Teacher suing school district
Attorneys for a popular George Whittell High School teacher have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Reno accusing the Douglas County School District of violating the woman’s constitutional rights.
The Nevada State Education Association and Susan Grady, a teacher and Whittell’s athletic director, claim Grady was demoted from her former position as Whittell’s vice principal without regard for her 14th Amendment right to due process. They further contend the school district’s actions were in direct violation of federal civil rights legislation, Nevada laws and the school district’s personnel policy.
Also named as defendants in the Jan. 15 lawsuit are Douglas County Superintendent of Schools Pendery Clark and George Mross, the district’s assistant superintendent of personnel.
At issue is the method in which Grady’s administrative position at Whittell was eliminated.
According to court documents, on March 6 of last year Superintendent Clark spoke to Grady about a district management reorganization plan, the sole element of which, Grady contends, was the elimination of the vice principal position at Whittell – a job she had held for the previous six of her 21 years in the district.
On March 11, less than a week after their conversation, Clark presented the plan to the school district’s board of trustees.
Then, more than three months later, Grady states, she received her first written notification from George Mross that her job was eliminated.
In Mross’ letter dated June 16, 1997, Grady was given two employment options if she wished to continue working for the school district: she could accept a position as a teacher/athletic director at Whittell or she could work as a regular teacher in some other secondary school in the district.
The upshot was that she was no longer an administrator, accepting either choice amounted to a demotion.
The complaint listed the course of events last spring to point out that the district administrators failed to follow statutory guidelines which must be followed when dealing with state employee labor issues.
The complaint asserts Clark was legally required to inform Grady of the planned demotion in writing by registered or certified mail at least 15 days before presenting the plan to district trustees.
In that notice, Clark was required to inform her of the grounds for the recommendation and that she would have 10 days in which to request a formal hearing before an arbitrator.
Since no such information was given to her, the complaint says, Grady did not request a hearing and took a teaching position.
The complaint asserts she had a property interest in her administrative post, its salary and status.
And because the rules weren’t followed, Grady was deprived of her property without the due process guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, a 1983 U.S Supreme Court civil rights decision, Nevada state law and even the district’s own personnel code which allows an employee a chance to appeal proposed actions to school trustees.
The complaint also states the actions and omissions were done maliciously with the intention of causing Grady injury and with the intention of violating her rights.
In the lawsuit, Grady asks to be reinstated in her former position and no disciplinary actions be taken against her until and unless the district complies with the statutes. She asks for a jury trial and monetary damages in lost wages and benefits. She also asks for attorney fees and bad faith damages.
David Sheets, Grady’s former principal at Whittell and now the human resources director of Travel Systems, the Lake Tahoe company that owns the M.S. Dixie, said Thursday he was not surprised to hear a lawsuit had been filed.
“Mrs. Grady is very stable, logical and sequential in her actions,” Sheets said. “If she says the problem is with her not getting due process, that’s right on the money – she’s after due process.”
Sheets, who hired Grady to teach in the district in 1976, said Grady had earned several state and national awards as Whittell’s vice principal.
“Over the years Mrs. Grady has done exceptional jobs in a variety of situations,” Sheets said. “She always received great job evaluations and she deserved them.”
Assistant Superintendent George Mross said Friday that he was not at liberty to discuss the case or Grady’s salary history.
Mross did say that the arrangements made for Grady’s transition back to teaching did not constitute a loss of pay for her.
“I don’t know about (state) retirement benefits, but she had no cut in pay by our calculations,” Mross said.
The Douglas County School District’s attorney, J. Thomas Susich, said Friday he was not involved with the case.
“As I understand it, Bob Cox in Reno handles the district’s labor issues,” Susich said. “And the district’s insurance carrier may also provide counsel.”
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