2018-01-11 / News

Former Atherton Jr./Sr. High principal sues school district for second time

810-452-2645 • tterry@mihomepaper.com

BURTON — A former Atherton Jr./Sr. High School principal is suing Atherton Community Schools for the second time.

In the first case, Plaintifff Tom DeVaney had reported to police that a student had brought drugs into the school building, a male student sexually assaulted a female student by exposing his penis to her and DeVaney had saved the life of a suicidal young girl. DeVaney argued the district’s superintendent issued a written memo directing DeVaney not to make reports to police about such matters. DeVaney said the superintendent, John Ploof, convinced the board to demote DeVaney from principal to a dean position, for which DeVaney said the duties were actually that of a truancy officer. DeVaney was placed on an administrative leave for one year and paid $93,000 during his time off. When he returned to work, he was brought back as a special education teacher instead of a dean.

This 2014 case was brought before a jury in the Genesee County Circuit Court.

“Tom didn’t think the demotion was right,” said Attorney Tom Pabst, who represented DeVaney in both cases.

Judge Richard B. Yuille ruled DeVaney’s actions were protected under Whistleblower Protection laws which protects employees from retaliation for disclosing information in certain situations.

“We got a jury verdict for $66,175,” Pabst added. “They wanted to appeal the verdict. Then, we settled it out of court.”

Pabst said the verdict did not include special damages, including attorney fees he received of about $75,000.

Then, another case was filed regarding another position that became available within the school district.

“Tom sent an email to the superintendent saying he was interested in a director of curriculum and instructional services position; an administrative position that would have offered Tom about $30,000 more yearly than he was making as a special education teacher,” Pabst said. “Ploof never responded to the email, DeVaney was never interviewed for the position and someone else was hired. We feel this is further retaliation. I think another jury will find in our favor, too.”

Brett Meyer, attorney for Atherton Community Schools said he and his client view the current case as without merit.

“The district intends to aggressively defend the lawsuit,” Meyer said. “We’re not going to comment further on pending or prior litigation.”

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