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Tracey Hiss sues Perkins Schools

Alissa Widman Neese • May 30, 2014 at 9:00 AM


Tracey Hiss has taken her recent firing to federal court.

The former Perkins Schools employee alleges her May 14 termination stems from gender discrimination, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. Northern District Court in Toledo.

Hiss is demanding $2.5 million in damages, back pay, legal fees and an annulment of her termination.

This past year, Perkins school board members suspended Hiss for allegedly distributing prescription-strength pain relief patches to a handful of high school students in May 2013.

She pleaded no contest in December to possession of a dangerous drug, and "vehemently denies" the claims, the lawsuit states.

Hiss, a 25-year girls track coach and a 19-year health teacher, contends district officials handled her investigation differently than a similar incident involving a male coach.

In 2012, Travis Crabtree, a wrestling coach, allegedly offered a student a prescription painkiller and retained his job with Perkins Schools. He received only a three-match suspension after athletic director Michael Strohl conducted an internal investigation. 

Meanwhile, Perkins Schools officials turned over Hiss' case to Perkins police.

Included in Hiss' lawsuit is a recent letter from superintendent Jim Gunner, detailing 13 drug-related violations Hiss allegedly committed from 2011 to 2013. He does not provide evidence to support the allegations, "only hearsay," the lawsuit states.

District officials did not record any of the incidents in Hiss' personnel file and did not address the concerns until this year.

"What we see here is a pattern of due process failures going back to 2011," the lawsuit states. "(Perkins Schools) has committed a 'pattern' of unprofessional conduct against Coach Hiss to 'pile on' fallacies to justify the difference in prosecution between Coach Hiss and Travis Crabtree."

Defendants listed in the suit are Gunner, Strohl and Briar Middle School principal Steven Finn, as well as the district's five current school board members.

Gunner, the district's spokesman, did not return a phone message Thursday night seeking comment.

Hiss' lawsuit is now the third pending case against Perkins Schools. 

Former teacher Carol Smith, 72, filed a suit in 2011 alleging officials discriminated against her age and medical conditions after board members fired her for allegedly falling asleep during classes.

Linda and Patrick Waters, parents of two former Perkins Schools students, then filed a suit in 2012, claiming school officials did nothing to stop two years of racially charged bullying their young sons endured.

Read the entire lawsuit in the PDF file below.

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