Jury rules against JCPS in discrimination case
JEFFERSON CITY - After a seven-day trial, a Cole County circuit court jury ruled in favor of a woman suing Jefferson City Public Schools for discrimination.
Karen Ray filed a lawsuit against JCPS for discrimination based on sex and age she experienced while working at Jefferson City High School. According to the lawsuit, Ray also experienced loss of self-esteem, humiliation, emotional distress and mental anguish in addition to economic damages.
Ray said she witnessed the school administration using tactics of bullying, lies and intimidation during her employment to force out veteran, experienced and quality teachers. Ray said the school's principal told her and another veteran teacher he needed to get rid of the "old, dead weight around here."
"We are pleased with this verdict," Dennis Egan, Ray's attorney, said. "We will remain vigilant and watchful and hopeful that there will be changes for the better at Jefferson City High School."
She said she resigned from her teaching position in April 2013 because it was a horrible work environment after the principal attempted to replace her with a younger, less experienced teacher. Ray used to teach the newspaper and yearbook classes and won multiple awards for the publications' work.
Ray works as a teacher for Nixa Public Schools, and her salary is $10,000 less than it was, not including the stipends she also earned through teaching journalism courses. According to Egan, Ray has the right to request future damages from the judge.
JCPS Superintendent Larry Linthacum sent out a statement to all JCPS staff. Linthacum said he was in the courtroom all seven days of the trial.
"It was a painful experience but a learning experience for me as we work toward becoming a premier school district in the state of Missouri," Linthacum said.
Linthacum said JCPS is committed to a work environment that is safe, supportive and free from harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
"Every day, we have a tremendous opportunity in giving all students hope for a better tomorrow through our schools. For this to happen, I believe we have to build a culture in which all district employees are motivated to be difference makers in the lives of students," Linthacum said.
(Editor's note: KOMU.com has updated this story to include statements from Jefferson City Public Schools.)