Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Former Reading superintendent sues

Parr claims sexual harassment, discrimination

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

READING - The former superintendent of Reading Community City Schools is suing her old district and former school board member Tom Bemmes, claiming she was the victim of sexual harassment, along with gender and age discrimination.

Sherry Parr, 50, of West Chester Township filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court. Parr became Reading's superintendent Jan. 1, 2000. The board did not renew her contract in February 2002, and she was placed on administrative leave two months later.

In the lawsuit, Parr claims Bemmes called her at home before she began serving as superintendent and requested her resignation. She also said she received e-mails from Bemmes threatening to terminate her.

Parr said she received e-mails containing sexually explicit material from board member Bill Apking on numerous occasions. She said Apking copied the e-mails to Bemmes.

Despite its sexual harassment policy, "Reading Schools did nothing to correct this situation or prevent further harassment," the lawsuit says.

Parr says the board discriminated against her because she is a woman and she lost her job because of her age. The district, she says, replaced her with a younger employee who is male.

Bemmes responded: "I think it's a brand new low. ... She is suing the school board, and that is going to take money out of our children's pockets. That, in itself, speaks volumes. She was never discriminated against age-wise, gender-wise or any other-wise.

"Her allegations are groundless, baseless and it's a farce, but I'm not surprised. It's all about getting money for Sherry Parr. Isn't that a shame?"

In her suit, Parr also claims she met all performance expectations, but the board failed to increase her annual salary in August 2000 and 2001, as promised, if she met or exceeded expectations. The 1,400-student district, she said, reached an "effective" rating from the state under her leadership.

Board Vice President Jim Perdue and board member Mary Beth Shelton declined comment. Other members could not be reached.

Parr seeks unspecified lost pay and benefits, along with compensatory and punitive damages.

She began a new job last August as superintendent of Valley View Local Schools in Montgomery County.


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