A newly elected member of the Prior Lake-Savage school board is asking the district for a monetary settlement to avoid a lawsuit for what he says was unfair termination from his job at Prior Lake High School this past summer.
An attorney for Chris Lind confirmed Friday that he sent what he called a "demand letter" to the district last week suggesting that the district provide a monetary settlement for Lind. The letter, attorney David Thompson said, did not specify an amount.
Thompson declined to release the letter to the Star Tribune, saying that he doesn't "want to fight this thing in the media."
The letter is the latest development in the ongoing drama surrounding the school board and Lind, a devout Christian whose firing and subsequent election to the school board has created an uproar in Prior Lake and Savage.
The district, on the recommendation of Superintendent Tom Westerhaus, had fired Lind in June from his job as campus supervisor because of "job performance and insubordination," although his supporters argue that the district fired Lind for talking to students off campus about abstinence.
After Lind was elected to the school board last month, Westerhaus resigned, saying that "the election to the board of a former employee, whom I had progressively disciplined and ultimately recommended for final dismissal ... confirmed for me that it was time to move on."
For a school board member to sue the school board he or she sits on would be "very rare," according to Bob Lowe, associate deputy director of the Minnesota School Boards Association. Lowe, who has been in education for 35 years, said he doesn't remember a single case like it.
The school district's attorneys also declined to release a copy of the letter from Lind's attorney, but they confirmed it exists.
In a letter to the Star Tribune, Joseph Flynn and Jennifer Earley said that "the School District does have a document in its possession that is responsive to your request."
School officials, including board members, have declined to discuss the letter, referring questions to their attorneys, who declined to discuss it. Lind also declined to comment.
Lind had worked at the high school for four years. In that time, he had developed a reputation among students as an adult willing to befriend them and mentor them in their faith.
The district says it fired Lind after receiving complaints that he talked to students on the high school campus about their sexual orientation and after one student overheard him telling another it was "National Pick On Lesbians Day." The district also warned Lind about maintaining appropriate boundaries with students and the need to separate the role as a supervisor of students from the role of a friend.
Lind and his supporters tell a different story, saying that Lind was told he couldn't talk about abstinence to current or former students, even if it was off campus.
"I can't say that I followed that directive," he told the Star Tribune at the time of his firing. "I didn't feel that, morally, I could."
Since then -- and even after he was elected to the board-- Lind has consistently threatened to sue the school board for wrongful termination.
Lind insists that his run for the school board wasn't vindictive. He told the Star Tribune this fall that he had always wanted to be on the board but couldn't run as a district employee. He ran on a fiscally conservative platform.
Lind is to take office Jan. 14.
Emily Johns • 952-882-9056