Court-ordered mediation ordered by a federal judge in the lawsuit by Berryville resident Kenneth D. Liggins proved unsuccessful in Harrisonburg on Wednesday clearing the path for a trial later this year. Liggins’s lawsuit alleges that the Clarke County School Board violated his civil rights when Chairperson Robina Bouffault directed him to stop speaking during a public comment portion of a meeting in 2008. Liggins is seeking $10 million in damages.
“I can only say that no settlement was reached” School Board Chariman Robina Bouffault said on Thursday evening. “The lawsuit will proceed as scheduled.”
Federal Judge Glen E. Conrad has set a jury trial in the case for Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. The suit stems from an April, 2008 school board meeting involving the reassignment of then D.G. Cooley Principal Brenda Jones, who had served in the position for five years. Bouffault allegedly asked Liggins to to sit down after he claimed that the School Board violated Section 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 even though no formal decision had yet been voted on. When Liggins continued to speak Bouffault asked staff member Tom Judge to call the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office.
Court-ordered mediation is a common practice by judges in attempting to resolve disputes prior to trial. Although Wednesday’s mediation did not result in an agreement nothing prevents either side from re-engaging in the process between now and September. Based on reports about Wednesday’s session there still may be some hope for avoiding the costly legal expenses that will be incurred should the matter proceed to trial.
CCPS Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy said “The mediation session was held yesterday (Wednesday, May 19, 2010) and, while positive, no resolution was reached.”
Both Robina Bouffault and School Board member Janet Alger attended, along with legal counsel. The Clarke County School Board and it members are covered by litigation insurance purchased from the Virginia School Board Association.