after the meeting, district officials discovered a source of federal funding for the Shiprock school and did not close it.
Rock was notified on May 29, 2013, that her contract would not be renewed. She was placed on administrative leave for the rest of the 2012-2013 school year.
Court documents state Levinski's primary reason for firing Rock was because of the tone and content of her speech, which suggested Career Prep students might not succeed academically or might drop out if they had to transfer to Shiprock High School.
Levinski stated in the documents that Rock's speech was "not only false but offensive and discouraging to CPHS students and detrimental to the District's educational mission."
After her contract wasn't renewed, Rock was named Secondary School Principal of the Year by New Mexico Association of Secondary School Principals for the 2012-2013 school year.