Teacher files lawsuit against District 205, LaVonne Sheffield
By Jim Hagerty
A local teacher filed a federal lawsuit against Rockford Public School District 205 and Superintendent Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield Monday, April 25.
According to the three-count suit, Shannon Symonds, who taught in the district from 2006 to 2010, was the victim of retaliation and First Amendment violations.
Symonds was terminated last March along with 600 non-tenured teachers. After learning she was being let-go, she interviewed for and was promised another position within the district.
However, Symonds alleges, she was not rehired because reported an incident during which she was physically assaulted by a student. It was not until the teachers union interceded was she permitted to receive medical attention, the complaint alleges. Symonds also began speaking publicly about her unhappiness with the district’s hiring practices.
“Instead of being rehired, she was denied every opportunity while many less qualified and experienced teachers were hired,” Symonds’ attorney, Dan McGrail, said.
Count I and II of the complaint allege that the district and Sheffield violated Symonds’ right to speak freely.
“Shannon has essentially been blacklisted by the Sheffield Administration for exercising her First Amendment rights relating to reporting criminal conduct by a student, and for speaking out against injustices in the administration’s hiring practices,” McGrail said.
The suit also claims the decision not to rehire Symonds was a retaliatory measure that caused her economic and non-economic hardships.
Symonds now teaches in Freeport. Her last position with District 205 was at McIntosh Elementary School.
As for damages, Symonds had no comment. She did say that she hopes incoming school board members will provide some assistance in resolving the case.
“I have every hope that the new board will settle this matter,” Symonds said.
Attempts to reach District 205 officials and Dr. LaVonne Sheffield were unsuccessful Monday, April 25.
As of this report, it was not known when Symonds and representatives from the district are scheduled to appear in court.
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