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October 22, 2014

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CCSD settles disability discrimination lawsuit with ex-teacher

The Clark County School Board tonight approved a $150,000 settlement with a former teacher who filed a disability discrimination complaint against the district in 2009.

Jacqlyn Smith, who was hired by the School District in in 1992, was a first-grade teacher. In 2003, she began to suffer neck and back problems that limited her ability to stand for prolonged periods, bend over or lift heavy weights, according to court documents.

Smith took a leave of absence. During that time, she decided to get a certificate and become a literacy specialist, a “less physically demanding position,” according to documents.

The following year, Smith returned to work as a literacy specialist. In 2007, she transferred to Kesterson Elementary School, where she served as a literacy specialist for one year, but was reassigned as a kindergarten teacher by her principal, Michele Wooldridge, the following year.

Smith wrote a letter to Wooldridge, requesting that she not be transferred to kindergarten because “it would be extremely difficult and painful” to perform her duties. Smith had a supporting letter from her doctor, explaining that she had a herniated disc in her neck that limits her movement and recommended she remain a literacy specialist.

However, Wooldridge posted Smith’s literacy specialist job and selected a humanities teacher at Kesterson, Virginia Dievendorf, to assume the role. Dievendorf was not recommended by a hiring committee for the job and didn’t have an endorsement as a literacy specialist at the time of her hire, according to documents.

Smith tried to apply to other positions in the district, but did not get an interview. With her medical leave and sick time expiring, Smith was forced to quit working for the School District and applied for disability retirement in 2008.

Smith’s lawsuit alleged that she was discriminated against because of her disability and accused the district of failing to accommodate her. As a result, Smith said she suffered economic losses as well as emotional harms, according to documents.

Smith’s complaint sought back and front pay for economic losses in earnings, bonuses and job benefits and expenses; compensatory damages for emotional harms, punitive damages and reimbursement for attorney’s fees.

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