Lawsuit settled between Park City School District and former school nurse
A former school nurse who sued the Park City School District, alleging officials violated state whistleblower laws, recently settled the lawsuit and is set to be reinstated in the fall, said Alain Balmanno, an attorney representing the district.
Nicole Kennedy, who worked as a school nurse from 2013 until the district declined to renew her contract in 2016, and the district settled the lawsuit in 3rd District Court at the end of March. Kennedy originally filed five claims against the district, as well as the Park City Board of Education, former superintendent Ember Conley, former associate superintendent Tom Van Gorder, and associate superintendent of human resources Tim McConnell. Judge Richard Mrazik dismissed two of the claims last fall.
The two parties participated in court-ordered mediation and decided to settle the lawsuit and reinstate Kennedy, Balmanno said. According to the lawsuit, Kennedy was seeking reinstatement and to be paid back wages and benefits, as well as other damages.
According to the suit, Kennedy filed the litigation when the district did not renew her contract after she participated in a U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights investigation into the district’s mistreatment of a diabetic student. She allegedly witnessed the discriminatory treatment of the student.
According to the lawsuit, Kennedy also complained to the district’s human resources department about unethical and unsafe medical practices of nurses in the district during the 2015-2016 school year. She also raised concerns about the district not having a diabetes policy in place for diabetic students. She claimed in the suit that Van Gorder created a hostile work environment when he allegedly sent emails to district nursing staff that were negatively directed at Kennedy.
According to the suit, the defendants retaliated against Kennedy for her participation in the Office of Civil Rights investigation and for voicing her concerns by not renewing her contract for the 2016-17 school year.
Kennedy claimed in the lawsuit that the district, Conley, Van Gorder and McConnell violated the Utah Protection of Public Employees Act, which protects employees who “give information in an inquiry or administrative review.” She also claimed in the suit that she was deprived of her First Amendment rights, and the defendants violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
According to court documents, the defendants denied Kennedy’s statements that there were “unsafe medical practices in the district.” They claimed the district was within its rights to not renew her contract.
Balmanno said the case would likely have gone to trial, but neither party was interested in continuing the lawsuit. He said both parties are happy to move on.
The decision to settle was likely influenced by the fact that some of the defendants have left the district and that new district leadership is in place, Balmanno said.
Kennedy said she is excited to return to the district.
“It was my favorite job, and I can’t wait to work with the students of Park City again,” she said.
The arsenic-and-lead-containing soil has been a contentious issue for the district, which piled it onto the junior high campus in actions that were later discovered to be in violation of a covenant with the Environmental Protection Agency.
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