06/22/12 A former contracted school bus driver for the Union-North United School Corporation has filed a lawsuit against the school corporation, current and former superintendents, school board members, and the former Director of Transportation alleging that she “experienced a continuing history of harassment, intimation, retaliation and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress beginning in January of 2011”. The contract of Kelly Carrico was terminated on or about February 9, 2012, prior to the end of her contract. Compensation under her contract was a daily mileage of 29.9 miles at $144 per day ($4.82 per mile). This included 180- student days, plus one safety day in addition to other days provided in other parts of the contract, according to the complaint.
Acting on her behalf in the matter is Attorney Vincent Campiti of South Bend. Representing the school board is Attorney Mark Scudder of Barnes and Thornburg of South Bend.
Specifically named in the 26-page complaint are Mitchell Mawhorter, current superintendent; Dr. Terry Barker, former superintendent; Lyla Swathwood, former director of transportation; along with current board members Michael Berger, Dave Grenert, Rob Swathwood, Dennis Graf, and Mark Dickson.
In addition to the termination of the contract, Carrico’s compliant includes a number of allegations of harassment.
The Union-North School Board held a special meeting on September 21, 2011 to determine if the contract of a bus driver should be terminated or not. During opening statements at that meeting, the then Superintendent Dr. Terry Barker asked the board to consider canceling the contract of Kelly Carrico for what he termed her refusal to transport a student on her bus.
Carrico has been driving bus for a total of 15 years, but not all of the 15 were for Union-North.
Although the child was not named at the special meeting, testimony indicated that he was six- years-old and enrolled in kindergarten at LaVille Elementary. According to information read from the child’s physician’s submission, the student is allergic to any type of peanut product and the condition could be life-threatening.
Carrico and Campiti were both present that the meeting.
Carrico and Campiti contend that she does not and cannot obtain adequate liability insurance because it is not offered to cover her if a problem was to arise concerning the child and his particular condition. The child’s parents contend that he could, if necessary, self-administer medication from an Epinephrine injection pen that he carries in his book bag.
Reportedly, Carrico did transport the child on her bus for approximately two weeks, but by September 7, began refusing to pick him up on her route. Barker said she refused admission on her bus by passing him up at his bus stop and then again refusing him admission on to the bus when a teacher took him out after school.
According to Carrico, she asked that the child be transported on a corporation owned bus or that she receive some type of letter stating that the corporation would take responsibility if a problem were to lead to a liability issue.
After over three hours, the board voted to recess until October 13 at 6:00 p.m. By that date, Barker would have left the employment of Union-North and assumed his new duties as Superintendent of School City of Mishawaka. The October 13, 2011 meeting ended with an agreement to not terminate the contract and to explore options for transporting the child.
Ultimately, the parents of the child filed a civil rights complaint with the Office of Civil Rights. The child does have 504 plan that protects his rights under federal laws and qualifies him for special services.
After several alternative measures had been tried, including having the child picked up by another driver, Carrico was asked to alter her route. Reportedly, she refused the substitute route noting that it was not a residential, but a highway route.
The complaint includes a request for a trial by jury.
Carol Anders Correspondent