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Yukon school district settles civil lawsuit with former vocational-agriculture students

The Yukon School Board voted 4 to 1 Monday night to settle with two women, who are now in college, in their bullying suit.
by Andrew Knittle Modified: May 8, 2014 at 4:59 pm •  Published: May 7, 2014
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/articleid/4747207/1/pictures/2592527">Photo - Yukon student Kaylen Baker and her agriculture teacher Tim Herren work with “Grandpa” during the Oklahoma Youth Expo at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City in March of 2012. <cutline_credit_leadin>Photo by Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman Archive</cutline_credit_leadin> <strong>PAUL HELLSTERN</strong>
Yukon student Kaylen Baker and her agriculture teacher Tim Herren work with “Grandpa” during the Oklahoma Youth Expo at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City in March of 2012. Photo by Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman Archive PAUL HELLSTERN

Simeroth told The Oklahoman that Bilderback’s insurance company will pay $10,000 to the plaintiffs “to avoid (the) cost of litigation without an admission of guilt.”

Simeroth provided an excerpt of the settlement agreement to The Oklahoman on Thursday, which discusses Bilderback’s position.

“Mr. Bilderback denies the claims made by plaintiffs against him,” the settlement agreement states, “and the amount paid on his behalf by his liability insurer shall not be construed as an admission of guilt.”

 

Source of tension

The lawsuit claims the whistle-blower status attained by the women’s parents led other students in Yukon’s FFA program to harass, isolate and bully the women on a regular basis.

Court records show that one of the women was routinely excluded from group events and was “misinformed” on one occasion about a meeting for FFA officers.

“On May 9, 2012, vo-ag teacher Tim Herren sent (the girl) on an errand to pick up deposit slips,” the women’s attorney wrote in the petition.

“Upon returning, (the girl) was locked out of the ag office by other vo-ag students. (The girl) knocked on the door and the window but was ignored by three students in the office.”

The woman was the only junior FFA officer who was not re-elected to her post shortly after the incident involving Herren, court records show.

The lawsuit also claims that Yukon school counselors told one of the women on “multiple occasions that it would be best for her to transfer schools.”

One of the women was harassed by a former Yukon agriculture instructor while she was showing an animal at the Tulsa State Fair, the lawsuit states.

Since the lawsuit was filed, Simeroth said several changes have been made at Yukon Public Schools to combat bullying within the district. He said more anti-bullying training — for both students and faculty — is being provided.

Simeroth also said a district employee with other duties has been appointed “bullying coordinator” and that two hot lines are available for students and parents to make reports.

“The safety of our students is very important. ... It’s something we take very seriously, at any school district,” the administrator said. “I’m about moving forward ... and that’s what we’re going to do. And just hope we’ve all learned from this.”

by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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