Former HR director sues Muncie schools, alleges sex, race, gender harassment

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A woman who served Muncie Community Schools for more than three decades as a teacher and administrator has filed a federal lawsuit against the district alleging unlawful harassment.

Superintendent Steven Baule on Aug. 8, 2017, called issues the Muncie school district has faced “unacceptable.” (WISH Photo)

Kathy Ray began the job as director of human resources in July 2015. Her lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, says school superintendent Steven Baule began “a course of inappropriate, severely offensive and intimidating conduct” on the basis of sex, race and gender that created a hostile work environment while she was the human resources director.

Some examples of Bauer’s comments cited in the lawsuit:

  • At a meeting of minority administrators, Baule said, “I came down because I thought there needed to be another white person in this group.”
  • In a group of people, Baule engaged in a lengthy discussion about the differences between “light and dark skinned black people” and the role that difference plays in race relations.
  • Baule routinely stated in reference to employees that “I don’t have to fire people … I make them miserable enough they leave.”
  • Baule told Ray that when she disagreed with him that he would replace her with a $50,000-per-year employee.
  • Ray had taken complaints from women employed by the school district about sexually based statements and actions by Baule.

Ray said in the lawsuit she had an obligation as human resources director to take action against her superior’s conduct but knew he had sought the termination of others who had opposed him. Ray resigned Sept. 8, 2016, as a result of the hostile work environment, the lawsuit said.

Ray is seeking compensation for all damages suffered because of Baule’s conduct as well as “just and proper relief,” the lawsuit said. She requested a jury trial.

Ray and Baule are both white.

The school board president, Deborah Feick, responded to a WISH-TV request for comment on the lawsuit:

“MCS is committed to maintaining an education and work environment that is free from all forms of unlawful harassment. The School Board has implemented formal and informal processes for persons who believe that they have been subjected to unlawful harassment. When the allegations asserted in Ms. Ray’s Complaint were brought to the attention of the MCS School Board, they were promptly investigated and found to be unsubstantiated. MCS denies the allegations in Ms. Ray’s Complaint and will proceed with defending against the lawsuit.”

The lawsuit comes as the Muncie School Board prepares to decide whether the emergency manager appointed by the state should be given full control over the district’s finances and academics.

The district has implemented a deficit-reduction plan that included the closure of three elementary schools and the elimination of teaching and staffing positions. It’s expected to have a balanced budget in 2018 as well as positive cash flow. However, the district is expected to finish 2017 with a budget deficit of $12 million, because of past mismanagement, property-tax caps and other factors.

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