Fired ECHS Asst. Principal Files Lawsuit

Posted On April 27, 2012

(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – A former high school administrator is suing Sunman-Dearborn Community Schools claiming his firing was retaliatory.


Steven J. Deutsch was terminated as East Central High School’s assistant principal last November.


Deutsch filed the suit seeking damages and relief in Dearborn Superior Court 1 on April 2. It names as defendants the Sunman-Dearborn Community Schools Board of Trustees, Superintendent Jeff Hendrix, and East Central principal Robert Shipley.


“The acts and omissions of Defendants Hendrix and Shipley described herein above were willful, intentional, malicious, without legal justification, beyond their authority, and calculated to force Dr. Deutsch to quit or be terminated by the board,” Deutsch’s suit claims.


When former high school principal Don Criswell retired in 2010, Shipley – also an assistant principal under Criswell – was hired to the fill the position. The school corporation cut funding for the second assistant principal, leaving Deutsch to take on increased duties for the school’s roughly 1,350 students.


Those duties “required a ratio of students to assistant principal of no more than, or less than, 700 to 1; and the current ratio of about 1,350 to 1 is unsatisfactory, excessive, and virtually impossible to perform for one assistant principal,” the lawsuit reads.


Deutsch, being represented by Evansville attorney Michael C. Kendall, said in the lawsuit that he was put on an improvement plan by Shipley in January 2011 – halfway through his first year as the lone assistant. He had been receiving positive performance reviews.


The following July, Deutsch claims he filed a good-faith complaint of discrimination with the school corporation’s human resources department, specifically naming Hendrix and Shipley as the perpetrators. A similar claim was also filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission including the school corporation.


Deutsch said he was then placed on a new improvement plan and his performance reviews turned negative. He was put on suspension by Shipley in November. The school board voted to terminate his contract March 1.


The board initially voted 4-1 for the firing, but the vote total is disputed in Deutsch’s lawsuit.


“A legal majority of the board did not vote to terminate the Contracts of Dr. Deutsch because one of the members of the Board who voted to terminate the contracts did so by mistake and promptly advised the Board,” the lawsuit claims, adding that another board member had a conflict of interest.


Deutsch is seeking damages for severe emotional distress and harm to his career, relief, reinstatement of his teacher and administrator contracts, and cost of the civil action. He demands a jury trial.


Dearborn Superior Court I Judge Jonathan Cleary has recused himself from the case. The parties involved have been asked to select among three other judges in Ripley, Switzerland, or Jefferson counties.


An e-mail seeking comment from Sunman-Dearborn Community Schools superintendent Dr. Jeff Hendrix was not immediately returned.




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