CHARLESTON – A federal judge has granted a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against Marshall University alleging it denied issuing a woman her master’s degree because of her sexual orientation.
U.S. District Judge Thomas E. Johnston overruled the objections, adopted the proposed findings & recommendations, granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, denied the plaintiff’s motion to reopen and consolidate related actions and dismissed the complaint with prejudice., according to the Sept. 21 judgment order.
Pending before the court were the defendants’ motion to dismiss and the plaintiff’s motion to reopen and consolidate related actions. By standing order entered Jan. 4, 2016, and filed in the case on July 22, 2016, the action was referred to U.S. Magistrate Judge Dwane L. Tinsley for submission of proposed findings and a recommendation. Tinsley filed his PF&R on June 28, recommending that the court grant the defendants’ motion to dismiss and deny the plaintiff’s motion to reopen and consolidate related actions.
The plaintiff filed objections on July 5, objecting to the PF&R. The defendants filed a response on July 19. The court overruled the plaintiff’s objections.
Gene Brett Kuhn, Judith Southard, Sandra Bailey, Teresa Eagle, Lisa Heaton, David Pittenger and Marshall University were all named as defendants in the suit.
Lisa Marie Kerr claimed Marshall’s College of Education and Professional Development has a practice and de facto policy of permanently denying earning West Virginia teaching credentials to otherwise-qualified candidates, on the sole basis of their sexual orientation, according to a complaint filed July 22, 2016, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
Kerr claimed she has been permanently denied a degree after the defendants learned of her homosexual orientation and that she had an outstanding record until that point.
Numerous Marshall records, including the school’s own handbook, demonstrate beyond question that Kerr is a qualified teacher who was entitled to receive her earned West Virginia teaching credential in December 2013, according to the suit.
Kerr claimed instead, after learning of her sexual orientation, the defendants collaborated in purposeful action to deny her teaching credential and to prevent her from ever receiving that credential and to damage her professional and ethical reputation so severely that she could never become employed as a teacher or in any other professional capacity.
The defendants falsely accused her of committing a federal crime, by gaining unauthorized access to the Boone County computer system and altering student grades; falsely defamed her teaching as so woefully deficient that her supervisors routinely heard her being mocked in public places; falsely defamed her classroom performance as incompetent in 14 specific areas where unanimous previous observers had ranked her as proficient or distinguished; and published the incidents above in bad faith, knowing they were false and baseless, according to the suit.
Kerr claimed on Jan. 29, 2014, Pittenger issued Marshall’s final written denial of her requests to have the false statements removed from her public record and to be issued her earned MAT degree and West Virginia teaching credential.
The defendants’ unlawful actions caused a stark, all-encompassing negative change in her life circumstances, according to the suit.
Kerr was seeking compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of $25 million. She was representing herself.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number: 2:16-cv-06589