Saturday, August 26, 2000

Teacher files lawsuit, claims libel




By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — A former Waynesville High School science teacher, who sued the school district over his reassignment to study hall instructor, now is trying to silence people he thinks spoke out against him.

        Donald Tharr filed a libel lawsuit this week in Warren County Common Pleas Court, claiming six people — including the mother of last year's valedictorian — made false statements to school authorities and others that he engaged in inappropriate behavior with female students.

        Mr. Tharr claimed the statements were an effort to have him fired. He wants a jury to award him more than $25,000 each in compensatory and punitive damages, and asks that the defendants be ordered to stop making defamatory statements.

        The lawsuit alleges that:

        • Three unidentified men and one identified woman told district Superintendent Tom Isaacs that Mr. Tharr “makes inappropriate com ments, and inappropriately touches students.”

        • Spring Valley resident Mary Raab, whose daughter was valedictorian, distributed a letter to Mr. Isaacs, the Waynesville School Board and three local newspapers, saying that Mr. Tharr was a “sexual predator” who “fondles and sexually harasses” high-school girls.

        • Nikki Nester-McNeely, of Mason, made a public statement that Mr. Tharr was a teacher “who gets too friendly with his female stu dents.”

        Mrs. Raab declined to comment, and Mrs. Nester-McNeely could not be reached Thursday. Mr. Tharr also was unavailable.

        Mr. Isaacs would say only: “Mary Raab has never in my presence called Donald Tharr a sexual predator.” He said he did not know Mrs. Nester-McNeely.

        The libel lawsuit comes six months after Mr. Tharr sued school officials twice over his reassignment to study hall.

        The reassignment oc curred after Mr. Tharr was reprimanded for trading stock commodities on the school computer, and began calling in sick, court records show.

        The district replaced Mr. Tharr with another science teacher, but transferred the 27-year teaching veteran to study hall at the same pay — more than $50,000.

        On Jan. 31, Mr. Tharr sued Mr. Isaacs for more than $150,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, alleging that Mr. Isaacs made false accusations, placed him on administrative leave, ordered him out of the high school, threatened to fire him and withheld $4,000 in sick pay.

        On Feb. 8, Mr. Tharr sued Mr. Isaacs; the Wayne Local School District; and John Lazares, superintendent of the Warren County Board of Education, saying they illegally transferred him to another job in violation of his contract. A judge since has ruled that Mr. Isaacs did not have any authority in the matter, and removed him as a defendant in that lawsuit.

       



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