from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Tennessee at Greeneville. No.
2:18-cv-00011-Pamela Lynn Reeves, Chief District Judge.
Buck Dougherty, DUNCAN, HATCHER, HOLLAND & FLEENOR, P.C.,
Chattanooga, Tennessee, for Appellant.
Jeffrey M. Ward, MILLIGAN & COLEMAN PLLP, Greeneville,
Tennessee, for Kimber Halliburton in her individual capacity.
K. McPeak, HERRIN, MCPEAK & ASSOCIATES, Johnson City,
Tennessee, for Appellees Washington County Board of Education
and Kimber Halliburton in her official capacity.
Before: ROGERS, BUSH, and LARSEN, Circuit Judges.
LARSEN, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Sensabaugh, the former head football coach at David Crockett
High School in Washington County, Tennessee, made two
Facebook posts expressing his concerns about the conditions
and practices of schools within the Washington County School
District. He claims that he was fired as a result. He sued
School Director Kimber Halliburton, raising a First Amendment
retaliation claim, and the Washington County Board of
Education (the Board), raising a municipal liability claim.
The district court granted summary judgment to Halliburton
because Sensabaugh had failed to show that Halliburton had
violated his constitutional rights. And because Sensabaugh
had failed to establish an underlying constitutional
violation, his municipal liability claim against the Board
also failed. For the reasons stated, we AFFIRM.
became head football coach at David Crockett High School in
2017. The school is within the Washington County School
District and is overseen by the Board. Halliburton is the
Director of Schools for the Washington County School
District. Sensabaugh's immediate supervisor was Athletic
Director Josh Kite, and his ultimate supervisor was Principal
September 22, 2017, Sensabaugh visited an elementary school
within the district. The visit was unrelated to his job.
After the visit, Sensabaugh posted on Facebook, decrying the
conditions of the elementary school. His post included photos
of the classroom, and one photo showed the faces of several
students. Upon seeing the post, the elementary school
principal contacted the district's Director of Human
Resources, Susan Kiernan; the principal relayed his concern
that the posts might violate the law or school policy because
the school might not have obtained parental consent to show
the students' faces. Kiernan relayed these concerns to
Wright and Halliburton.
believing "that the public posting of a photo showing a
child's face could be violative of both the [Board's]
policy and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy
Act," contacted the Board's attorney, Thomas Seeley.
Wright and Halliburton tried to call Sensabaugh to
"instruct him to immediately remove any photo showing a
child's face-but not any posts or other content."
But Sensabaugh did not answer the calls. Halliburton did
briefly communicate with Sensabaugh by text message that
evening. So did Wright, whose text told Sensabaugh to remove
the photos from Facebook. Sensabaugh did not comply.
days later, Sensabaugh again posted on Facebook; this post
discussed his concerns with prisoners working at the high
school. Halliburton texted Sensabaugh after reading the post,
telling him: "I see you've posted something else
before knowing all the facts. Uncertain why you are not
taking my calls. I really would like to speak to you."
Later that day, Wright and Halliburton spoke with Sensabaugh
on the phone. According to Halliburton:
Wright and I spoke to Sensabaugh by phone, and attempted to
address the safety concerns that Sensabaugh raised and again
requested that he remove any photo(s) of the Jonesborough
Elementary School children from Facebook; we advised
Sensabaugh that he did not need to take down the post, just
the photo(s) of the students . . . . During this phone
conversation, Sensabaugh yelled at us and told us that he was
not taking the photo down. Then, he hung up on us.
recounted the telephone call similarly, noting that
Sensabaugh "repeatedly interrupted us and he yelled at
us" and that "Halliburton and I could not believe
that Sensabaugh would speak to his supervisors in this
manner." Halliburton also explained, "During my
more than fifteen years as a supervisor in the education
field, I have never had an employee speak to me the way that
Sensabaugh spoke to Wright and me in ...