Shelby County School Board, superintendent sued for discrimination

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Former associate principal says district retaliated against her for her claims of harassment, unfair treatment

By Todd Martin

Victoria Coleman, a former associate principal and teacher at Collins High School, has filed suit against the Shelby County Board of Education and Superintendent James Neihof for sexual discrimination.

The suit claims that Coleman was discriminated against because of her gender and that actions were taken against her in retaliation of her opposing treatment and reporting of unwanted sexual advances from former Collins Principal Anthony Hatchell.

Jeffrey Walther of Walther, Roark and Gay, PLC of Lexington is representing Coleman, and he declined to comment on the case.

Neihof said that he had multiple meetings with Coleman during the times listed in the suit.

“We respect everyone’s rights and certainly feel that any employee with concerns has the right to be heard,” he said.

School Board Chair Doug Butler said he is aware of the suit, but could not comment on legal matters.

Chenoweth Law Office in Lawrenceburg is the school board’s attorney, and Grant Chenoweth said his office had received a copy of the suit.

“We were aware of the threat of a suit from conversations with her attorney, so we were not surprised by it,” he said. “We expect to put up a vigorous defense and believe the claims don’t have much factual or legal basis.”

The suit, filed on Nov. 20, claims that before Coleman or Hatchell were hired by the district the two had a brief, romantic relationship.

Coleman alleges she told Hatchell that she was not interested in a romantic relationship before accepting the position as associate principal during the 2010-11 school year.

However, shortly after the school year started, the suit states, Hatchell made offensive and unwelcome sexual advances. Coleman later took her complaints to District Director of Human Services Barbara Allen.

Hatchell was not named in the suit and now lives in Mayfield. A telephone number he had used no longer is in service.

After that, she claims Hatchell escalated his criticism of Coleman’s performance, prompting her to go to Hatchell’s supervisor, Kerry Fannin.

The suit states that Fannin created a Corrective Action Plan based on Hatchell’s unjustified criticisms and that she risked demotion.

In Feb. 2011, Coleman then met with Neihof and explained the past relationship with Hatchell.

In March of 2012, Coleman again met with Neihof and Allen, the suit states and again complained of Hatchell’s harassing behavior, as well as discriminatory treatment of another district employee.

In May of 2012, Coleman was demoted from associate principal to classroom teacher.

Earlier this year, Coleman applied for an open associate principal at Shelby County High School, but she was not recommended for hire.

Coleman claims the actions taken by the district were motivated by a desire to retaliate against her for her conduct, and were made with oppression and/or malice.

She also claims the actions caused her to suffer lost wages and benefits, humiliation, embarrassment, emotional distress and mental anguish.