Former teacher Bechard suing Republic School District, claims multiple offenses

A former Republic High School English teacher is suing the Republic R-3 School District, alleging she suffered harassment from students and a co-worker, and was retaliated against after the co-worker was terminated.
According to her petition, Heidi Bechard, who began teaching during the 2017-18 school year, claims she began receiving “threatening and sexually inappropriate remarks from students.” She stated that a student turned in an assignment early in the year where he “documented that he wanted to kill his enemies,” and named her as one of his enemies. She claimed she turned in the assignment to the assistant principal and was told it was just the student’s “sense of humor.” She also said the student returned to her classroom and was “laughing about what he had written and did not get in trouble.”
Bechard claimed that later in the year, the same student turned in a seven-page paper about her, and it was “threatening in nature.” She claims administration told her to give the student “a month to rewrite the paper for full credit.”
Bechard’s petition mentioned two other students, one whom Bechard claims “threatened” her “in person” and tried to “physically intimidate” her; she claimed when the student wrote “threatening things” in his free writes for class, she turned the free writes into the administration, but was told to “let it go.” The other student, Bechard claimed, “was constantly disrupting class, refusing to follow directions,” and was “a distraction to other students, and wrote many inappropriate things in his free writes about her and other teachers.” There is no mention about any attempt to discipline that student.
Bechard also claimed a co-worker harassed her by “stalking and trying to intimidate” her when she refused to respond to his repeated calls and texts. She claimed she and her family objected to his behavior, but he said he would “be safe at the high school as long as he was employed there because he was such good friends with the principal,” identified in the petition as Tyler Overstreet.
Bechard’s petition claimed she began to suspect the co-worker had placed a tracking device on her vehicle, and she took her vehicle to a mechanic in March of 2018. The petition states the mechanic showed her a tracking device on her vehicle placed under the right passenger side of her car. Bechard reported these events to the district, which investigated. Ultimately, the co-worker was terminated.
In the fall of 2018, according to her petition, Bechard said she noticed the principal conducting classroom observations of her more frequently than the previous year. She claimed to have become concerned because the principal and the terminated co-worker “were good friends.” In October of that year, Bechard said she e-mailed Assistant Principal Chris Grauf to complain about sexual harassment from a student in class; she claimed the student made jokes about taking her “out on dates” and about not being able “to stop looking at” her, and he spoke inappropriately about Bechard to a substitute teacher, as well. She said Grauf told her not to “involve the student’s mother,” and said the district would handle the situation by having another teacher speak with the student.
A week later, Bechard’s petition stated, she was put on a Professional Improvement Plan (PIP), which she claims was in retaliation for her reports of harassment. The petition also states that “despite exemplary performance and constantly working to meet the goals set by the PIP, (Bechard) was given an ultimatum and forced to resign from employment in March 2019.”
In their response, the district denied many of Bechard’s allegations. They stated that Bechard never brought the behavior of the co-worker to their attention; rather, it was reported to them by Bechard’s mother. They stated they took “prompt and appropriate remedial action” by terminating the co-worker when their investigation revealed he’d violated district policy. As such, they argued “the employee’s statements that ‘he would be safe at the high school because he was such good friends with the principal’ is demonstrably false.”
The district also stated that classroom observations in the fall of 2018 were conducted more frequently due to Bechard’s “performance deficiencies,” and denied that any friendship between the terminated co-worker and the principal played any role in the increased frequency of the observations.
In regards to Bechard’s claims regarding harassment from students, the district stated that Bechard’s claim that she received “threatening and sexually inappropriate remarks from students” is too vague to respond to, and argued it should be stricken. They did state the student who Bechard claimed wrote the seven-page paper she reported to the office “’threatened’ to make (Bechard’s) class a ‘nightmare’ if he was not transferred to another teacher.” They denied that Bechard was told to give him a full month to make up the assignment for full credit. They also stated the allegations regarding the other two students are “too vague and uncertain” to respond to, and argued they should also be stricken.
In response to Bechard’s allegation regarding the student she claimed sexually harassed her, the district stated they took “prompt and appropriate remedial action” by having the student and district administrators discuss his actions, and that the student apologized to Bechard for his inappropriate comments.
The district stated Bechard was put on a PIP, but it was due to “deficiencies noted in her first semester of teaching, which did not improve by the end of the year.” They denied putting Bechard on the PIP was in retaliation for her reporting the claims of harassment.
The district also stated Bechard was offered the option to resign her position rather than have her contract be non-renewed due to “documented performance deficiencies that failed to improve despite the district having given (Bechard) notice and an opportunity to improve.” They denied that her performance was “exemplary” or that she “constantly worked to meet the goals set by the PIP.”
Bechard is seeking damages against the district “in an amount determined to be fair and reasonable,” attorney’s fees and punitive damages. The district’s motion to stay was granted, and all deadlines in the case are stayed pending a further order by the court. A motion by the district to dismiss the case was “overruled.” There are no further hearings scheduled on the case at this time.


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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