Former Security Officer Files Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Natrona County School District
A Native American and former campus security officer for the Natrona County School District claims in a federal civil rights lawsuit that it and top officials conspired to violate his civil rights when it fired him shortly after de-escalating an incident with a violent student in 2022.
"A reasonable person can only conclude that the District's actions were motivated by nothing less than overt racism," Andy Ready said through his attorney Joshua Kirk McGill of Denver in the complaint filed in U.S. District Court on Friday.
District spokeswoman Tanya Southerland sent this email to K2 Radio News: "Due to current litigation, the district does not have a comment at this time."
Ready was a Casper Police officer and had to resign due to medical issues.
He worked for District as a student advocate from 2010 to 2016, then as a campus security officer, and finally as administrative manager from 2019 until his termination in February 2022.
The defendants, with the individuals being sued in their personal and official capacities, are:
- The District itself.
- The District's board of trustees.
- District Superintendent Michael Jennings.
- Associate District Superintendent Verba Echols.
- Executive Director for School Improvement Angela Hensley.
- CY Middle School Principal Amy Rose.
- John and Jane Does, unknown individuals, in their personal capacities, and their official capacities as District employees.
On Feb. 2, 2022, the assistant principal at CY Middle School told Ready to go to a classroom of a dual language instructor where the teacher was conducting a Chinese New Year event with food, and hot plates for heating water.
When Ready arrived at the classroom, the student referred to LP had been ordered by the teacher to leave for misbehavior, but he refused. The student told Ready, "'guess you're here for me.'"
Ready tried to persuade LP to come with him, but the student stood and walked further into the classroom.
He then took LP's right wrist in a non-violent wrist lock, put his left hand on LP's shoulder to guide him from the classroom, as well as using verbal de-escalation techniques -- techniques taught to him by the District for removing noncompliant students
While trying to remove him from the classroom, Ready, who had back surgery the previous year, was kicked in the leg.
LP resisted leaving the classroom, grabbed the door frame, jumped, and kicked Ready again.
Once in the hallway, Ready used other District-approved techniques to nonviolently get LP under control including verbal de-escalation techniques.
LP then started throw himself into the lockers on the other side of the hall, and Ready put himself between him and the lockers to prevent LP from hurting himself.
LP then agreed to comply and walked with Ready to Ready's office where LP received a disciplinary write-up. The entire incident lasted one minute. He reported the incident to the assistant principal and the Casper Police Department.
Within a day, everything went south for Ready as the District received contradictory reports with the end result being the District ignoring evidence that would have exonerated him.
Instead, the District eventually fired him.
Within a half-hour of the incident, LP's parents called the District and said Ready abused their child.
The next day, a Casper Police officer opened a formal investigation by interviewing Read, viewing the video of the incident from the hall outside the classroom, and writing a report. The officer concluded, "Ready was the victim of a violent assault, and acted appropriately using 'his training and experience to remove a on compliant and potential violent student from a classroom.'"
However, District officials did not consider Ready's report to the assistant principal nor the police report.
They suspended Ready less than two hours after the incident.
District Superintendent Michael Jennings signed the letter of suspension and copied it to CY Middle School Principal Amy Rose.
The District conducted a "defectively cursory investigation," and refused to let Ready view the surveillance video -- and still hasn't.
The District also took no disciplinary action against LP.
Meanwhile, Rose filed a report about Ready to the Wyoming Department of Family Services alleging child abuse.
The Department responded on Feb. 4 that Ready's actions did not constitute abuse. The District did not tell Ready about that response.
On Feb. 17, the District -- without giving him due process -- issued a letter to Ready saying he violated a school board policy, which justified his eventual termination.
The District had scheduled a "pre-termination meeting" on Feb. 22, but inclement weather pushed that to March 22, after which it formally terminated Ready.
Meanwhile, Ready learned the only attorney in Wyoming who handled education issues was Craig Silva of the Casper firm of Williams, Porter, Day, & Neville.
He talked to Silva who said it would be a bad idea for him to hire an attorney because "'if he wanted to keep his job 'don't get an attorney and fight it.'" Ready insisted on hiring an attorney, Silva recommended one in Cheyenne, adding Ready "'would not have a job when you're finished.'"
During the conversation, Silva did not identify himself as being the outside general counsel for the District.
Silva later admitted to Ready's attorney McGill that the District already had decided to terminate Ready before March 22, and even had the paperwork prepared before what was to be an impartial hearing.
He also admitted that the only evidence the District considered was the video and not the police report nor other corroboration supporting Ready.
Silva did not return a call seeking comment.
Ready filed reports to seek administrative remedies with the Wyoming Department of Workforce services and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the latter of which issued him "right to sue" letters.
Ready's attorney McGill analyzed the incident in light of the District polices and found Ready knew of at least a dozen incidents in which White District employee "used significantly more force against a White student, and incidents in which he or other staff members used more force against a student of color, without being terminated."
The District's own policies showed Ready's actions did not constitute restraint or improper restraint of LP, he used minimal force, and used appropriate force to prevent the student from injuring himself or others.
In fact, the District applied its policy about the use of force -- which applies to staff and students -- in favor of the White assaulter LP against Ready, "valuing a white student's violent temper tantrum over the physical and emotional safety of one of its employees of color."
District officials did not ask Ready about his injuries or nor provide treatment for them.
The video showing the incident and the police report corroborated Ready's appropriate actions, and that LP violently assaulted him.
The lawsuit lists three categories of claims of relief: against individual defendants, against the District and its board of trustees, and all defendants.
Ready cites Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment, and the Americans Disabilities Act as the bases for the claims.
Claims against individual defendants.
- Equal proaction on the basis of race and color.
- Equal protection on the basis of disability.
- Pre-disciplinary due process, because he did not receive an opportunity to hear the charges against him and the opportunity to respond.
- Post-disciplinary due process by being denied a hearing which a neutral and impartial person or board hears from an employee charged with a violation, and receives and considers evidence.
- Substantial due process -- "The touchstone of Substantive Due Process is protection of the individual against arbitrary action of the government, whether the fault lies in a denial of fundamental procedural fairness or in the exercise of power without any reasonable justification in the service of a legitimate governmental objective."
Claims against the District and the Board:
- Municipal liability (pattern or practice). The District and Board have a de facto policy and custom "to engage in discrimination against employees who are members of protected classes," specifically treating minority employees differently that White male employees. Likewise they routinely deny employees their due process rights.
- Municipal liability (single decision by final policymaker). The elected board has authority over Superintendent Jennings, who acted under a policy of denying Equal Protection of law and Due Process to District employees ...." and he personally directed Executive Director for School Improvement Angela Hensley to fire Ready.
- Municipal Liabilty (ratification). Jennings ratified the unconstitutional conduct of Associate District Superintendent Verba Echols and Hensley, and the board ratified the unconstitutional conduct of Jennings.
- Disability Discrimination (under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act).
- Retaliation. Ready spoke and wrote multiple times to his superiors about his disabilities. He opposed their discrimination against him based on his disabilities, and race-based discrimination. Likewise, Silva told Ready not to hire an attorney and later admitted to McGill that he personally recommended to Jennings to fire Ready.
In the claims against all defendants:
- Conspiracy to violate civil rights. Jennings, Echols, Hensley, Rose and the Does each violated unestablished right.
Ready demands a jury trial.
He is asking the court to award him compensatory damages including back pay, "Nominal damages for any claims that establish a violation of law but for which no actual damages were incurred," punitive damages against the individual defendants, costs and attorneys' fees, pre- and post-judgment interest, "Any and all other damages permitted by rule or law."
"Ready finally respectfully requests that the Court provide such other relief as this Court in its judgment finds just and equitable."