BANGOR, Maine — A longtime Hampden Academy teacher has sued Regional School Unit 22 alleging she was passed over to be the head indoor and outdoor track coach and the job was given to a younger man with no coaching experience.
Kathryn King, 57, on March 1 resigned her teaching position effective at the end of the school year to attend the University of Maine School of Law in Portland.
She is the second member of her family to sue the district alleging age discrimination. Her husband, David King, 71, alleged he was wrongfully fired as a social studies teacher in June 2013. His attorney, A.J. Greif of Bangor, negotiated a $165,000 settlement with the district in 2015 that allowed King to retain his position as track coach for $6,000 per year stipend through June 2016.
The district’s answer to the complaint by Kathryn King has not yet been filed. Portland attorney Melissa Hewey, who represents RSU 22, said Monday in an email that the complaint is without merit.
Kathryn King alleged in her complaint dated March 17 and filed in Penobscot County Superior Court that last year she was passed over for the coaching job in retaliation for her opposition to the district’s “practice of age discrimination.”
“[The district] began a pattern of unfavorable evaluating [Kathryn King] in her annual evaluations so as to deny her any merit pay increases for all academic years on or after she began first opposing [the district’s] age discrimination [in April 2013],” the complaint, signed by Greif, said.
“In additional retaliation for [her] activities in opposing age discrimination, [the district] has denied [King] a position as the head track coach for its indoor and outdoor track programs,” the complaint claimed.
King claimed in her resignation letter that she has “nearly 30 years of experience coaching indoor and outdoor track. There isn’t an event I’m not qualified to coach.”
She previously served as an assistant coach for her husband.
King applied for the head coach position but was not nominated. The lawsuit claims that even though Athletic Director Michael Bisson had told King she “would be a good replacement for her husband as head track coach,” Bisson did not nominate her because Superintendent Richard Lyons would not accept it.
King is seeking back pay and compensatory damages.
“Mrs. King has spent years lambasting the superintendent for a host of perceived grievances,” Hewey said Monday in an email. “Her current complaint, filed shortly after she submitted her resignation, is vindictive and without merit. We are confident that we will prevail in this case since I doubt there is anyone in the district other than Mrs. King” who wouldn’t recognize “the most qualified candidate for track coach was given that job.”
She read her resignation letter to the school board during the public comment section at the of the March 1 meeting. It was posted on YouTube as are other meetings. (She starts talking at about the 1 minute mark.) King, who has taught social studies at Hampden Academy since 1990, said her decision to resign was because of Lyon’s apparent decision not to consider her for the coaching position.
“And the question isn’t if Mr. Lyons will abort my teaching career as he has aborted my coaching — the question is simply, when. The pressure of living with that question has been enormous.
“I can’t sleep at night,” she continued. “I feel sick before school. When I pull into my parking space in the morning, I don’t want to get out of my car. I sit there until I can muster up the courage to go in the building. I feel afraid all the time. On the last night of vacations, I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. So, I’ve decided I’m going to enter a profession that’s a better fit for me.”
King, who attended Maine Law during a sabbatical in 2001 to 2002, will return to earn a law degree.
She previously coached the school’s mock trial team to the state championship for many years.