A Durant, Iowa, school board is facing contempt of court charges after using creative management techniques in dealing with a fired principal it was ordered by a court to reinstate. According to court documents filed by Monica Rouse, the district has restored her in name only and has made every effort to make her work environment miserable. When court-ordered negotiations failed to budge the school board’s resolve to continue their behavior, a judge ordered them to attend a contempt hearing near the end of August. If the judge decides the board has failed to truly reinstate Rouse to her position, the board members face jail time.
A district judge ruled that the school board fired Rouse for no valid reason in 2010 and ordered that she be reinstated as principal. The board appealed the decision to the Iowa Court of Appeals, which agreed with the original ruling. Rouse officially returned to her position in April of 2012.
According to Cathy Cartee, who is representing Rouse, the school board has done everything it can to flout the judge’s decree. “They aren’t even treating her remotely like she’s the principal.” According to Rouse, she is principal in name only. She has been forbidden to interact with either students or staff and her office was moved away from those of other administrators and placed in an isolated room equipped with security cameras. In fact, another principal has been hired to take over the duties Rouse used to do. She was not even allowed to attend the school’s graduation.
Attorney Rand Wonio, who represents the school board, doesn’t deny the details of Rouse’s working conditions. However, he argues that they are not a violation of the court order. He points out that Rouse is being paid a principal’s salary and said that it is legal in Iowa for a high school to have two principals. Wonio expressed disbelief that the school board could actually be sent to jail for their behavior. “I find it hard to believe the school board would be found in contempt, let alone jailed,” he said.