Several parts of a lawsuit against USD 231 have been dismissed, however parts of a lawsuit filed by former school district administrators Bill Gilhaus, Lana Gerber and Christy Ziegler will move forward.
U.S. District Judge Julie A. Robinson dismissed the suit against Superintendent Pam Stranathan, but claims that board members Tresa Boden, Brad Chandler, Mary Nelson and Rob Shippy breached the contracts of the three plaintiffs will move forward.
In February 2013, the four USD 231 board of education members voted in the majority to terminate the contracts of former superintendent Gilhaus, former executive director of educational services Ziegler and former executive of administrative services Gerber. The former administrators filed a lawsuit against the school district one-year later. The suit named the four board members, Stranathan and the entire district as co-defendents. The board members and Stranathan are being sued in their individual or personal capacity for intentionally and maliciously conspiring to deprive the plaintiffs of their constitutional rights.
Judge Robinson dismissed the personal case against Stranathan, and dismissed separate liberty interest claims against the four board members.
Portions of the lawsuit that alleged that board members made Gerber and Ziegler feel uncomfortable, denying them of liberty due process were dismissed.
Gerber and Ziegler both alleged 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 alleged 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.
In another instance, Gerber said Chandler had to sit next to her in a Feb. 10, 2013 meeting due to lack of space elsewhere. She joked that he must have drawn the short straw. To which Chandler responded, “How do you know I have a short straw?” the suit alleges.
“The inappropriate and embarrassing statement made by Chandler and the approving laughter from Shippy was perceived as not only sexual harassment to Ms. Gerber as a female, but also highly improper behavior for board members,” the filing reads.
Those portions of the lawsuit were dismissed.
The filing notes that Gilhaus’ contract allowed for termination provided he be provided a 30-day written notice of a breach of contract and that a reasonable opportunity to cure the breach must be provided. The court will hear that portion of the lawsuit.
The attorney representing Gilhaus, Gerber and Ziegler has yet to return phone calls to The Gardner News. Gerber is now a middle school principal in the Blue Valley School District. Ziegler is the assistant superintendent of curriculum and assessment in the Shawnee Mission School District.
School district officials say there will be no public comment on the lawsuit.
Attorneys for the district and for the plaintiffs must file motions to amend the suit by Nov. 2. If the case goes to trial, the date is set for 9 a.m. on Feb. 6, 2017.
District court dismisses portions of Gilhaus suit against USD 231