Fired Dist. 207 teacher gets $150,000 settlement after filing suit

Updated 4/9/2015 1:29 PM

Maine Township High School District 207 officials have agreed to give a former teacher and her attorney $150,000 to settle a federal lawsuit brought against the district that alleged discrimination and retaliation.

Jannon Kirley was employed by the district for 11 years as a coach, and physical education and health teacher until her dismissal in 2011 due to insubordination and unprofessional conduct toward staff members and students, school district officials said at the time. Her firing was upheld by a state board of education hearing officer.

Kirley said she feels vindicated by the settlement, in which she and her attorney will each get $75,000 from the school district and its insurance carrier. But she believes no amount of money would have allowed her to completely clear her name as an educator.

"I don't think you can buy my reputation back. I'm going to have to do that myself," said Kirley, currently an adjunct faculty member at McHenry County College. "A teacher's reputation and credibility as a human being -- that's the most important thing to me."

District 207 Board President Margaret McGrath said as part of the settlement, Kirley agrees to dismiss her suit, is prohibited from filing any further legal actions against the district, and is precluded from future employment with the district.

"Entering into the agreement would avoid the substantial expense of further litigation and the necessity of calling students, former students and staff to testify at trial, and is in the best interests of all involved," McGrath said in a prepared statement at a board meeting Tuesday, when the agreement was approved unanimously.

Kirley claimed in her lawsuit, filed in March 2013, that the discrimination and retaliation she faced from her superiors and co-workers all stemmed from a Jan. 20, 2010, school board meeting she and others attended to talk about proposed staff and program cuts. At the meeting, Kirley said she shared "negative information" about Superintendent Ken Wallace with a school board member while Wallace was within earshot.

The next day, Kirley alleged, she was almost run over by a car driven by Wallace in the Maine South parking lot. She reported the incident to the Park Ridge Police Department, but a subsequent investigation was "inconclusive," according to the suit.

An investigator hired by district found that allegation had no merit.

Soon after, Kirley received a letter of admonishment in her personnel file.

A tenured teacher since 2004, Kirley was transferred from Maine South to Maine West in May 2011. District officials initiated dismissal proceedings months later.

Kirley said her case was expected to go to trial last month, before both sides agreed to settle out of court.

It's the second settlement Kirley, a longtime educator, has received from a school district. In 1997, she was awarded $390,000 to settle a federal sexual harassment lawsuit against the Waukesha School District in Wisconsin.

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