Former principal files suit against Trumann School District

Friday, April 4, 2014

Former Trumann High School Principal Wanda Van Dyke has filed a lawsuit against the Trumann School District and the superintendent after she was suspended from her position.

Toward the end of 2013, Van Dyke was suspended from her position with the district. After receiving a letter from Superintendent Myra Graham dated Feb. 22, in which Graham stated her intention to recommend the school board not renew Van Dyke's contract, Van Dyke filed a lawsuit against the district with the Arkansas Eastern District Court on March 5.

According to court documents obtained by the Poinsett County Democrat Tribune, Van Dyke is suing the District and Graham, alleging they failed to comply with the Arkansas Fair Teacher Dismissal Act, the Arkansas Whistleblower Protection Act, the Arkansas Civil Rights Act, Title IX, and Title 42, United States Code, Section 1983.

The documents include a copy of the letter from Graham stating her intention to recommend the board not renew her contract. The letter gives 21 reasons for the recommendation and suspension. The reasons given range form making the school a stressful place to work, to showing favoritism among teachers, inconsistent and incompetent job performance, and communicating poorly with the staff.

In the lawsuit, Van Dyke responds to each reason individually, alleging several of the statements are untrue. Van Dyke claims morale at the high school was at an all time high while she was principal and claims the district failed to follow its own policies or implement the student handbook fairly.

In the court documents, Van Dyke also claims, beginning in September, the district began "a calculated course of conduct designed to create a hostile work environment and fabricate reasons for Plaintiff's termination." Van Dyke alleges the district violated Title IX when it required her son to step down from the position of homecoming king and write an apology to the board. Van Dyke also alleges in the documents that Graham attempted to hinder her ability to perform her duties and that by not allowing Van Dyke on school grounds during her suspension, the district was withholding her right to be an involved parent by requiring her to obtain permission prior to being on campus.

In addition to requesting punitive damages should the court enter judgment in Van Dyke's favor, the suit also states Van Dyke wishes to be reinstated as high school principal.

When contacted by the Democrat Tribune, Van Dyke said she had no comment to make at this time. Superintendent Graham said the matter had been turned over to the district's attorney and she could not comment on the matter.

The case has been assigned to United States District Judge Kristine Baker and Magistrate Judge Beth Deere.

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