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Updated: District 518 denies unlawful employment, special education violations

WORTHINGTON — Independent School District 518 is seeking dismissal with prejudice of a civil lawsuit recently filed against the district in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota.  

In a recently published answer to the litigation filed last month by former employee, Karen Abbott, the district denies a vast majority of Abbott’s claims, including that her employee rights were violated and that she was treated unfairly while serving as an Area Learning Center special education teacher.

Similarly, the district denied committing special education violations, which Abbott alleged in her 15-page civil complaint.

The district said Abbott’s complaint was without merit, asserted in bad faith and frivolous.

While the district simply denies the majority of Abbott’s accusations, the district did admit to changing a special education student’s schedule, but argue it was a result of Abbott’s “refusal to provide the student services identified on the student’s IEP.”

Likewise, the district admits to removing Abbott from the problem-solving team, but alleges her removal was “completely unrelated” to Abbott’s complaints regarding the district’s compliance with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  

The district also responded that all allegations made by Abbott related to the meaning of any oral statement made by any individual mentioned throughout the complaint is hearsay.

“Defendants have at all times acted in good faith, without malice, and with reasonable belief that their actions were valid,” the district’s response states.

In addition to seeking dismissal with prejudice, the district also asks that the Court not award Abbott the damages she seeks, in excess of $75,000.

The district also asks that it “recover judgment for its costs, disbursements and whatever relief the Court deems just and equitable.”

The district is represented by Minneapolis-based attorney Joseph L. Langel of Ratwik, Roszak and Maloney, P.A.

An approximately six-month employee of the district, Abbott filed the lawsuit May 14 to “remedy Defendant’s retaliation against Abbott in violation of the Minnesota Whistleblower Act.”

The district asserts Abbott was hired June 21, 2017, which differs from Abbott’s claim of beginning employment June 15. The district affirms she was reprimanded on or about Jan. 23 and that it “speaks for itself.” No further details related to the content of the reprimand were stated in the district’s response.

Abbott submitted her resignation Jan. 24, which she claims was the choice between “signing the retaliatory reprimand or remaining in a hostile work environment.” The district denied Abbot was constructively discharged.

Abbott is represented by Minneapolis attorneys Mack Reed and Blaine Balow of Halunen Law.

A pre-trial conference is scheduled for 8:30 a.m., Aug. 1 in Courtroom 9E in the U.S. Courthouse, 300 S. Fourth St., Minneapolis.

Abbott had filed a complaint in February related to alleged special education violations with the Minnesota Department of Education while employed and upon her exit from employment. The result of the investigation was expected by mid-April, but was postponed.

According to MDE Communications Director Josh Collins, a decision is expected to be issued by the end of June and will be posted publicly on the department’s website once non-public information has been redacted.

Original post:

WORTHINGTON — Independent School District 518 is seeking dismissal with prejudice for a civil lawsuit active in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota.  

In a recently published answer to the litigation filed by former employee, Karen Abbott, the district denies a vast majority of Abbott’s claims, including that her employee rights were violated and that she was treated unfairly while she served as an Area Learning Center special education teacher.

Similarly, the district denied committing special education violations, which Abbott alleged in her 15-page civil complaint filed May 14.

The district asserts the complaint is without merit, asserted in bad faith and frivolous.

The district asserts Abbott was hired on a special education variance June 21, 2017, which differs from Abbott’s claim of beginning employment June 15. The district affirms she was reprimanded on or about Jan. 23. Abbott submitted her resignation Jan. 24.

For more on this story, see Wednesday’s print edition or watch for an updated story on dglobe.com