Potential substitute teacher claims discrimination

By John O'Brien | Apr 13, 2006

MARTINSBURG - A Berkeley County woman born with cerebal palsy is charging the Berkeley County School Board with discrimination after she was not hired for the position of substitute aide.

Tracey Sensabaugh filed the lawsuit March 24 in Berkeley Circuit Court through her attorney David M. Hammer.

Sensabaugh also lists Jackee Long, the School Board's Service Personal Coordinator, as a defendant.

"The Defendants discriminated against Mrs. Sensabaugh because of her disability in violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act," the complaint says. "Defendant Long's statements and actions towards Mrs. Sensabaugh were so mean and hurtful as to constitute the tort of outrage."

Sensabaugh says her condition substantially limits her ability to speak, write and walk, but volunteered as an aide at Hedgesville Elementary School in the 2004-05 school year.

In May 2005, Sensabaugh applied for the job. Her application was rejected because the School Board had all the applications it needed, she says she was told.

Sensabaugh says she learned the School Board was still accepting applications and submitted another one. Long sent her a letter stating that her possible hiring was being considered, and Sensabaugh took an aide competency test, which she passed.

Sensabaugh claims that Long told her in a conversation following an orientation event that she would be unable to do the job of a substitute aide because of her cerebal palsy.

After telling Long that she would only work those jobs her condition wouldn't impair her ability to perform correctly, she says Long told her that she wouldn't be hired because of her speech and because she was a liability to the School Board.

Assistant Superintendent David R. Deuell sent Sensabaugh a letter that said the Board was unable to offer a position.

"This was a knowingly false statement," the complaint says. "Berkeley County Schools was able to offer Mrs. Sensabaugh a position as a substitute aide, particularly given Mrs. Sensabaugh's expressed willingness to forgo assignments about which there were any question about her abilities."

Judge David Sanders has been assigned the case.

Berkeley Circuit Court case number: 06-C-200

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