Fired Teacher Loses Lawsuit

Fired Teacher Loses Lawsuit

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Marysvale woman has lost her lawsuit claiming she lost her job in the Sevier School District because she was non-Mormon and female.

The 12-member jury returned the verdict against Erin Jensen Monday night after a six-day trial and 9 1/2 hours of deliberation.

Jensen, her attorneys and jurors declined comment after the verdict.

Kirk Gibbs, an attorney for the school district and its officials, said the testimony had shown that Superintendent Brent Thorne "is a good man. His history, his actions and behavior toward different religions is what really carried the day."

Jensen worked as an English teacher at South Sevier High School for about three years before she was terminated in 2003 and told she could never apply for a job at the school district again.

Just months before she was fired, the teacher who founded the school's debate team and helped put together the yearbook was voted "teacher of the year" by school faculty.

District board members and Thorne testified they were concerned about SAT test scores in English when they chose to fire Jensen and another English teacher, a man. The two were the only full-time teachers who were not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

School officials also expressed concern that some parents had complained about Jensen teaching their children about different religions. And students referred to the hallway where the two non-Mormon teachers' rooms were located as "hell's corner."

Jensen's attorney, Erik Strindberg, cited an executive session in which board members, meeting to decide whether to terminate Jensen and the other teacher, allegedly were told by district officials that "She also believes in witchcraft and paints her windows in her classroom black. Halloween was her favorite holiday and she doesn't hide the fact that she prefers the dark side."

A district secretary testified that the minutes were changed to omit those comments. She said she was instructed to go back and delete any mention of rumor and hearsay from minutes as far back as 1994.

In his closing argument, Gibbs that in the past, Thorne had recommended hiring more women candidates than men and that he had knowingly hired non-Mormon staff.

Jensen was seeking $83,547 in lost wages plus compensatory damages of three years' salary for her suffering and unspecified punitive damages against Thorne. Jurors declined to comment after the verdict.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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