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Westmoreland

Mt. Pleasant teacher gets $95K from district in discrimination case

Patrick Varine
| Thursday, April 26, 2018, 10:18 p.m.
Metrocreative

A former athletic trainer will receive more than $95,000 from the Mt. Pleasant Area School District after a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court alleged she was the target of sex, age and disability discrimination.

Michelle Yackovich, employed by the district as a teacher since 1999 and as a certified athletic trainer for more than two decades, filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and filed a 2017 lawsuit against the district and Superintendent Terry Struble in U.S. District Court.

School district officials did not return calls seeking comment.

During the 2011-12 school year, Yackovich had spoken with district administrators about bringing an athletic training assistant to the school district. The district ultimately chose not to renew Yackovich's supplemental trainer contract or hire an assistant trainer, opting to hire trainers from Excela Health, according to court documents.

Yackovich then applied to work as a trainer for Excela, and was told she would be hired and again become the main athletic trainer at Mt. Pleasant, only to find out later that Mt. Pleasant school board officials had expressed “double-dipping” concerns about having a teacher simultaneously serving as a contracted vendor, according to court documents.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigators, in their 2016 report, found that the person named head athletic trainer, Kyle Bowman, was in that exact situation, simultaneously employed by Excela and the school district.

The EEOC report stated there was reasonable cause to believe the district had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination Employment Act, and state discrimination laws.

Yackovich's lawsuit alleged, among other violations of anti-discrimination laws, that the district expressed a preference, both orally and in writing, to hire a male trainer to cover boys events, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“An email from the former Superintendent Terry Struble, containing this statement, was attached to the court complaint. The district's answer to the complaint did not deny these statements were made,” Yackovich's attorney, Christian Bagin, wrote in an April 26 news release.

Yackovich had served as the sole athletic trainer for 21 years both boys' and girls' sports until her contract was not renewed.

“I am happy the district finally realized it could not continue to pretend it had done nothing wrong, and the entry of this judgment against the district provides welcome closure to me,” Yackovich said.

In the school district's court filing making an offer of judgement to Yackovich, its attorneys said that the district has “made no admission of liability or wrongdoing.”

Bagin said the statement was the district's way of “paradoxically (seeking) to disclaim its liability,” and cited a 1998 case in which U.S. Circuit Court appellate judges Frank Easterbrook and Richard Posner described a similar statement in their opinion.

“‘Defendants think that these are magic words (that deprive plaintiffs of prevailing party status), but that can't be right,'” Bagin said, quoting the judges' decision. “‘Plaintffs who accept Rule 68 offers accept the money, not the defendants' self-serving characterizations.'”

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