Skip to Content

Former JCPS principal sues district for discrimination

A former Lewis & Clark Middle School principal is seeking damages from the Jefferson City Public School district in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Cole County Circuit Court.

Sherri Thomas claims in the petition that the district “created a racially hostile, ageist, retaliatory environment” that violates the Missouri Human Rights Act.

The lawsuit alleges that JCPS Superintendent Larry Linthicum and Assistant Superintendent Gary Verslues made racially insensitive comments to Thomas and others.

Several alleged incidents are described in the lawsuit petition, which you can read here.

One claim in the lawsuit is that Linthicum made a racially charged statement to a group of parents in August 2016, saying the district “(needs) to watch kids of color… and saggy pants.”

Verslues allegedly told Thomas in February 2018 that he was “really disappointed” that diversity was one of the qualities that Thomas prioritized during a search for a new assistant principal.

Thomas retired from her role at Lewis & Clark in June of 2018 even though she still wanted to work for the district. In the lawsuit, Thomas said she was never approached about a contract renewal and decided to leave “in hopes of avoiding the humiliation of being openly forced out.”

Before her last day, Thomas said in the lawsuit that she spoke with Verslues about his comment on her emphasis on diversity during the assistant principal search. Verslues allegedly told Thomas, “There wasn’t a tape recorder in the room” and denied saying he was disapointed.

Dr. Deanne Fisher is the current principal of Lewis & Clark Middle School.

JCPS spokeswoman Ryan Burns issued the following statement in response to Thomas’ lawsuit:

Jefferson City Public Schools remains committed to providing a positive work environment for our employees as we strive to become a premier school district, which includes expectations of high performance for our district leaders and administrators in support of our efforts to continually improve the learning environment in our schools. We find Ms. Thomas’ allegations to be patently untrue and appreciate having an opportunity to present our perspective throughout the judicial process.

Thomas’ case is the third employment discrimination lawsuit filed against the district this year. The other two were filed in January by Naveed Malik and Denise Rackers.

On Monday, a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by a former district employee, Robert Jones, was dismissed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

“While we respect the right of individuals to assert themselves via legal action, we always felt Mr. Jones’ claim was without merit, and are pleased that the Court agreed with our position,” Burns said.

In April, ABC 17 News reported that lawsuits and legal fees had cost the district and taxpayers over $1 million.

Thomas did not immediately return a request for comment.

Article Topic Follows: News

Jump to comments ↓

ABC 17 News Team


ABC 17 News is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content