Trial Date Set In Teacher Lawsuit Against School Board and Director

August 12, 2014
Dwayne Page
Bradley Hendrix

A federal court trial date has been set in an employment discrimination lawsuit brought against the DeKalb County Board of Education and Director of Schools Mark Willoughby by teacher and county commissioner Bradley Hendrix.

In an initial case management order filed Monday August 4th, the trial is set for Tuesday, October 20, 2015 before U.S. District Judge Kevin H. Sharp and is expected to last approximately three days. A final pre-trial conference is scheduled for Monday, October 5, 2015

Attorneys for Hendrix filed the lawsuit Thursday, May 29 in U.S. District Court in Nashville. He is represented by the Hendersonville law firm of Andy L. Allman and Associates.

In the lawsuit, Hendrix alleges that he has been "subjected to a continuous and ongoing pattern of harassment and retaliation for his votes as a county commissioner on matters pertaining to the school system", particularly his vote against purchasing land to build a new high school. According to the lawsuit, "On or about March 2011, the issue of the land purchase and school construction came before the county commission for approval. Hendrix voted against the measure. From that point on, Hendrix was subjected to harassment and retaliation by Mr. Willoughby in his employment".

Hendrix is suing the Board of Education and Director of Schools, both jointly and severally, seeking compensatory and punitive damages. He also wants a jury to try the case.

In an answer filed July 17, the attorney for Willoughby and the school board, John D, Schwalb, PLLC of Franklin denies Hendrix's allegations.

According to the initial case management order, the Plaintiff's Theory of the Case is as follows:

"In the spring of 2010, Plaintiff (Hendrix), a teacher at Smithville Elementary School, began campaigning for the office of DeKalb County Commissioner of the 3rd district. He was elected by vote of the people on the 2nd day of August 2010."

"In an early 2011 meeting of the county commissioners, Plaintiff (Hendrix) voted against a land purchase and construction of a school in the county. After this vote, Plaintiff (Hendrix) was subjected to harassment by the principal of Smithville Elementary, who was his supervisor, and by Mark Willoughby, Director of DeKalb County Schools. He had job responsibilities removed from his work load and was disciplined. His actions and movements were scrutinized more heavily than other teachers and he received more discipline for alleged infractions that other teachers were not disciplined for, though they engaged in the same behavior. In April 2013 Plaintiff (Hendrix) was not selected for a DeKalb County schools job position he applied for even though he was as qualified or more qualified than the candidate who was hired."

"Therefore, Plaintiff (Hendrix) avers that since his vote against the purchase of land and construction of a school he was subjected to a continuous and ongoing pattern of harassment in retaliation for same."

The Defendant's Theory is as follows:

"Mark Willoughby is the Director of Schools for the DeKalb County Board of Education. In his capacity as the Director he is charged with essentially all personnel matters with the exception of the granting of tenure. Those duties include the appointment and assignment of both certified and classified staff. The Central Office of the Board of Education is largely consistent with the structure of a corporation in the sense that Willoughby would be the equivalent of the President and Chief Operating Officer and the various supervisors would be the equivalent of persons at the Vice President level. Each supervisor is in effect a department head answerable to the Director of Schools."

"When the former supervisor of attendance announced his retirement the position was posted and the Plaintiff (Hendrix) along with Joey Reeder applied for the position. The position requires certain endorsements or qualification. Mr. Reeder possessed the necessary endorsement for the position and was chosen for the position."

"While Plaintiff (Hendrix) claims that he voted against certain funding for the school system's capital improvements his decision to do so was a right he had as a county commissioner. However, his vote was not the reason that he was not appointed to the position of Supervisor of Attendance. Supervisors of Attendance, Instruction, Federal Programs, Special Education and the like are all within positions for which the Director of Schools may consider "goal" loyalty or administration loyalty in determining whom to appoint to a particular position. This is, to the extent that Plaintiff (Hendrix)'s view of the school system conflicted with the Director of School's view or vision of the school system, the Director was free to consider such and take it into account in making the appointment. Regardless, Willoughby appointed the individual whom he believed was the most qualified for the position."

"Defendants (Willoughby and School Board) deny that they in anyway illegally discriminated against the Plaintiff (Hendrix) for the exercise of his first amendment rights and further deny that any exercise of his voting power as a member of a public body does not protect him from discrimination under state of federal law if the Defendants (Willoughby and School Board) are ultimately found to have discriminated against him."

The parties shall filed a joint mediation report on or before February 16, 2015 and all dispositive motions are to be filed on or before May 18, 2015.

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