CHARLESTON – The Kanawha County Board of Education and Superintendent Ron Duerring won their battle to have a lawsuit against them dismissed more than two years after former George Washington High School Vice Principal Peter Corbett quit his job.
On July 21, U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver dismissed the first and second counts of the suit –wrongful termination and negligent supervision -- because Corbett failed to "exhaust his administrative remedies with the West Virginia Public Employees' Grievance Board," Billie Jo Streyle of Bailey and Wyant told the "Charleston Daily Mail."
Corbett's third count – retaliation over First Amendment rights – was dismissed because he failed to furnish adequate facts to support his claim, Streyle said.
"I believe Judge Copenhaver's ruling dismissing Mr. Corbett's claims against the Kanawha County Board of Education and Dr. Duerring is a just legal decision based upon the true facts of the case," Streyle said in a statement.
Corbett filed his lawsuit Dec. 23 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Duerring and the board, alleging they wrongfully fired him in retaliation for his exercise of First Amendment rights.
In his complaint, Corbett claims he and Duerring have been butting heads since October 1999 when Duerring summoned Corbett to his office to discuss disciplinary actions Corbett took as vice principal of George Washington High School.
"During the course of said discussion, defendant Duerring made clear to Plaintiff that he had to learn to 'make deals' with students who were the children of persons of influence in order to prevent such persons from complaining to Defendant Duerring," the suit states.
"After Plaintiff indicated to Defendant Duerring that he would not 'make deals' or give special treatment to any students based on the influence of their parents, Defendant Duerring advised Plaintiff that his failure to 'make deals' would interfere with his ability to receive promotions in the future."
After the incident, Corbett claims Duerring attempted to retaliate against him by overlooking him for various positions in Kanawha County schools. In addition, Duerring disciplined Corbett for a variety of actions he undertook, which he doesn't specify but does say regarded matters of public concern.
Corbett was suspended without pay from Nov. 26 through Nov. 30 in 2007 as the result of a cookout in GW's parking lot on April 20, 2007, according to a Charleston Daily Mail article.
GW Principal Nancy Alexander had directed the campus be closed and no outside activities take place during the week of April 16 through 20, which was the week of the Virginia Tech Shootings. However, Corbett did not know about the rule because he had been out of town, he said.
So, when a group of students asked him if they could try a new grill that plugged into the back of their truck on April 20, Corbett agreed to supervise the lunch.
When he found out about his suspension, Corbett decided to use his days off cooking hot dogs at the corner of Elizabeth Street and Lee Street, raising money for battered women. The location happened to be half a block from the school board's central office.
In his lawsuit, Corbett claimed Duerring succeeded in a final effort to retaliate against him when he recommended to the Kanawha County Board of Education that Corbett be fired.
Corbett quit hours before he was to be terminated from his job.
In their response to the suit, Duerring and the board contended that Corbett should not have filed suit as late as he did.
"The crux of Plaintiff's Complaint involves the alleged conversation that he had with Dr. Duerring in or about October 1999," the motion to dismiss says. "For each legal claim raised by Plaintiff in his Complaint, the statute of limitations began to run in October 1999, after Plaintiff informed Dr. Duerring of his refusal to 'make deals' with students whose parents were persons of influence (the alleged catalyst), which started Dr. Duerring's alleged retaliation against him for a period of approximately 10 years, until his termination in September 2008. Plaintiff cannot wait for 10 years to file suit against Defendants for injuries he knew existed in October 1999."
U.S. District Court case number: 2:10-102