Texas A&M University Kingsville, South Texas Archives

Janet Cooper Collection

Collection Summary

Creator Janet Cooper
Title Janet Cooper Collection
Dates: 1966-2014
Abstract: Files and legal papers from the court cases of Janet Cooper vs. Kingsville Independent School District. Janet Cooper sued for nonrenewal of her contract due to a teaching method she employed called the Sunshine Project. The Sunshine Project involved role playing and simulation to dramatize conversion of a radically segregated society during Reconstruction to one less segregated. Eight years of litigation resulted and the case went to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Cooper won the case, was reinstated, and received back pay, retirement pay, and lawyer fees.
Identification A2006-006; A2015-037
Collection URL http://archives.tamuk.edu/ead.php?xml=Cooper%20EAD
Quantity: 1 Linear Foot
Location: H-13-5 Box #1 to H-14-1 Box #3
Language: English

Historical Note

Janet Cooper (1923-2014) was born in Lockport, New York, the eldest daughter of James S. Gill and Florence Greenway Gill. Janet graduated from Lockport High School and attended Wooster College in Ohio for two years until WWII interrupted her education. During the war, she married her college sweetheart, Stewart E. Cooper who was then serving in the U.S. Navy. In 1949, after completing his college degree, Stewart Cooper was hired by Texas A&I College, so the couple and their children moved to Kingsville, Texas. Janet was a stay-at-home mom in the 1950s that was busy with four children. When the children reached high school age, Janet returned to college and graduated in 1966 with a B.S. in Secondary Education from Texas A&I College. Janet Cooper began teaching American History at H.M. King High School in Kingsville in 1967. In 1972, after having taught for five years, the Kingsville Independent School Board did not renew Janet’s contract. Janet had been recommended for renewal by the both principal and the superintendent, but the school board insisted on nonrenewal, while refusing to give any reason for their action. Shortly thereafter, the Kingsville ISD petitioned the federal district court for a declaratory ruling that they had not violated Janet Cooper’s rights by not renewing her contract. Janet then filed a counterclaim asking for reinstatement. Depositions of board members by Janet’s lawyers revealed that several parents had objected to the teaching methods Janet used in her classroom and that discussions of race were the focus of complaints. In the ensuing lawsuit, the federal district court in Corpus Christi ruled in Janet’s favor. The school district appealed. In 1973, the National Education Association joined the suit on Janet’s side. The process of decision and appeal went on for 8 years, with each decision made in favor of the teacher, Janet Cooper. Finally, in 1980, Janet's legal battle resulted in a precedent-setting ruling in her favor by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, assuring that teachers' speech in the classroom remains protected under the First Amendment. She was granted back pay with retirement benefits as well as reinstatement of her job. Janet returned to teaching at H. M. King High School in Kingsville and worked until her retirement in 1988. Kingsville Independent School District v Janet Cooper is still used as precedent in cases to protect teachers' rights and is mandatory reading for school administrators in Texas.

Scope and Contents

The collection contains the Sunshine Project offered by DeKock & Yount as educational materials for high school students. Simulation manuscripts, scoring radical attitude sheets, and student evaluations before and after the project are included in the package of original materials. Janet Cooper's teacher contracts are present along with ten years of correspondence from 1972 to 1982 involving the court cases that resulted. The legal files contain trial notes and briefs, depositions, and two folders of newspaper clippings. Correspondence with James Daly who published the case within a book entitled, "Protecting the Right to Teach and Learn: Power, Politics, and Public Schools" was added to the collection by Carol Wood, Janet Cooper's daughter. Student letters of support and praise along with Janet Cooper's obituary conclude the collection.


The materials are arranged in folders by subject and then chronologically.

Index Terms

Cooper, Janet Gill, 1923-2014
Burns, Charles F. (attorney)
Stafford, John M.
Daly, James K.
Flood, Daniel John "Dan," 1903-1994
Gottesman, Michael H. (attorney)
Clark, Julia Penny (attorney)
Weinberg, Robert M. (attorney)
Hall, Robert (attorney)
Cook, Scott T. (attorney)
National Education Association of the United States
National Education Association DuShane Fund
Texas State Teacher's Association
Texas Classroom Teachers Association
Kingsville ISD Board of Trustees
United States -- Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit
United States – District Court, Southern District of Texas
Dixie, Wolf, and Hall, Attorneys
Bob Hall & Associates, Attorneys
Bredhof & Kaiser, P.L.L.C., Washington, D.C., Attorneys
United States – Supreme Court
Geographical Names
Corpus Christi (Tex.)
Kingsville (Tex.)
Houston (Tex.)
Austin (Tex.)
New Orleans (La.)
Washington (D.C.)
School districts -- Texas -- Kingsville
Public schools -- Texas -- Kingsville
High school teachers -- Texas, South
History teachers
Academic freedom
Civil rights
Reconstruction (U. S. history, 1865-1877) -- Texas
Racism -- Texas -- History
Education -- Political aspects
Actions and defenses
Freedom of expression
Constitution – First Amendment