By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
A former teacher at Havre Middle School has sued Havre Public Schools for more than $200,000, alleging she was sexually harassed by a former student and was discriminated against by the school district.
Lorna Stremcha, who taught English at the middle school until she was fired on April 30, filed the suit Thursday in state District Court.
The suit alleges that on April 16, 2002, Stremcha was confronted by an 18-year-old man at the middle school during regular school hours. The man, a former student, "subjected her to intense sexual harassment," according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says HMS Principal Vance Blatter and Barry Zanto, dean of students at the middle school, "knowingly subjected" Stremcha to harassment by the student and others. It also alleges that from the time of the incident until she was fired a year later, the school district retaliated against Stremcha for complaining about the incident as well as about her treatment by school district employees and about "a sexually offensive and hostile work environment."
Blatter and Zanto could not be reached for comment today.
"We're aware that Mrs. Stremcha has filed suit in District Court and we're currently working with an attorney to file a response," HPS Superintendent Kirk Miller said Tuesday. He declined to comment further.
The district has 20 days from the time the lawsuit is served to file a response.
The suit also alleges that HPS discriminated against Stremcha for the entire time she worked for the school district, beginning in August of 1993.
"From the commencement of her employment through her termination, the Defendant has treated the Plaintiff differently than male employees and has condoned discrimination against the Plaintiff due to her sex," the document says.
It alleges the school district violated Stremcha's human rights, prompting her to file complaints with the state Human Rights Bureau and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Stremcha filed a complaint with the Human Rights Bureau in August 2002. The bureau concluded that evidence did not support Stremcha's claim of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation. Stremcha appealed and the Montana Human Rights Commission dismissed the complaint on June 4.
Randy Randolph, Stremcha's attorney, did not return calls seeking comment. Stremcha declined to comment Tuesday.