Appellate court upholds dismissal of principal lawsuit

A federal appellate court has upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit lodged by a former principal at Redlands Middle School who alleged she was denied due process when she was placed on administrative leave from the school in January 2008.

Writing for the majority of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, a pair of judges concluded former principal Kimberly Heutzenroeder voluntarily offered her resignation to School District 51 administration, despite claims she was essentially forced into the position by an “intolerable work environment.”

The evidence on the record “overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that Ms. Heutzenroeder voluntarily resigned,” reads a majority opinion. The ruling was issued Aug. 3.

Heutzenroeder filed a lawsuit arguing she lost her job as a result of retaliation for a grievance she lodged against the District 51 director of middle schools at the time and the human resources director. She alleged administrators placed her on an employee-performance-improvement plan in October 2007 without reason and/or cause.

That, she alleged, happened in the wake of an incident in August 2007 at the school when graffiti, which included threats against a teacher at Redlands Middle School, was discovered on the side of the building.

Unsatisfied with the handling of the incident, administrators placed Heutzenroeder on the improvement plan, which she didn’t participate in formulating, and she refused to sign it when it was presented to her, according to the opinion.

In January 2008, parents of students at the school were told she would not be returning. Heutzenroeder accepted a full-time job at St. Mary’s Hospital on Jan. 28, 2008.


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