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

Cowboy

Your comment... "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?" ....seems to be 50% correct at best. Hiss was never caught administering prescription drugs.

Blowfish

Lets split hairs then. One lied about it and the other didn't. Getting fired from teaching is an administrative decision not civil or criminal. Did you violate school policy yes or no. Like I said before, will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Cowboy

Just as I am not qualified to say Hiss is not lying, unless you have recordings or video proof, you are also not qualified to say she is. Scared kids will say anything to keep from getting in trouble, that is fact!

fredinperkins

Just curious as to how much Perkins Schools pays annually to the law firms they retain? I can only assume they received sound counsel for their UNANIMOUS decision to fire Ms. Hiss.

Blowfish

Legal coverage sometimes in the form of insurance is just the cost of doing business in any school district. Just like public utilities and fire alarms. It is criminal not to be protected.

Common Sense

If the pain medications were the property of her father, what were they doing on the school campus? This prescription could have remained in her vehicle during school hours where access would have been denied. As I have said before, there is more to this than will ever be published. In any confrontation, there are two sides and the blame must be shared.

Dcfred20036

Okay, she pleaded no contest. While technically not an admission of guilt for commission of the crime, the judge will treat a plea of "no contest" as such an admission and proceed to find the defendant guilty as charged. Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Tygh Tone ordered Hiss to serve one year in a diversion program. I'm surprised the suit has not been thrown out!

underthebridge

Read the complaint. She pled no contest to being in possession of a controlled substance without a prescription. Criminal charges regarding giving or not giving the students the patches were not brought. It is a mute point.

Babo

This was a misdemeanor No Contest Plea and the State was required to produce factual support for the charge before Judge Tone could find her guilty. I don't believe the Court followed the law of Ohio on that requirement but proceeded to find her guilty anyway.

In any event, her lawsuit is claiming discrimination based on gender and denial of due process of law and her No Contest plea and the subsequent guilty finding whether legal or not is not admissible in any subsequent legal proceeding. In other words there is no legal proof that she committed the act and Perkins Schools must prove it as part of their defense.

I find it hypocritical that you would quickly (and without fundamental legal knowledge) deny a female teacher her constitutional rights to challenge her termination from a public school system in view of your support of a male teacher terminated pursuant to contract from a private school system.

Ralph J.

How much did Perkins spend on lawyer fees the past 10 years?

fredinperkins

As blowfish stated, "...it is the cost of doing business...", with which I agree to a certain extent. However, when one's "business" is funded by taxpayer dollars, personnel/administrative decisions should be made by scrutinizing the facts.

I don't know the cost over 10 years but they can utilize the county prosecutor's office at no charge I believe.

tech-man

OK, I've read both side of the argument. No matter what everyone thinks, there are only 2 outcomes by the board and Gunner to make this fair.

1. Tracy Hiss gets her job back.

2. Both Tracy Hiss and Travis Crabtree get terminated

Its pretty simple people

ridiculousness

There are more differences between what Crabtree did and what Hiss did than can be numbered. The most upsetting fact is how she treated the girls when the did absolutely nothing wrong. And YES I do know that facts because my daughter was one of them. These kids did not know they were prescription which wasn't even Hiss's it was her fathers (all public record by the way) The school trainer questioned some of the girls on where they got them only after he noticed the RX label. They told him and he called the school doctor and they reported it to Strohl. Hiss was contacted and immediately denied it. Saying the girls broke in her office and stole them. These girls didn't even know anything was happening to try and cover their tracks until Hiss had already been questioned. She then said if we were better parents and took care of our kids they wouldn't have broke in her office and stole them. Everyone knows she carried them around in her bag and often told the girls to get one. Bet she didn't tell anyone how she cornered some of those girls and said she was going to ruin them and they would never run track for perkins again, or that she called some of them to try and sweet talk them into saying she never gave the patches to them. Conversations which were recorded but not allowed in court. And by the way parents of the kids involved never wanted to press charges of any kind we just wanted her to tell the truth and stop lying about the girls. Maybe if she wins her 2.5 million all those parents involved should go after her for slander against our daughters. Say what you want but she should be ashamed of herself and how dare she try and get money for the sake of pride. She is a disgrace to all coaches, teachers, and women.

How about we mention the time the cheerleaders sneaked out of their hotel room at nationals to go to a rave and Hiss knew and helped cover it up, Or how she dated a student, the list is long and yes Perkins should have taken action sooner. At this point she should be grateful she kept her job for as long as she did.

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