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Settlement conference set in Whitehurst lawsuit against Bedford school board

Settlement conference set in Whitehurst lawsuit against Bedford school board

Only $5 for 5 months

A lawsuit filed by a former deputy superintendent at Bedford County Public Schools alleging sexual discrimination and retaliation is now scheduled for a settlement conference.

Cherie Whitehurst filed a federal lawsuit in March against the Bedford County School Board and Superintendent Doug Schuch, demanding $5 million in damages and lost pay.

She claimed Schuch had made discriminatory comments against her for years, which she reported to the school board’s human resources department in late 2016.

Whitehurst had challenged Schuch following an interview of a candidate applying to be a school principal, she claimed in her suit, and he gave notice of Whitehurst’s demotion the next day without any specific reason why.

She then filed a sex-based discrimination claim with the school board, the suit states, and was met the following day with notice of yet another demotion, this time to a teaching position.

U.S. District Court Judge Norman Moon agreed to dismiss Whitehurst’s claims involving Schuch earlier this month, while leaving her claims against the school board intact.

Two days after Moon released his opinion on that dismissal, Whitehurst sought to disqualify the attorneys representing the school board. She claimed they could end up as witnesses to the matter, since she had emailed them and spoken on the phone with them about Schuch’s conduct and comments to her when she was still employed.

Whitehurst’s attorney, Hunter Byrnes, did not respond to reporter requests for comment as of press time. In an email he sent to the school board’s attorneys early this month, filed as an exhibit in a court document, he stated “we would like to reduce our previous demand to $2,000,000” after part of the suit was dismissed.

Reached this week, Stacy Haney, one of the attorneys representing the school board, said she could not comment for this article.

The case was referred to mediation last Tuesday “upon request of the parties,” an order from Moon states.

The next day, Haney and a partnering attorney submitted a reply to Whitehurst’s motion to disqualify Haney, calling it an “abusive misuse of the disqualification motion” and a “strategic” move. Haney claimed that a phone conversation between herself and Whitehurst at the time was “fabricated” and she would not be a necessary witness to the case.

A settlement conference has been ordered to take place on Sept. 8.

Rachel Mahoney covers courts for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5554.

Rachel Mahoney covers courts for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5554.

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