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Teacher suit against SACS may be over

Defamation alleged over ISTEP+

The lawsuit filed by a former Southwest Allen County Schools teacher against the district has apparently been settled.

According to the court docket in U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne, both sides have until Aug. 1 to file paperwork agreeing on a dismissal or a report about the status of the case.

Filed in March 2013 by Laura Farner against SACS, the board of trustees and then-district Superintendent Steven Yager, the lawsuit accused the defendants of forcing her to resign and defaming her by telling others she fostered cheating on the ISTEP+ tests.

In March 2011, SACS discovered a Summit Middle School teacher breached protocol on the state’s annual ISTEP+ test, given annually to assess school and student performance. The test scores for 120 seventh-graders were invalidated, according to court documents.

Yager sent letters to the parents of children who may have been affected and then two anonymous callers implicated Farner in another possible ISTEP+ violation, this time at Haverhill Elementary School. Shortly after those phone calls, Farner was placed on administrative leave.

A 28-year employee of the district, Farner contends she was told that if she resigned, the list of accusations would not be put in her personnel file and she could retain her benefits, according to court documents.

In the lawsuit, Farner said she felt she needed to retire at the end of the 2010-11 school year in order to protect her retirement. She asked for a hearing before the board to “respond to the false charges and to clear her name” but that request was denied, according to court documents.

In their response to the lawsuit, SACS attorneys argued the district denied Farner’s resignation was forced and denied she was defamed.

They argued Farner was not entitled to any of the relief sought by the lawsuit.

No information about the purported settlement was made available in court documents as of Monday afternoon.

In May, mediator C. Erik Chickedantz notified the court that settlement was achieved on May 7, but no further details were released.

rgreen@jg.net

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