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Sterling Employment Law

Jackson teacher wins whistleblower lawsuit

Jackson Public Schools was ordered to pay a teacher $388,485 in both economic and punitive damages on March 7. After more than a week of trial and litigation, a dispute that began in 2015 was finally settled. However, the school board still has a 30-day period in which they can appeal the decision.

This case fits the standard whistleblower scenario, including alleged acts of retaliation. In October of 2015, the high school art teacher allegedly had a disagreement with a student in her classroom. While she was attempting to take a piece of the student's artwork from him, he either pushed or hit her hand, injuring her.

The teacher had x-rays of her hand taken at an urgent care clinic. According to the records, the doctor ordered her to keep the hand wrapped. The following day, school officials wanted her to remove the wrap so they could look at her hand. She refused to remove the bandage, according to the lawsuit.

The teacher then obtained a personal protection order against the student, because she claimed she felt threatened. The protection order stated that the student was not to be at her workplace. The school removed the student from her classroom but not from the building. This led to the teacher having the order changed to not allow the student in the same building.

The school remedied the situation by moving the teacher instead of the student. They transferred her to the middle school as a sixth-grade art teacher. According to her attorney, 32 days after the transfer, she was rated as a "failing teacher."

In February 2016, she was accused of throwing a book at a sixth-grader for talking in class. Several students claimed they witnessed the action. She was given a reprimand. She stated that a student had told her "she was going to get her fired."

A week later, the teacher filed her lawsuit, claiming retaliation for getting the protection order against the student. The school claimed they had not retaliated. They maintain that they were just complying with the protection order.

Whistleblowers are protected by Michigan law. All citizens have a right to feel safe and to be able to report wrongdoing without the consequences of retaliation. If you have any questions about how to protect or stand up for your rights when it comes to fulfilling a moral obligation, you should seek legal counsel.

Source: Michigan Live, "Teacher awarded $388,000 in 'whistleblower' lawsuit against Jackson schools," Nathan Clark, March 13, 2018

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