YUKON — Two women who claim they were bullied by teachers and students at Yukon High School during the 2010-11 school year will be paid $110,000 as part of a settlement reached with the fast-growing school district.
The Yukon School Board voted 4 to 1 on Monday night to settle with the women, who are now in college.
Yukon Public Schools Superintendent Jason Simeroth said the school district will pay the women $100,000. The other $10,000 will come from former Yukon agriculture instructor Eric Bilderback’s insurance company, Simeroth said.
The names of the women are not disclosed in court records. The civil lawsuit was filed by the women’s mothers, Debbie Wright and Dana Soupene, in November 2012.
Wright said her daughter and the other former student continue to face harassment and bullying, even years later.
The lawsuit, which remains pending in Canadian County District Court until a judge approves the out-of-court settlement, accuses former Yukon FFA instructors and several students of harassing and bullying the two women during the 2010-11 school year.
According to the lawsuit, the women were targeted by fellow students and at least three former agriculture instructors after Wright and Soupene helped to uncover misconduct and fraud within the Yukon vocational agriculture program.
At the time of the alleged bullying, Wright and her husband, Randy, discovered that Jason Bow, a former Yukon agriculture instructor who resigned his position in May 2011, had overcharged her daughter for a show steer by roughly $4,000. Other district parents also had been overcharged, court records show.
Bow last month pleaded no contest to two counts of embezzlement, drawing two years of probation but no jail time.
Other former Yukon agriculture instructors who are named in the bullying lawsuit have moved to other schools. Tim Herren went on to take a similar position at Cushing schools. Bilderback, who briefly worked for Yukon Public Schools around the time of the alleged bullying, has since moved on to El Reno schools.
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.”