JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - The Jefferson City public school district is one of the largest elementary and secondary educating entities in mid-Missouri.
While the district continues to grow, including the impending addition of a new high school facility, the district has recently been inundated with accusations of discrimination and retaliation by current and former employees.
The 2017-18 JCPS Employee Handbook contains a section entitled, "Prohibition Against Illegal Discrimination and Harassment."
The section outlines the district's anti-harassment policies, and previous versions of the document show it has remained largely consistent for the last six years.
An excerpt reads as follows:
"The Board prohibits retaliatory actions including, but not limited to, acts of intimidation, threats, coercion or discrimination against those who;
- Make complaints of prohibited discrimination or harassment,
- Report prohibited discrimination or harassment,
- Participate in an investigation, formal proceeding or informal resolution, whether conducted internally or outside the district, concerning prohibited discrimination or harassment."
In 2013, Karen Ray, a journalism teacher at Jefferson City High School resigned and filed a discrimination claim against the district and then-superintendent Brian Mitchell.
A few months later, another teacher filed a similar lawsuit claiming her and Ray were the targets of discrimination.
In 2016, about a year after Dr. Larry Linthacum took over as JCPS superintendent, a jury ruled in favor of Ray and awarded her $225,000 in damages.
Later that year, the school district settled the suit filed by Cooper, agreeing to pay her $450,000.
Both lawsuits were built largely upon claims against JCHS principal Jeff Dodson.
The two claim Dodson referred to them as "old, dead weight" and that he routinely bullied and intimidated them.
Shortly after the lawsuits were filed, Dodson submitted his resignation and an agreement was reached to release him from the remainder of his contract.
Part of the the agreement was a remission payment of $121,225.
Another six-figure release agreement occurred during the departure of human resources director and general council Penney Rector in March 2017.
Her release agreement included a remission payment of $100,000, the sum of equal payments for each of her remaining contracted years.
Serving as the director of HR, Rector was mentioned several times in the Ray and Cooper lawsuits and also in the 2017 discrimination claims by JCPS employees Tammy Ferry and Gretchen Guitard.
They allege that Linthacum and other administrators treated them differently after testimony was given in the Ray case.
Lawyers told ABC 17 News that the Ferry and Guitard cases are still very early in the discovery process and a court date is not scheduled yet.