A Pleasant Grove High School teacher has filed a lawsuit against the former superintendent of the Alpine School District claiming the administrator defamed him in 1987 after a student accused him of making a racist remark.
Attorneys for John A. Kurtz, a history teacher at Pleasant Grove, say that recently retired Superintendent Clark Cox injured the teacher's reputation and possibly harmed his career after the incident was reported in the press in September 1987.The complaint, filed in 4th District Court, says Cox failed to properly investigate accusations made by a student against Kurtz before releasing information about the incident to the press.
Cox, the statement says, "Misquoted and gave false and inaccurate information to third parties, including newspaper, television, radio and public media."
Kurtz's attorneys say the superintendent refused to request a retraction from a Provo newspaper that carried what they said was inaccurate information about the incident, and Cox would not allow Kurtz a hearing to present his side of the incident.
Kurtz was "Unilaterally, and without due process, reprimanded . . . and placed in a probation status as a teacher," the complaint says.
Cox, who is being represented by Alpine School District attorneys, could not be reached for comment and his attorneys did not respond to attempts to contact them.
The controversy began just before the start of one of Kurtz's classes last year, when he says he had a casual conversation with a student. A remark in the private conversation was apparently overheard by another student who repeated it to an adult. The adult complained to district administrators that Kurtz had made a racial remark in class to a black student.
"There were no blacks present in the class. It was a private conversation, and that has been brought out," Kurtz said at the time. "Nothing was intended to be derogatory or racist."
D. Eugene Thorne, one of Kurtz's attorneys, said his client has waited a year to file the complaint because he attempted to "exhaust all of the normal remedies, asking school officials to make a complete investigation, but he's just run into frustration after frustration."
Kurtz and his attorneys have not set the amount of damages they will seek if the complaint goes to court.
"When your name has been held out in public, you don't know how far the damage has gone," Thorne said. "This is a man who prides himself on his lack of bigotry. This could affect his whole career."