King v Silberman, Kiser, Goodlett, Durbin, Lane and BOE
Fayette Circuit Court
Suit Makes Civil and Constitutional Claims
New Superintendent to Launch
Independent Investigation of Numerous Transportation Complaints
OK, boys and girls. Let's start with a little Pop Quiz. Please select the best answer to the following questions.
Imagine you are a Transportation Supervisor for your local school district. You witness a reliable 28-year bus driver discussing with district mechanics a problem with the wheel chair lift on the bus she uses to transport special needs children to school everyday . What do you do?
a. Learn about the problem so that you might assist your driver in solving it, thus protecting the children who use the lift.
b. Tell the driver's assistant that she should help the driver "pumping up" the lift so that her breasts might grow to the size of the driver's; ask the driver why she never had breast reduction surgery; repeatedly ask the driver to show you her breasts saying, "Can I see your titties?"; rub your own breasts and tell the driver that you "always wondered what they looked like"; tell the driver that any more than a mouthful is a waste and that you "will talk about penises tomorrow."
Imagine you are a Transportation Manager and a reliable 28-year veteran complains that a supervisor is creating a sexually hostile environment in the bus garage. What do you do?
a. Follow board of education policy, investigate, and if you determine that an employee is acting inappropriately, correct them.
b. Tell the driver that her complaints about the supervisor are "much ado about nothing."
Imagine you are that same Transportation Supervisor again. Your boss has dismissed a complaint against you for sexual harassment. What do you do?
a. Count your lucky stars that you still have your job, and take care not to mess up again.
b. Look for every opportunity to bully and torment your accuser; board the driver's bus and make it clear that you will be reviewing video tape looking for evidence to catch her doing something wrong.
Imagine that you are the District Transportation Director and you hear that the driver, whose complaint was denied, began gathering photographic evidence of favoritism you and your staff show to some employees - like allowing only certain employees multiple extended breaks during the day. You learn that the driver has successfully filed an EEOC complaint and received a "Notice of Right to Sue." What do you do?
a. Ascertain the facts and attempt to resolve the issues by ensuring that all employees are treated fairly and equitably.
b. Call the driver in and accuse her of harassment for taking pictures in a public place; tell the driver that she "will be dealt with"; begin a campaign of retaliation, singling her out for scrutiny by reviewing her video tapes dozens of times; claim that these reviews were being done randomly; call the driver into the office for a good brow-beating more than a dozen times; try to get her to accept a three-day suspension without pay (for eating ice on the non-air conditioned bus in hot summer weather); threaten her with a civil lawsuit; tell her that you will set up a meeting with the superintendent, but don't do so; call the local police to meet her bus and help harass and intimidate her for her whistle blowing about the sexual harassment; and, following a minor fender bender, deny her permission to attend to the immediate health concerns of her daughter - all of this eventually affecting the driver's own health.
Imagine that you are the superintendent of schools in this district and you learn that a whistle blowing driver wanted to meet with you. What do you do?
a. Meet with the driver to learn about her complaints and resolve the issues according to district policy.
b. Send school district law enforcement personnel to the driver's home, and when she finally resigns, accept her resignation without investigating the underlying complaints.
So, how'd you do on this quiz (the language for which was drawn directly from court documents)?
If you chose answer "a" to each of the questions above, then you probably understand state law and school district policy. Or perhaps, you're just a reasonable person who wants to see the school district respect its employees and conduct its business in a fair manner.
If you chose answer "b" to the questions, then your head is probably somewhere else.
Final grading of this quiz will take place in the Fayette County Circuit Court room of Judge Kim Bunnell when the jury weighs the evidence in King v Silberman at some point in the future. King's suit, filed only nine days into the term of new Fayette County Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton seeks damages "in an amount in excess of the court's jurisdictional amount." That sounds like a lot.
Named in the suit are:
Former FCPS Superintendent Stu Silberman
Transportation Director John Kiser
Transportation Supervisor Deborah Goodlett
Transportation Supervisor Deborah Durbin
Transportation Manager Steve Lane, and
The Fayette County Board of Education
In six counts, King claims the district illegally violated state law.
Count One: retaliation
Count Two: Violation of KRS 61.102 (whistleblower statute)
Count Three: breach of contract
Count Four: constructive discharge
Count Five: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Count Six: Arbitrary and Capricious Acts in Violation of the Kentucky Constitution
King seeks unspecified damages for mental pain and suffering, punitive damages, court costs and attorney's fees, trial by jury, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest and other appropriate relief.
This suit is only one in a long list of complaints that have surfaced from the transportation department in recent months. We've heard of numerous grievances that die in the department without being forwarded up the chain of command, that instead of trying to resolve issues the district tried to prevent former FCPS attorney Brenda Allen from representing bus drivers, cases of overt disrespect of school district personnel, and more KSN&C did not report. Other folks have heard about troubling issues too.
Even before he took office - and before he knew this lawsuit would be filed - FCPS Superintendent Tom Shelton heard about complaints involving the transportation department. In an early show of decisive leadership Shelton has decided to look into the situation. He informed KSN&C yesterday that he is in the process of identifying an appropriate individual to conduct an independent review of the transportation department. "I talked with staff right as I started on September 1 and began the planning for the review, Shelton told KSN&C. "We are in process now of negotiating with individuals to get the review started," he said.
More details will be provided once a process is defined. For a guy who's only been on the job for two weeks, this is a very strong statement about how Shelton intends to conduct business in Fayette County.
Sources inside the department of transportation tell KSN&C that Shelton's response is like a fresh breeze that will go a long way toward making all drivers breathe a little easier - knowing that "their concerns will, at last, be heard."