[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
from the District Court for Scotts Bluff County: LEO
Lynn Chaloupka, of Chaloupka, Holyoke, Snyder, Chaloupka,
Longoria & Kishiyama, P.C., L.L.O., for appellant.
Guthery and Joshua J. Schauer, of Perry, Guthery, Haase &
Gessford, P.C., L.L.O., for appellee.
C.J., WRIGHT, CONNOLLY, MILLER-LERMAN, CASSEL, and STACY, JJ.
Neb. 150] Cassel, J.
advice of a parent, who was also a school board member, a
student authored a letter critical of a public school
teacher's curriculum. Instead of changing her curriculum,
the teacher quit her job. The teacher then sued the
parent/board member on the theory of tortious interference
with a business relationship or expectancy. The teacher
appeals from a summary judgment dismissing her claim. Because
the parent/ board member provided truthful information and
honest advice, her actions were not unjustified. We affirm
the entry of summary judgment.
relevant times, Kim Magana was a parent of a student in the
Scottsbluff Public School District (School District) and a
member of the School District's school board (Board). She
ran for a position on the Board out of a desire to make the
school's curriculum more rigorous and became a member in
2000. Magana served
on the Board's curriculum and technology committee.
Sulu was an upper-level Spanish teacher and chair of the
world languages department at Scottsbluff Senior High School.
She had developed curriculums for her classes and [293 Neb.
151] the world languages department without criticism from
the School District over her 25 years of employment, and she
had received a number of awards.
Luke Keener began teaching at the high school in 2005. He
taught Spanish " 1" and " 2" during the
2011-12 school year. He kept documentation focusing on
comments made by students concerning Sulu and another Spanish
attended Scottsbluff Senior High School from August 2008
through December 2011 and took a number of Spanish classes,
including two semesters of Spanish 2 from Keener and one
semester of Spanish " 4" from Sulu. S.J. thought
Sulu's classes focused too much on culture and not enough
on language. S.J. testified that she had " a couple of
confrontations" with Sulu about being taught too much
culture. When asked for more details about the
confrontations, S.J. explained that students in Sulu's
classroom told Sulu they felt they were not being taught
Spanish and that S.J. " [j]ust joined in the
conversation that we were taught more culture than . . . the
language." In 2010, S.J. addressed her concerns about
Sulu's classes with the principal at that time, but the
principal did not provide any help.
August 2011, Magana approached Keener and said that she was
frustrated with the lack of rigor in upper-level Spanish
classes. According to Keener, several students had similarly
voiced opinions that the curriculum was not as rigorous as it
should be. He arranged for Magana to meet with S.J., who was
one of those students.
August or September 2011, S.J. met briefly with Magana and
Keener after school in Keener's classroom to express
concerns about the Spanish curriculum. At that time, S.J. did
not know Magana was a member of the Board. From Magana's
standpoint, the meeting was for her to seek information as a
member of the Board and its curriculum committee. Magana [293
Neb. 152] suggested that writing a letter to the Board and
the superintendent was an option for S.J.
September 2011, S.J. drafted a letter to the Board to address
her worries about the Spanish classes taught by Sulu. The
letter spoke of concern about the foreign language
programs--specifically the upper-level Spanish classes--not
being at their " highest potential" and about
culture being the main focus of study. The letter suggested
that a " 'surprise' observation day (including a
standardized test)" would be beneficial. According to
S.J., no one helped her with the content of the letter. S.J.
asked Keener to proofread the letter, but she did not accept
any of Keener's suggested changes. S.J. did not have
anyone else review the letter. S.J. circulated the letter to
classmates, asking them to sign it if they agreed, and 20
students signed it. S.J. mailed the letter to the
superintendent of the School District and the Board. In
response to a question later posed on social media as to
whether the letter was Keener's or Magana's idea,
S.J. answered, " both."
testified in a deposition that because Magana told S.J. to
write the letter, Sulu assumed Magana told S.J. what to write
in the letter. Sulu also testified that during mediation with
Keener, he said Magana " had a hand in it" and
helped write the letter. When asked, " [D]id he say she
had a hand in it or he said she . . . helped
write the letter?" Sulu answered, " Said . . .
Magana and [S.J.] were together and then the letter was
to Sulu, her job changed as a result of the letter. Sulu
testified that the superintendent told her to teach no
culture, even though three of Nebraska's five teaching
standards have to do with culture. She explained that due to
the letter, the superintendent told her to change the
curriculum in the middle of the year. Sulu believed that her
employment could be terminated if she taught culture. She
began taking her [293 Neb. 153] students to a computer
laboratory because she thought they were going to have to
take a standardized test.
tendered her resignation to the Board in March 2012. She
testified that she felt she had been pressured to quit. Sulu
did not think that she had done anything wrong, but testified
that " when [the superintendent] said, do you want to
turn in your resignation right now, that was a signal to
me." She testified that before the letter, she had the
support of the administrators for 25 years.
sued Magana. She alleged that Magana's actions were
" committed not in her capacity as a [B]oard member nor
on behalf of the [Board], but in her individual capacity as a
private citizen." Sulu claimed that Magana actively
participated with Keener in drafting the letter. She alleged
that Magana's " initiation" of the letter was
intentional, unjustified, and outside Magana's capacity
as a Board member. Sulu further alleged that she had a valid
business expectancy in her career as a Spanish teacher and
that Magana's initiation of the letter interfered with
Sulu's business relationship with the School District and
caused harm to Sulu.
moved for summary judgment, and the district court granted
the motion. The court found that Sulu presented no evidence
to permit a reasonable inference that Magana's conduct
was unjustified. The court explained:
There is no evidence [Magana] authored the letter in any
fashion. There is no evidence the assertions of the letter
are untruthful, even though some students may have regretted
signing it. Though she expected the letter would be sent,
there is no evidence Magana knew the contents of the letter