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Hot Dogging Vice Principal Wins $150k in Wrongful Termination Settlement

A high school vice-principal who claims he was forced into early retirement for refusing to give special treatment to students with powerful parents has reached a settlement with the school board that will allow him to collect $150,000 in compensation.

Wrongful%20Termination.jpgPete Corbett sued the Kanawha County Board of Education after he took early retirement in 2008. The suit claimed that he was muscled out of his position at George Washington High School in Charleston, W.Va, when he resisted school superintendent Ron Duerring’s orders to treat certain students differently based on the clout their families have in the community. Duerring has denied the allegations.

The school board maintains that Corbett retired after he was suspended indefinitely for insubordination. An independent hearing examiner has ruled that he was insubordinate in a related incident in which Corbett allowed students to have a hot dog cookout on school property during the week of the anniversary of the Columbine shootings. The cookout was in violation of a temporary ban on outdoor activities enacted by the school’s principal in response to a shooting spree at Virginia Tech and concerns about the anniversary. Corbett claimed he was unaware of the ban but was suspended for five days.

During his suspension, the former vice principal grilled and sold hot dogs on the public sidewalk in front of the school system’s office. The school board responded by suspending Corbett from his position indefinitely on the grounds that his behavior constituted insubordination and demonstrated a lack of respect for the school system. Shortly afterwards, Corbett retired.

The settlement does not include an admission of wrongdoing on the part of the school board or the superintendent. However, the agreement between the parties calls for the school board to pay Corbett $150,000. The school’s insurance will pay one third of the settlement, but the district will have to come up with the rest. According to a statement from Duerring, the school board agreed to the settlement so that the board could turn its attention back to educating the district’s children.

If you are a California school administrator with a question about student/teacher safety, special education, accommodations, student rights, free speech or discipline, or school employment law, feel free to call attorney Richard Oppenheim at 818-461-8500. There is never a charge for an initial consultation and we can help you choose the best direction to resolve any school district issue.