School board member Brad Chandler asks questions during a board meeting. Chandler is one of four board members named in a lawsuit by former employees against the district. File photo

School board member Brad Chandler asks questions during a board meeting. Chandler is one of four board members named in a lawsuit by former employees against the district. File photo

Danedri Thompson
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Both sides have filed requests for more time in a civil lawsuit against four members of the USD 231 school board, superintendent Pam Stranathan and the school district.
Former USD 231 superintendent Bill Gilhaus filed the lawsuit in Kansas District Court last February. Former USD 231 director of educational services Christy Ziegler and former USD 231 director of administrative services Lana Gerber are listed as co-plaintiffs in the Feb. 24 filing.
The board members and Stranathan sought more time to file a response to the lawsuit, but in April, their attorney filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. An attorney for Gilhaus, Gerber and Ziegler has since filed two requests seeking more time to respond to the dismissal request.
The lawsuit alleges that the school district, board members and Stranathan breached employment contracts when Gilhaus, Ziegler and Gerber were terminated in February 2014. The suit also alleges that board members and Stranathan intentionally and maliciously conspired to deprive the trio of their constitutional rights.
The lawsuit filing notes that Gilhaus’ contract allowed for termination provided he be provided a 30-day written notice of breach of contract and that a reasonable opportunity to cure the breach must be afforded. The suit alleges that those conditions were not met. However, the defendants, in a 27 page memo in support of dismissal, allege that Gilhaus’ contract was invalid in the first place.
In addition to the unlawful termination, Gerber and Ziegler both allege that Chandler and Shippy “engaged in sexually discriminatory, demeaning, bullying, and unwelcome sexually-charged conduct.”
Gerber alleges that Shippy “made me uncomfortable with leering stares,” in a July 22, 2013 finance meeting.
Chandler, she said, commented on her skirt, how she dressed and how she looked.
Gerber alleges in the suit that Shippy made her “uncomfortable with his long leering stares, looking me up and down…” during an Aug. 6, 2013 meeting and called her “sweetie.”
According to the suit, that made her feel humiliated and threatened.
However, defendants in court filings, argue that none of the alleged comments by Shippy or Chandler are stigmatizing. The memo also notes that no such statements are attributable to Stranathan, Boden or Nelson, and that Chandler is entitled to legislative immunity for his statements.
The school district, Stranathan and board members will not comment publicly on the pending litigation.