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DeGarmo v. Worthington City Schools Board of Education

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

June 18, 2013

Lisa DeGarmo, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Worthington City Schools Board of Education et al., Defendants-Appellees.

APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas C.P.C. No. 11-CVH-1586

Daniel H. Klos, for appellant.

Means, Bichimer, Burkholder & Baker Co., L.PA., Nicole M. Donovsky and Mark A. Weiker, for appellees.

DECISION

TYACK, J.

{¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, Lisa DeGarmo, is appealing from the summary judgment granted to defendants-appellees Worthington City Schools Board of Education, Melissa Conrath and William Dunaway. For the following reason, we affirm the decision of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

{¶ 2} DeGarmo assigns three errors for our consideration:

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR 1 - THE COURT ERRED WHEN IT FOUND THAT THE PLAINTIFF FAILED TO PROVE A PRIMA FACIE CASE OF GENDER DISCRIMINATION.
ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR 2 - THE COURT ERRED WHEN IT FAILED TO CONSIDER THE FACTS PRESENTED BY THE APPELLANT IN A LIGHT MOST FAVORABLE TO HER AND IGNORING THE FACTS THAT DIRECTLY REBUTTED THE TESTIMONY OF THE WITNESSES AGAINST THE APPELLANT.
ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR 3 - THE COURT ERRED WHEN IT DETERMINED THAT PLAINTIFF HAD NOT OVERCOME THE QUALIFIED PRIVILEGE THAT EXISTS WITH REGARD TO HER CLAIMS FOR FALSE LIGHT DEFAMATION.

{¶ 3} DeGarmo was employed for 11 years as a security monitor with Worthington City Schools Board of Education ("Worthington Schools"). On October 20, 2012, DeGarmo and Dean of Students, Tom Souder, investigated two students in a minivan in Worthington Kilbourne High School's parking lot. DeGarmo approached the van first and observed two students, a male and a female, in the back seat. The male had his pants and under pants down to his knees. The male put his pants back on and the female pulled down her skirt and both quickly exited the van. Souder was about 60-feet away and all he saw was the female and male exit the van and the male adjust his pants.

{¶ 4} Shortly thereafter, Assistant Principal Ken Nally questioned DeGarmo and Souder. DeGarmo claims she never stated she saw any sex or the male's penis. Nally states that DeGarmo did indicate that she saw the male's penis and some sort of sex act.

{¶ 5} Souder and teacher Vince Trombetti later that day separately contacted the male's family about the incident. Souder and Trombetti both later received letters of direction indicating that they had violated either the male student's right to privacy or right to due process in that they discussed the incident with his family and assumed that he was guilty before a hearing on the matter was held. DeGarmo also received a letter of direction for disclosing confidential information to other staff members.

{¶ 6} At the due process hearing for the students two days later, DeGarmo indicated she did not see sex or the male student's penis. Nally believed that what DeGarmo said at the hearing was inconsistent with what she had told him right after the incident. The students were allowed to return to school and no further discipline was taken against them.

{¶ 7} Worthington Schools believed that DeGarmo had lied, misrepresented, or provided false statements about her observations and further shared confidential information with staff members. Superintendent Melissa Conrath recommended that DeGarmo be terminated, and the Worthington School Board did so on December 13, 2012. The disciplinary action was modified on appeal to an unpaid suspension based on the inaccurate ...


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