2016-08-03 / Front Page

Judge tosses teacher’s suit

By TIM GULLA
Ledger Staff Writer

A Circuit Court judge has upheld the Cherokee County School District’s decision to terminate a teacher, dismissing the teacher’s appeal of an Oct. 7, 2015, school board decision.

The order by Circuit Court Judge Mark Hayes, which was signed July 25 and filed with the Clerk of Courts Office on Aug. 1, determined there was enough evidence in the record to support the school board’s decision against Sharon Brown.

Brown, a second grade teacher at the time of her dismissal, had twice sued the school district before she was let go, for the second time, last year.

Brown first sued the district in 2007 after her contract renewal for the 2007-2008 school year was rejected by a former superintendent. Brown attempted to appeal the decision to the board, according to court documents, but the school board voted not to renew her contract before she had an opportunity to appeal. Following legal action in Cherokee County Court and the state’s Court of Appeals, Brown ultimately was reinstated to her teaching job in September 2011 by court order. She received back pay and benefits as damages.

In March 2015, Brown filed another lawsuit alleging the school district, through its agents and employees, “have engaged in a pattern and practice of harassment against the plaintiff and to place the plaintiff in a false light” and “to force the plaintiff to quit her employment by making the work environment of the plaintiff so hostile that the plaintiff would choose to quit than to work at the elementary school.”

On Sept. 14, 2015, according to court documents, Brown was given 20 days to amend her lawsuit based on objections from the school district. Her lawsuit ultimately was dismissed by an Oct. 13 order from Circuit Court Judge Keith Kelly because no amended lawsuit was filed.

Brown reportedly was terminated by the school board during an Oct. 7, 2015, meeting and her lawyer, Fletcher Smith, filed a notice of intent to appeal the district’s decision last Nov. 6.

In the appeal, Smith had argued that the district committed numerous errors and denied due process in terminating Brown.

Brown was placed on administrative leave at the end of the last school year, and told not to have contact with any school district employees or students, based on an allegation by another teacher that Brown had grabbed a student by the jaw and throat, according to the legal action.

The student and his mother allegedly agree that Brown never touched the child, according to Brown’s appeal.

Judge Hayes, in his order dismissing the appeal, wrote “there is very little evidence that (Brown) ‘violently’ grabbed the student or that she verbally ‘assaulted’ the student, as was first reported to have been observed by the fellow teacher.”

However, Hayes added, “There is substantial evidence in the record to support the School Board’s decision that (Brown) was told not to have any discussions about her suspension with school personnel during the investigation of the alleged assault. There is also substantial evidence in the record that after (Brown) was told not to discuss the investigation, (Brown) tried to influence another school employee who was a potential witness in the investigation. There is also substantial evidence that (Brown) was dishonest in her responses about the conversation with this witness.”

Smith, when reached for comment Tuesday, said an appeal of the dismissal is planned.

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