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Howard County (Md.) district will pay $600,000 to settle discrimination complaints

June 11, 2020
3 former administrators had contended in a lawsuit that they were victims of discrimination and retaliation.

The Howard County (Md.) school board has agreed to pay nearly $600,000 to settle a lawsuit that some district leaders made homophobic remarks, discriminated against employees who are gay, and retaliated against employees who complained.

The Baltimore Sun reports that the board has agreed to pay $226,000 to Elizabeth Grace Chesney, the former chief accountability officer; $72,500 to Tim Thornburg, the former director of staff relations; $115,000 to John White, the former schools spokesman; as well as $185,000 to their attorneys.

Under the settlement, Chesney, Thornburg and White agreed to drop their discrimination lawsuit and to refrain from any comments that could be perceived as disparaging to the school board.

The board admits no wrongdoing despite the settlement.

“The Board of Education continues to deny the allegations and were prepared to present the case to a jury, but are pleased that this prolonged process has concluded,” school board chair Mavis Ellis said.

The settlement continues fallout the 2017 ouster of superintendent Renee Foose and her three deputies.

Foose became the first female superintendent of Howard County schools in 2012. But her relationship with the teachers union and school board soured.

Foose sued the school board, which ultimately agreed to pay her $1.65 million in salary and benefits to step down. She resigned in May 2017.

After Foose left, her deputies Chesney, Thornburg and White continued to work for the  district. In their lawsuit, the three alleged they were harassed and discriminated against by the same board members who had fought Foose.

Thornburg resigned; Chesney and White were laid off in June 2017. They together sued the school board about a year later under federal and local laws that ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or political opinion.

In their lawsuit, they accused former board chairwoman Cynthia Vaillancourt and current board member Christina Delmont-Small of homophobic remarks. School board members denied the allegations.

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