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Article updated: 3/7/2013 5:58 PM

Former Maine West teacher sues District 207 for discrimination

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A former physical education teacher and health instructor at Maine South and Maine West high schools is suing Maine Township High School District 207 and its school board for employment discrimination, age discrimination, retaliation for exercising her First Amendment right to free speech, and for retaliatory discharge under the Illinois Whistleblower's Act, per the lawsuit.

The complaint was filed March 5 in federal court on behalf of Jannon Kirley, 55, who began working at District 207 in 2000 as a physical education and health teacher at Maine South. She also coached swimming and water polo at the school.

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Kirley became a tenured teacher in 2004. She was involuntarily transferred to Maine West on May 10, 2011. Her employment continued until Oct. 3, 2011, when she was suspended without pay pending the conclusion of a dismissal hearing, according to the lawsuit.

District 207 released a statement Thursday saying Kirley's lawsuit has no merit. Officials said the basis for Kirley's dismissal "involved insubordinate, unprofessional conduct" toward staff members and students in violation of the District 207 school board's directives.

According to one allegation in the lawsuit, Kirley attended a District 207 school board meeting Jan. 20, 2010, along with a large number of people, to talk about proposed staff and program cuts, and shared "negative information" about the superintendent with a school board member while the superintendent was standing nearby within earshot.

Kirley claims in the lawsuit she was almost run over the next day in the Maine South parking lot by a car driven by the superintendent, and she later reported the incident to the Park Ridge Police Department. When the police investigation was "inconclusive," District 207 hired its own investigator and found that her allegation had no merit, the suit alleges.

In its statement, District 207 said Kirley's complaint was filed almost two weeks after the incident allegedly occurred and on the same day the school board "voted to eliminate certain teaching jobs and to approve other cost cuts affecting this teacher and others." Park Ridge police found no credible evidence to support Kirley's allegation, according to the district's statement.

Kirley filed complaints against District 207 claiming discrimination and retaliation with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Oct. 3, 2011, and March 16, 2012. Those charges also were filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

The statement released by District 207 characterized Kirley's lawsuit as "the most recent in a lengthy series of complaints and claims made by Ms. Kirley, none of which has been found by any investigative or adjudicating body to have any merit."

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