Tracey Hiss sues Perkins Schools

Former teacher, track coach alleges district discriminated, denied her due process
Alissa Widman Neese
May 30, 2014

widman@sanduskyregister.com

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.

Comments

underthebridge

There is another lawsuit pending?

eriemom

Yes. Found it.
2014 CV 0361

WeThePeople1965

Where's Thomas Paine?

Thomas Paine

Working. Short comment. I have none. I don't have facts, data or any information about this case or the others to comment intelligently.

Babo

One glaring difference between the treatment of the coaches is the fact that the male wrestling coach admitted giving "vicodan" or hydrocodone like substance (a controlled prescription drug) to a student athlete while Hiss denied giving Lidocaine patches (a non controlled prescription drug) to an athlete.

Handing out something like hydrocodone (an orally taken controlled substance regulated by the DEA) is a lot more serious than handing out a lidocaine patch which is used topically and can be bought in lower strength over the counter.

I bet when they really start digging into this sexist culture a male administrator at the Middle School who had a track record of sexist behavior in prior employment will be shown to be the impetus behind the firing of Coach Hiss.

whattheBucks

But Hiss is ten times more manly than crabtree !

Stop It

Sounds to me like some people need to smoke a big fat one and calm the hell down. :)

MrGadfly

Mr. Crabtree, made a mistake. Brought his mistake to his superiors. Accepted the punishment for the infraction.

Ms. Hiss, made a mistake. Lied about her involvement. Blamed a student. Continued to lie about her mistake.

Who has integrity ? Who took responsibility for their action? Who do you trust ? Who would you want to teach your children?

Babo

How do you know she lied? The entire point of the lawsuit is that she did not receive due process and a hearing to address hearsay complaints.

eriemom

I don't think that contract or EEOC law will care about taking responsibility. Only documented facts. How were these, and other, cases treated differently. The easiest way to show discrimination is to show similar situations that have different outcomes.

eriemom

This comment should not reflect negatively on either Mr. Crabtree or Miss Hiss.

Mr. Crabtree was confronted by Mr. Stoll after a parent called him. The police were not called. His punishment was missed athletic events. I'm sure that Miss Hiss would have responded differently had she been treated with the same response to the infraction.

samantha

I see this differently. The BOE is in a no win situation. If they do nothing the public accuses them of being part of the 'good ole boy network' and sweeps everything under the rug. If they deal with things head one, the possibility exists that lawsuits may happen. We live in a very litigious country with a strong union presence after all.

Let's see, they warn a sleeping teacher six times and then they fire her. I'm ok with that.

They have a coach give out prescription item, admit it, and be punished. They send out an email to all the coaches and say don't do this. Then another coach gives out prescription patches. When confronted she lies about it. They investigate and terminate. I’m ok with that.

The bullying case deals with kids. I will let the courts rule on that. There are two sides to every story. SR what is the update on that?

But regarding the teachers, yes they are high paid. With that comes a high expectation. They also fired a female teacher for inappropriate relations with a student. I for one applaud the BOE for holding staff accountable and not ignoring situations. It's a tough road to travel but what we expect from our elected officials.

eriemom

The "good ole boy" network is sort of the cause of this action. The network worked for the boy and the girl was treated differently.

The update on the sleeping teacher is that the appeals court reversed. She asked for accommodations due to a disability that caused drowsiness and was refused.

Wald

Hiss was the one encouraging students to walk out of classrooms and join teachers on the picket lines when the Perkins teachers were on strike. Seems as though she has a history of thumbing her nose at the administration.

underthebridge

If that is true, it is distasteful, but certainly not grounds for termination.

whattheBucks

That comment is completely true...she would stand in front of the school encouraging them to climb out the window !!!! She was a complete embarrassment... If she wants her due process or day in court let her have it, then when it comes out that she is lying under oath, throw her butt in the slammer,,,,, though that's not much of a punishment for her cause she would do juuuuust fine in there.. And make a lot a new friends

fredinperkins

Is it true that the current athletic director allegedly "encouraged" or "directed" student athletes to visit the Ohio Veterans Home with Perkins t-shirts on and escort residents to the voting booths on which the school levy was one of the issues? How would you classify that escapade?

MrGadfly

What a great teaching moment.

Both made a mistake. One took responsibility. One did not and then blamed a student and continued to lie.

Should we teach our children to take responsibility for their mistakes or lie, blame others and then sue ?

What do we teach our children? They are watching.

stayfit

Tracey is a good person, a solid coach and a great member of the community. What happened to her is wrong. I am sorry that it came to this, but after reading the 14-page trial paper, I feel like the school board and school leaders turned their back on one of their own. They discriminated against Tracey in multiple ways and there needs to be consequence for the action.

underthebridge

I have to wonder if this is related to the longstanding practice in many schools and school sports program of having medications available, but not "giving" them to the students - opening a drawer and then leaving the room. If the student is caught, the student says "she gave me the Midol, etc." When confronted, the staff member claims, "I didn't give him that. He took it." I don't agree with it, but I know it happens.

soccermom10

How about this edit cowboy (even though if I remember right she did plea no contest): Part of the discrepancy as well is Coach Crabtree "allegedly" gave the medication (and he still shouldn't have) with one parents of the child's permission - and only a one time incident, involving one athlete. Then, the other parent did not agree & contacted him and Mr. Strohl. Coach Hiss "allegedly" did this countless times with a number of athletes, and did nothing else than look the other way, and deny it when allegations were made, even going as far as to say that the athletes stole them from her. There is a big difference in the punishments that they should receive, and the way the cases should be handled.

Cowboy

I would chose my words more carefully if I were you. You, soccermom, can also be sued for your slanderous accusation against Hiss without proof. You might want to use words like alleged to protect yourself.

I usually charge $250hr for that advice.

underthebridge

She pled "no contest" to being in possession of the lidocaine patches without a prescription. The lawsuit indicates it was her father's. The lawsuit also indicates her performance evaluations were satisfactory and she was unaware of the "countless" other allegations until this incident. According to the lawsuit the other allegations were not supported with evidence and amounted to hearsay. That is what her lawsuit is saying is a failure of due process. It makes you wonder how she could simultaneously have "countless" other allegations at the same time she received satisfactory evaluations. In the very least, this is poor management and supervision.

Babo

Also, a No Contest plea is NOT an admission of guilt and therefore cannot be used in any other proceeding as an admission that the acts occurred. A no contest plea is used for strategic purposes.

Cowboy

I'm not taking sides here but there appears to be a bigger issue that needs to be addressed. If indeed this is true.....
(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.)
....then Gunner needs to be removed from his position for not following proper disciplinary procedures.

Babo

Excellent point.

soccermom10

...or Gunner was unaware of any of this happening until it all came to light last spring.

Stop It

He seems to be unaware of a lot of things in his school district.

Cowboy

If indeed Gunner was notified of these alleged infractions in the spring of last year it would still be unprofessional and irresponsible of him to bring them to light without proof and proper documentation. The term hearsay would be appropriate to play at this point, wiping her plate clean of these witch hunt shenanigans.

Blowfish

Hiss case will be interesting. Yes, she was treated differently. Was she treated differently because she was a female? The burden of proof is on her. Does Perkins have a history of systematically treating women unfairly? Do they get paid less, suspended more, harassed, etc?

Two teachers were caught illegally administering prescription drugs. Just be caused Perkins failed to act properly the first incident does that mean they can never in the future?

The Smith case is a whole other story. The students welfare always comes first. Falling a sleep in class not only robs pupils of education, it can endanger them. She has some nerve to sue.

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