Archive for Thursday, July 26, 2007

Poplin’s lawsuit against Baldwin School District is filed

July 26, 2007

Former Baldwin High School Principal Alan Poplin has filed a lawsuit in U.S. Federal Court against the Baldwin School District stemming from him being non-renewed two years ago.

The lawsuit was filed July 12, but the district wasn't served until this week. School District Attorney Bob Bezek said he would be responding soon.

"Frankly, we just got served with it a couple of days ago," said Bezek. "We'll file an answer. We'll go through mediation."

Among other items, Bezek says the petition alleges that the school board violated the Americans With Disabilities Acts when Poplin was let go. The lawsuit seeks an excess of $100,000.

Bezek is confident the school district wasn't at fault, but knows it will be awhile before that's proven.

"It's Federal Court. It's going to get messier before it gets cleaner," said Bezek. "I don't think we have anything to worry about lawsuit wise."

According to the lawsuit, Poplin, a Lawrence resident, was injured in an accident at his home in June 2004. The accident required hip surgery and a three-week recovery. Nearly a year later, Poplin claims in the lawsuit that he was informed that members of the school board "had concerns about his health, medicine, thought processes and lingering effects of his fall."

In December 2005, Poplin began to experience problems from his injury, and he learned he needed additional surgery and therapy to correct his problems. According to the lawsuit, it was discovered through routine medical testing after Poplin's last day of work, April 28, 2006, that he had a blood disease, which required a bone marrow transplant.

The lawsuit says Poplin had no indication that his job was in jeopardy. He received a positive job evaluation from former Supt. James White on March 27, 2006. That evening at a special school board meeting, it was decided by a vote of 6-1 to not retain Poplin as principal.

Poplin filed a request for reconsideration of the board's decision in accordance with Kansas law.

Poplin maintains that his privacy was violated when an e-mail referencing health care plans and costs of his treatments were circulated through the school district.

Bezek said there was a PDF of a letter from the district's health insurance provider regarding a 19 percent increase that was circulated. However, it stated two reasons for the increase -- one a problem with filing employee ages and the other a major increase because of increased costs with a treatment -- but it didn't list anyone's name or even gender, said Bezek.

"Actually, that's the easiest one to defeat," said Bezek. "He was the one who disclosed his increased costs to others, not the insurance company. Secondly, it doesn't describe him at all."

In response to Poplin's request for reconsideration, the school board reaffirmed his termination and cited leadership and professional development as reasons, according to the lawsuit.

Poplin alleges violations against the Americans with Disabilities Act, Employment Retirement Income Security and the Privacy Act.

Bezek said he plans to file an answer in two weeks.

"We believe we have acted lawfully, and I'm vigorously litigating that," Bezek said.

"I think the board did the right thing and I'll have to prove it," he said.

He also said he doesn't think this is the end of what Poplin may file.

"The district expects the petition to be amended later," said Bezek.

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