Craig Witherspoon is superintendent again of Birmingham City Schools after Jefferson County Circuit Judge Scott Vowell granted a temporary restraining order Wednesday afternoon preventing the Birmingham Board of Education from terminating him, at least for now.
The order follows a decision by the board Tuesday night to fire Witherspoon, and at least temporarily, the decision settles conflicting claims of power within the school system. After the board voted to terminate Witherspoon, Alabama School Superintendent Tommy Bice overturned the decision and said Witherspoon was still in charge. However, the school system refused to obey Bice’s order, and on Wednesday morning Witherspoon arrived at the board of education headquarters to find he had been locked out of his office.
On Wednesday afternoon, Witherspoon’s lawyer, former United States District Judge U.W. Clemon, filed a motion for a restraining order. Vowell hastily assembled a hearing between the parties which lasted a little more than an hour.
Vowell found that Witherspoon and the children in the Birmingham would suffer irreparable harm if Witherspoon were immediately removed from his job. The restraining order will remain in effect for at least 10 days. In court Wednesday, Vowell said he thought Witherspoon would prevail with his lawsuit.
During the hearing, Clemon argued that Witherspoon’s contract allows for the board to terminate the superintendent with 60 days notice. No such notice was given, Clemon said. What’s more, Clemon said that the Alabama Code gives control of all state schools to the Alabama Board of Education and that Bice’s orders supercede any by local school boards.
However, Vowell’s restraining order is temporary until Witherspoon and the board can litigate the issues before Circuit Judge Houston Brown or reach a settlement.
Clemon said Withersoon would resume his duties as superintendent just as soon as he posted a $10,000 bond with the court this afternoon.