CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (CN) - Administrators at the Texas school for the disabled where a "fight club" was discovered years back must face claims that they punished a whistle-blowing psychologist, a federal judge ruled.
Janet Carlow had sued
four of her former supervisors at the Corpus Christi State Supported Living Center in May 2012 for violations of her First Amendment rights.
The Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services employed Carlow for over 10 years as a psychologist at the south Texas facility where it serves mentally and physically impaired residents.
Carlow apparently worked there when the center was known as the Corpus Christi State School and police uncovered
a cellphone in 2009 with videos of staff-staged fights between residents.
In 2009, six members of the school staff were charged with staging "fight club" matches between residents. Several former employees have been sentenced in connection to the operation of the so-called fight club.
Carlow meanwhile allegedly complained about the mistreatment of residents and the enrollment of registered sex offenders.
The psychologist said she made internal complaints and spoke out at a hearing organized by a Texas state representative after one school resident committed suicide. The hearing allegedly aired on public television in September 2007.
Three years later, Carlow attended a second public meeting and again spoke up. This time she claimed that, among other things, the school was more focused on paperwork for a Department of Justice investigation than the needs of its residents.
The school subsequently bypassed the psychologist for a promotion and fired her in September 2011.
U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos refused on Monday to dismiss Carlow's retaliation claims against psychologist Daniel Rivera and school director Mark Cazalas.
Carlow may also proceed with her claim that psychologist Robert Cramer refused to promote her based on her exercise of free speech, according to the 17-page order.
Judy Sutton, director of behavioral health services at the school, meanwhile persuaded Ramos to dismiss the claims against her.
Carlow "conceded in her deposition that the only reason she named Sutton as a defendant was that she was new to CCSSLC and did not take the time to talk to plaintiff and hear her rebuttal to the allegations," according to the ruling.