A former school bus driver has sued the Fayette County Board of Education, alleging she was sexually harassed while working for the school system. Superintendent Tom Shelton says he's considering an independent investigation into the case and other possible issues in the district's Transportation Department.
Shelton said Tuesday that he began hearing of concerns about working conditions in the transportation department soon after he was hired in June. He said he was considering a possible inquiry even before the lawsuit was filed.
Former bus driver Sherry King filed suit in Fayette Circuit Court on Sept. 9 against former superintendent Stu Silberman; transportation director John Kiser; transportation supervisors Deborah Goodlett, Deborah Durbin and Steven Lane; and members of the school board.
King alleges in the suit that she was sexually harassed by Goodlett during a conversation in June 2010 and filed a grievance with the school district. According to the suit, Lane later told King she had waited too long to file, and he characterized the case as "a lot of ado about nothing."
King alleges that soon afterward she became the target of bullying and intimidation by Goodlett, Lane, Durbin and Kiser in retaliation for her original complaint and her efforts to document alleged nepotism involving other transportation department employees.
The suit says King suffered "extreme emotional distress," and ultimately submitted a letter of resignation outlining the situation, "hoping that Superintendent Silberman would schedule a meeting ... to address her wrongful treatment." Silberman accepted her resignation but "did nothing to address her concerns," the suit says.
King seeks compensatory and punitive damages for alleged retaliation, violation of the state whistle-blower statute, constructive discharge and breach of contract.
Shelton said Tuesday that he was looking for an outside individual who could conduct an inquiry into possible issues in the transportation department before asking the school board to give the go-ahead.
"I continued to hear things and that people had concerns about the working environment there as I started my job," Shelton said of the transportation department. "I just want to make sure that it's clear to people that I want this district to operate in a transparent and open fashion, and deal with whatever issues we have."
He said his staff was looking into how an inquiry might be conducted when King filed her lawsuit.
Silberman, Kiser, Goodlett, Durbin and Lane are being sued individually and in their capacities with Fayette County Public Schools, which means they could be personally liable if the court case is successful.
King is represented by Brenda Dinkins Allen, who was the school board's in-house attorney until the board voted to out-source their legal operations last year.
Claims made in a lawsuit represent only one side of a story.