SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A former Utah high school administrator is suing the district, saying he was wrongly laid off after a 2012 controversy over girls being turned away from a homecoming dance because their dresses were deemed too short.
Former Stansbury High School Assistant Principal Keith Davis became the face of the dress code dust-up that garnered national headlines.
Davis one of the staff members who made the decision to turn the girls away that night. Then later, after Principal Kendall Topham apologized to students and announced a second homecoming dance would be held to atone, a letter sent to staff by Davis that was leaked showed he continued to blame the students.
Davis is seeking reinstatement, back pay and damages, according to a lawsuit filed last month in federal court in Utah. Davis says in court documents he was transferred to a special education department that he considered a demotion, where he was ignored. Then, he was let go in 2013 in a two-person layoff the district said was because they couldn't fund the position.
"Mr. Davis was a career employee and was terminated in a sham," the lawsuit says.
Tooele County School District Scott Rogers said Tuesday that the claims are "erroneous and unfounded." The district is confident it followed all laws and district policy, Rogers said.
"Anybody can make a claim," he said. "But can you prove it?"
Rogers' predecessor, Terry Linares, was not available for comment. Linares, who was superintendent when the incident occurred, is named in the lawsuit.
The Salt Lake Tribune first reported the lawsuit Tuesday (http://bit.ly/1zLc5r3).
Davis worked 18 years as an educator before he was let go in 2013 by Tooele County School District, the lawsuit says. Davis became a teacher after retiring from the U.S. Army in 1993 as a lieutenant colonel.
Davis became assistant principal at Stansbury High School in April 2012. Five months later, he became engulfed in the dance debacle, which triggered a backlash from parents and students who called it a "homecoming spirit massacre."
The high school principal held four assemblies the next week telling students the school's dress code policy was too vague to be properly enforced. He organized a second homecoming dance.
But in a letter attributed to Davis that was obtained by the Tooele Transcript Bulletin, Davis wrote, "What is sadder is that the school and the administration are being made out to be the villains in the drama caused by poor choices made by a few girls," the Tribune reports.
After being laid off, Davis applied for several other positions in the district but with no luck. He believes the district refused to hire despite being qualified because of what happened at the dance.
Davis' attorney, Lauren Scholnick, writes in the lawsuit that Davis' professional reputation has been damaged. Scholnick tells the Tribune that district officials transferred and laid him off to get around terms of his contract.
Rogers said that's not the case: Davis was let go simply because his position could no longer be funded.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com