Nurse’s lawsuit against the Park City School District moves forward
A lawsuit a former Park City School District nurse filed against the district is moving forward.
In a hearing on Sept. 26, Summit County 3rd District Court Judge Richard Mrazik ruled to not dismiss three of the five claims brought in 2016 by former nurse Nicole Kennedy, according to court documents. Kennedy alleges her contract with the district was not renewed in violation of state whistleblower laws. The Park City Board of Education, former superintendent Ember Conley, former associate superintendent Tom Van Gorder, and associate superintendent of human resources Tim McConnell are also listed as defendants in the suit.
Kennedy was hired to be a part-time nurse for the district in 2013, according to court documents. In 2015, the lawsuit claims, Kennedy was involved in a “parent conflict,” which included an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights into the mistreatment of a diabetic student in the district. The Office of Civil Rights interviewed Kennedy about the investigation, since Kennedy allegedly witnessed the discriminatory treatment of the student.
The suit states that, during the 2015-16 school year, Kennedy also expressed concerns to district officials about “other nurses’ unprofessional conduct toward PCSD students and Van Gorder’s lack of leadership and supervision over the nursing department.” She raised concerns about a hostile work environment partly because of emails Van Gorder allegedly sent to the district nursing staff that were negatively directed at Kennedy, the lawsuit states.
The suit also claims that Kennedy filed a formal complaint in March of 2016 about the district’s lack of a diabetes policy.
Kennedy claims in the suit that her hours were decreased and that she was treated differently than other nurses because of her involvement in the Office of Civil Rights case and for raising concerns about the district’s policies and leadership. On April 1, 2016, the district notified Kennedy that her contract would not be renewed.
The lawsuit alleges that the district, Conley, Van Gorder and McConnell violated the Utah Protection of Public Employees Act. It protects employees who “give information in an inquiry or administrative review.” Kennedy claims in the suit that sharing her concerns about the district’s training and leadership of its nursing department was within her rights.
She also claims in the suit that the defendants deprived her of her First Amendment rights and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
According to court documents, the defendants deny that there were “unsafe medical practices in the district” and claim Kennedy did not live up to her “duty of good faith and fair dealing” and that the district was within its rights to not renew her contract.
Kennedy is seeking to be reinstated and paid back wages and benefits, or front pay in lieu of reinstatement, as well as other damages, according to court documents. She also asked for the dismissal of McConnell, Conley and Van Gorder. Conley left the district earlier this year for a superintendent position in Arizona, while Van Gorder retired in 2016.
According to court documents, the two claims Mrazik dismissed were alleged breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing against the district. The ruling was in response to a motion from the defendants for summary judgment asking that all claims be dismissed, court documents state. Mrazik stated that the other claims were more “factually intensive,” ruling that the disputed facts made summary judgment impossible.
According to court documents, Mrazik suggested that Kennedy and the defendants settle the case with mediation. April Hollingsworth, Kennedy’s lawyer, said Kennedy is open to the option. Attempts to reach the attorney representing the defendants were unsuccessful.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect that Kennedy is seeking reinstatement.
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Compensation is the largest issue left on the table after a contract governing most every other aspect of teachers’ employment was negotiated earlier in June.