National Roundup

Florida

Student sues school board after car crash

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) -- A central Florida high school student is suing the school board, claiming officials should have intervened before his teacher gave him alcohol and then let him drive home drunk.

Nineteen year-old Dylan Ferguson said his teacher gave him alcohol because she was romantically interested in his friend. A drunk Ferguson crashed her car into two vehicles in November 2009. The teacher, Meredith Witt, resigned days later.

She pleaded no contest to giving Ferguson and three other students alcohol and was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Ferguson, who was charged with drunken driving, pleaded no contest to a lesser charge and was placed on 12 months' probation.

The lawsuit says the Seminole County School Board should have known about the improper relationship.

A school board attorney was unavailable for comment.

New York

Judge tosses lawsuit over Islamic center near WTC

NEW YORK (AP) -- A judge has tossed out a lawsuit by a former New York City firefighter trying to stop the building of an Islamic community center near the World Trade Center.

The New York Times reports that State Supreme Court Justice Paul G. Feinman ruled Friday that Timothy Brown has no special legal standing to bring the suit.

Brown filed the suit after the Landmarks Preservation Commission denied landmark status to the building that would be torn down to make way for the center. A former Burlington Coat Factory store, it was damaged in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Critics have assailed the project as an insult to victims.

A lawyer for developer Sharif el-Gamal calls the decision "a victory for America."

Alaska

Ex-teachers sue Southeast Alaska school district

KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) -- Six former Annette Island School District teachers are suing the Metlakatla-based district, alleging they were not retained by the school board on the basis of race.

The plaintiffs, who are seeking at least $600,000, are Jennifer Erbelding, Shannon Dodge, Rebecca Scribner, Nevada Benton, Jodie Taylor and Mary Montgomery.

The school district denies the allegations.

The lawsuit -- filed in Ketchikan Superior Court in February -- says the school board decided last year not to retain the six. Dodge is Aleut and the other five are Caucasian.

Metlakatla, Alaska's only Indian reservation, is a Tsimshian community.

According to the complaint, the board opted to retain two other teachers, one who is Tsimshian and the other who allegedly has "personal ties" to the school district's superintendent, Eugene Avey.

"In response to the decision of the AISD board not to retain them, Dodge, Scribner and Benton immediately submitted resignations from their teaching positions at AISD, due to the extraordinary harm that would be done to their teaching careers from having their non-retentions be implemented," the complaint states. "After first challenging their non-retentions, Erbelding, Montgomery and Taylor subsequently also resigned from their teaching positions at AISD."

The lawsuit refers to a memorandum released to the community by the school district after the resignations prompted discussion in Metlakatla.

Plaintiffs' attorney Terry Venneberg provided a copy of the memo to the Ketchikan Daily News. In the memo, Avey notes the district's strategic plan "contains a fundamental belief that a major emphasis is to hire locally and keep highly effective teachers."

The memo notes a preference for hiring local Native teachers, according to the Daily News.

The document states that "renewing all elementary classroom teachers would tenure every (kindergarten through fifth-grade) teacher besides one. Tenure is essentially career long employment rights. Considering sovereign native rights, we try to provide equity in local hire. We have been receiving one local native application annually in the past two years."

The complaint states that the decision to not retain the six teachers was made on the basis of their race and constituted unlawful employment discrimination under the constitution and statutes of the State of Alaska.

Venneberg said the Annette Island School District is a political subdivision of the State of Alaska, and is subject to state laws regarding hiring practices.

The school district through its attorney, Allen Clendaniel, denied the allegations, including the contention that one of the retained teachers has a relationship with the superintendent.

Utah

Family of convicted killer appeals lawsuit ruling

PROVO, Utah (AP) -- The family of a man who fatally shot his wife in a church parking lot in January 2008 is appealing a judge's decision to dismiss a lawsuit against the health care providers who prescribed him mood-altering drugs.

The children of David Ragsdale are asking the Utah Supreme Court to overturn District Judge Denise Lindberg's December dismissal of the suit against nurse practitioner Trina West, Dr. Hugo Rodier and Pioneer Comprehensive Medical Clinic, the Daily Herald of Provo reported.

The family's lawyers have argued Ragsdale's murder of his wife, Kristy, was a "foreseeable" result of a mixture of psychotropic medications he had been prescribed, and the health care professionals didn't adequately monitor his dosage.

Ragsdale shot his wife 13 times as she headed to services at a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints chapel in Lehi with her children. He later pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.

Lindberg wrote that she dismissed the case because there was no relationship between the plaintiffs -- Ragsdale's children -- and the health care providers.

Lindberg also noted that Ragsdale was not one of the plaintiffs, and that his children could not step into his "shoes to pursue a malpractice lawsuit against the defendants."

But lawyer Tyler Young, who represents the children, maintained similar cases set a precedent for their complaint and case law supports their position.

The Utah Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, but it could take several months until a hearing is scheduled.

Ragsdale was diagnosed at the clinic with attention deficit disorder and was taking seven medications at the time of the shooting, according to the suit filed in 3rd District Court. The drugs included a psychostimulant, two steroids, two antidepressants, a tranquilizer and a hair-loss medication.

Published: Tue, Jul 12, 2011