District 150 to settle two lawsuits

District 150 will pay $830,000 to settle two lawsuits

By: Andy Kravetz
9/22/2011

Peoria – Recently released documents indicate Peoria School District 150 will pay $830,000 to settle two pending federal lawsuits, with $140,000 coming directly from district officers.

At its Sept. 12 meeting, the School Board approved those settlements.   Steve Stimeling, a former District 150 security officer, was awarded $650,000. Charlesetta Williams, the mother of a 13-year old boy who allegedly was struck by a school employee, was awarded $180,000.

The suits were settled to the “satisfaction of the parties,” said Stanley Eisenhammer, the districts Arlington Heights-based attorney. Confidentially agreements barred him and other attorneys from commenting on particulars.

“The settlements were agreed upon in consultation with our attorneys,” said Chris Crawford, vice president of the School Board.

Stimeling had sued the former security chief of District 150, Ron Scales, and three other former District 150 officials – former Superintendent Ken Hinton, former human resources director Thomas Broderick and former assistant human resources director Charles Davis – for unfairly disciplining and later firing him from his position because he is white. The district was sued as well.

The case went to trial in April, but was halted after one day when Scales collapsed after hitting his head on the way out of the courtroom. Since then, the two sides indicated to the judge they wanted to resolve the case through a settlement.

In the agreement, Stimeling will get $650,000 in damages, which also will cover his attorney’s fees, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request by the Journal Star. The agreement further states Stimeling’s employment record will be purged of any punishment that arose from the alleged discrimination.

The district’s insurance policy will cover the majority of the settlement for Stimeling, but the district did have to pay a $50,000 deductible on the policy.

At issue is whether Stimeling was insubordinate on two occasions in 2005 and 2006.

The first incident was a fight at Manual High School in June 2005, when a student hit a faculty member. Stimeling says he arrested the boy, took down his name and handed him off to a trainee before leaving to quell the fracas.

When he came back, the student had escaped but was spotted by another faculty member in a large group of people. He claimed he followed procedure by not arresting the student again at that point because it wasn’t safe to approach the group by himself.

The district contended at trial Stimeling didn’t do his job that day when he failed to arrest the student.

The other incident occurred at Sterling Middle School in the summer of 2006, when Stimeling didn’t go to a classroom as requested by a principal. Stimeling says that wasn’t proper procedure. The district said campus police are supposed to calm down unruly classrooms when asked.

The other suit involved a 13-year old Greely Alternative School student who allegedly was struck by an employee at the school. The settlement says the School Board will pay Williams $90,000, with another $90,000 coming from the district’s insurance provider. According to the statement, district officials don’t admit liablility and have agreed to reassess the boy’s educational needs for the coming school year.

The money will go into a trust fund which will be reviewed by a Peoria County probate court judge.

The incident apparently happened as a fight broke out in a hallway, according to police. While trying to break up the brewing fight and disperse nearby students, the staff member repeatedly ordered the teen into the gym and the student did not comply, according to U.S. District Court records.

Later, while the employee was sitting with teachers in the gym, the student continued walking around. When the employee told him to pay attention, the student talked back, and the employee wrestled the child onto a table, the floor, and then in the hallway toward the principal’s office as the student struggled, according to court records.