In Hartford, Michigan, a middle school secretary is suing her school district in a wrongful termination case that has raised many eyebrows.
Last March, Kathy Anchor caught a middle school boy, age 15, with his pants down. The boy threatened her, telling her not to tell anyone about the indecent exposure as he moved toward her in a threatening manner. Anchor did report what happened.
Anchor filed charges against the school after it declined to press charges or hold the boy accountable with any sort of disciplinary action.
“Kathy was fired for speaking up when she became aware that the district was allowing the student who attacked her to simply transfer to another school without incident,” said Katherine Smith Kennedy, Anchor’s attorney. Prior to the incident, Kathy had been a district employee since 2002, and a middle school secretary since 2005.
As of last month, the Van Buren County prosecutor’s office gave weight to Anchor’s claim by announcing that it would be pursuing charges against the boy in juvenile court. He will be charged with indecent exposure and assault.
As a result of the stress the incident caused — both the indecent exposure and the school’s attempt to sweep it under the rug — Anchor’s doctor diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder, and she went on medical leave. It was while on medical leave last May that district Superintendent Andrew Hubbard fired Anchor.
“Rather than support her as the victim of an attack, she was fired by the superintendent for fabricated reasons,” explained Kennedy, saying that she was fired primarily as a result of having talked to both school board members and police about the incident.
“It’s a shame the school district chose to turn a blind eye to their employee’s well being. That incident was an assault, no question about it, and now she has the added insult of losing her job. If the allegations are true she certainly has a legitimate claim,” said Jason Charpentier, Attourney at Gate Way Lawyers.
The suit alleges that in firing Anchor, the school violated several different public policies and laws, including the Michigan Whistleblowers Protection Act and the federal Family Medical Leave Act — it was because of the medical leave act that the case was filed in federal court. Under the act, employees are eligible to take unpaid, job-protected leave for up to 12 workweeks.