Ex-Otwell Principal Fears Sues School

A former principal of an elementary school in Pike County has filed a lawsuit against the school corporation.

Rick Fears, the former principal at Otwell Elementary School, is suing the Pike County School Corporation on grounds that he was wrongfully fired from the corporation. The lawsuit comes about a month after Fears was fired.

The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in Evansville, makes three complaints against the corporation. Fears is first of all seeking a restraining order to prevent his contract from being ended by the corporation before the originally slated June termination date. In this first complaint, Fears further touted his accomplishments at Otwell in the lawsuit and alleges that he will suffer loss beyond repair due to lack of income and benefits in addition to damage to his reputation should he not be reinstated.

The second complaint made by Fears in the lawsuit accuses the school corporation of breaching his contract by putting him on administrative leave on July 1st to begin considering whether or not to fire him.

The third and final complaint in the lawsuit states that Fears was discriminated against when he was ‘singled out’ by the school board and treated differently as retribution for comments Fears made about the functionality of school board plans. This, according to the complaint, is a violation of Fears’ First Amendment rights. Additionally, the third complaint alleges Fears was held to a different standard than other district employees and thus suffered damage to his reputation. Fears is asking for adequate compensation from the school district for the alleged damages.

Pike County School Board attorney Val Fleig says the board has not yet been notified of the lawsuit. However, he says that he expects the corporation will have to formally respond to the complaint within 20 days of service.

Fears was originally placed on administrative leave back on July 1st following allegations of misconduct. A ‘findings of fact’ statement released by the school board at the time alleged that Fears failed to follow teacher evaluation guidelines and did not adhere to guidelines of the school corporation’s rise model of evaluation. Other charges against Fears include allegations that he violated Family Education Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) guidelines and testing guidelines along with an allegation that he tried to change data for a state report. Fears was officially fired back on September 3rd.

Prior to his firing, Fears had been employed by the Pike County School Corporation for 23 years, 7 of those as principal at Otwell Elementary. His most recent contract was set to expire in June of next year.

Jim Isaacs was appointed as interim principal at Otwell Elementary and will continue serving in that role until a permanent replacement is found.