The Howard County Board of Education agreed on June 11th to pay $600,000 for settling complaints of board members making homophobic remarks, discrimination against gay employees, and retaliation by superintendent against deputies of a predecessor.

School Board Admits No Wrongdoing

The board has agreed to pay $72,500 to Tim Thornburg, the former director of staff relations; $226,000 to Elizabeth Grace Chesney, the former chief accountability officer; and $115,000 to John White, the former school’s spokesperson. They have also agreed to pay $185,000 to their sexual harassment attorneys.

However, current school board Chair Mavis Ellis wrote in an email that the board denies all allegations and does not admit to any wrongdoing. Their employment lawyers are prepared to present the case in front of a jury, but are pleased to put an end to this prolonged process.

Under the settlement terms, Thornburg, Chesney, and White have agreed to drop their sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit before it reached Howard County Circuit Court. They have also promised to not make comments that may seem disparaging to the board.

Board of Education Behaved in an Intimidating Manner

The issue started when a campaign started to drive out Superintendent Renee Foose and her three deputies. Foose, an experienced administrator, was broadly welcomed on becoming the first female superintendent of Howard County schools in 2012.

However, her handling of a mold situation at Glenwood Middle School soured relationship with school board and teachers union, which led to a petition to “Cut Foose Loose.” Foose was pushed out in 2016 by a new board that took direct measures to assert authority over her.

Foose sued the board and won a settlement of $1.65 million in salary and benefits. Her three deputies Chesney, Thornburg and White who continued working for the school district were sexually harassed and discriminated after that.

Sexual Harassment at Maryland Workplaces

Sexual harassment in a chronic problem in Maryland workplaces and is a form of sexual discrimination. It can be in the form of obscene or explicit media contact, unwanted physical contact, derogatory comments, unwanted sexual advancements, threats of sexual assault, requests for sexual favors, and more. The broad range of harassment makes it necessary to work with a sexual harassment lawyer.

Sexual harassment can be legally actionable if dealt with in the right way. Retaliation, such as termination is a common fear among many employees – both men and women. Victims should get in touch with an experienced employment attorney whether they suffered a single random episode or repeated ones.

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