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College Basketball

Ex-teacher claims retaliation

Dontae Jones' grade change trial postponed

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Posted: Saturday July 25, 1998 02:25 PM

  Jones led Mississippi State to its only Final Four in 1995 Jamie Squire/Allsport

OXFORD, Mississippi (AP) -- The federal trial on the lawsuit of a former junior college teacher who claims she was fired for refusing to change a grade of standout basketball player Dontae Jones has been postponed until November 30.

Jury selection in the trial in Oxford before U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. had been scheduled to start Monday. Jim Waide of Tupelo, attorney for the professor, Peggy Wroten, said the trial had to be postponed because of scheduling conflicts.

Wroten is seeking reinstatement to her job at Northeast Mississippi Community College and unspecified damages in the suit she brought in April 1997.

Wroten claimed that Northeast Mississippi Community College administrators retaliated against her for refusing to change the grade for Jones, who later led Mississippi State to its only NCAA Final Four appearance.

Biggers earlier this month ruled against the community college's motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

The defendants include school President Joe Childers and Deans Johnny Allen and Connie Drown.

Wroten claims that she was asked to change Jones' grade in her psychology class from "F" to "withdrawn."

She eventually was successful in keeping the grade she had assigned Jones.

But after her refusal and subsequent statements about the request, according to her complaint, administrators threatened to fire her, did not offer her summer school and night school teaching positions she had held for 21 years and entered negative statements about her into her personnel file.

In addition, on the day Childers learned of Wroten's lawsuit, Wroten said she was called into his office and told her contract with the school would not be renewed.

The defendants claim Wroten's dismissal was based solely on her job performance. Wroten had taught at the school for 22 years.

In her suit, Wroten claims she had received, "no complaints about her teaching performance and had an excellent work record until she exercised her First Amendment rights ... (about) the favored treatment being given to Dontae Jones because of his superior athletic ability."

Jones came to the junior college in 1993 and became one of the top community college players in the country. But when it came time to graduate after two years at Northeast, Jones still needed 36 hours of academic credit to move on to Mississippi State.

Jones made up the hours in one summer, in part by taking 13 hours of correspondence courses from the University of Southern Mississippi, and graduated in time to make fall basketball practice at Mississippi State.

In his only season at MSU, Jones averaged 14.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game and was the MVP of both the NCAA Southeast Regional and the Southeastern Conference tournament. The Bulldogs upset eventual national champion Kentucky for their only SEC tournament title and later advanced to the Final Four.

Jones was a first-round pick, the 21st player taken overall, in the NBA draft. He has been hampered by injury since he was drafted.  

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