Teacher Awarded $1 Mil in NC Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

The financial hits to the Charlotte-Macklenburg School District seem to keep coming. In addition to finding itself $27.5 million in the hole after an iPad shopping spree, the district was recently handed a defeat in the lawsuit filed by Jeffrey Leardini, who claimed he was forced to resign his teaching position after several students accused him of inappropriate touching. Leardini, who was an 8-year veteran of the CMS, had left his job in 2006 after the administrator handling the investigation misled him into believing that he needed to leave in order to receive pay for the rest of the year and to avoid further investigations into his conduct.

After hearing the evidence, the jury sided with Leardini and awarded him one million dollars. The district is planning to appeal the decision. CMS lawyers Mason Alexander and Martha Kingston filed a motion in which they say that the U.S. District Judge Graham Mullen was unclear in his jury instruction and also challenging the award as being a product of "passion of prejudice."

"The award has no rational relationship to the evidence of damages at trial and … is so excessive that to allow it to stand would result in a miscarriage of justice."

In addition to the judgment against the district, Leardini was also awarded $52,000 from Kay Cunnigham, who worked for CMS as an employee relations specialist, for giving Leardini false information during his termination interview. The defendants have also been ordered to pay his court costs.

In an earlier article reporting on the investigations into the accusations leveled against Leardini, the Charlotte Magazine summarized the matter thusly:

"Committed to teaching, recently married, and frequently singled out for praise by administrators, students, and parents during his eight-year career, Leardini found himself suddenly caught up in a Kafkaesque spiral triggered by the accusations of twelve-year-old children."

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