Part 2 – Harvard School Psychologist Wins 7th Circuit Reversal of Wrongful Termination Suit Dismissal

Without using an attorney, former Harvard school psychologist Peter Koehn won reversal of the dismissal of a suit concerning his termination by Harvard Unit School District 50.

Then-Superintendent Lauri Tobias is listed as the lead defendant.  Judges William Bauer, John Daniel Tinder and David Hamilton rendered the decision.

At the Federal Circuit Court level, the school district was granted a summary judgment in its favor.

Koehn appealed.

Here is more of the Federal Court Court of Appeals decision:

District 50 hired Koehn in July 2005.

At the time, the school district served more than 2,000 students attending its high school, junior high, and elementary schools.

Koehn initially served students at the junior high, but by December 2007 his duties had broadened to include students at all levels.

He regularly evaluated students receiving special education services, and his written job description provided that he would report to the “District Special Education Coordinator.”

The defendants have not identified anyone who held that title, though defendant Lauri Tobias was the coordinator at one of the elementary schools until June 2006, two years before she became the District 50 superintendent.

The defendants also admitted, in answering Koehn’s complaint, that Tobias was both superintendent and “Special Education Director” for the school district.

Tenured staff at District 50 were to be evaluated biennially, but Koehn received only one evaluation, in April 2008. That evaluation was signed by the former principals of the junior high and one of District 50’s elementary schools. Neither principal is a defendant, and as far as this record shows, neither principal was designated as Koehn’s supervisor or was serving as District Special Education Coordinator.

The evaluation was unfavorable and criticized Koehn’s performance during the 2007–2008 school year on several grounds, including that diagnostic evaluations required for student Individualized Education Programs were late or inadequate, that he was not following his assigned schedule, and that some of his comments to and about staff had been inappropriate.

Nothing was said in that evaluation about the 2006–2007 school year.

Koehn was not evaluated again in April 2010, when a review should have been scheduled. (At summary judgment the defendants did not offer an explanation, though defendant Margaret Segersten, the principal at the junior high since July 2009, told an investigator from the Office of Civil Rights that the 2010 evaluation “fell through the cracks.”)

In July 2010 the school district renewed Koehn’s contract for the 2010–2011 school year, apparently without qualification.

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More tomorrow.

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