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District 834 to pay $137,000 in age-discrimination settlement

More than a year after a federal agency sued Stillwater Area Schools for age-discrimination on behalf of its former activities director, all parties have reached a settlement.

Under the terms announced at Thursday's school board meeting, Sherman Danielson will receive a total payment of $137,000. In return, Danielson agreed not to sue the district for past claims.

Further, in a separate agreement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC], the district will provide "additional training related to district policies and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act to district staff and hiring committee members," according to a written statement from the school district.

The district will also "continue to ensure that all posters required by the EEOC are posted, and appropriate records are maintained relating to the hiring process for all positions."

Of the settlement amount, the district will pay $12,000; its insurance policy will cover the remainder.

"By settling, the district is not admitting any wrongdoing in this case," said Ray Queener, the district's assistant superintendent of business and administrative services. "The district maintains that in making the hiring decision all state and federal laws were complied with and that the process was fair and respectful. We believe it was in the district's best financial interest to resolve this matter, rather than incur the cost to the school district of litigation."

Representatives for Danielson and the EEOC were not immediately available Friday morning.


The federal agency filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis in Sept. 2007, alleging that the school district violated federal law when it hired in June, 2005 what the agency deemed, in a civil complaint, a "younger, less qualified applicant for the position."

The agency asked the court to award "appropriate back wages" to Danielson and anyone else the court deemed to have been harmed by age-discriminating district employment practices.

Danielson, a Stillwater resident, was 57 years old at the time he interviewed for a position that combined athletic coordinator positions at Oak-Land and Stillwater junior high schools, as well as intramural duties at Stillwater Area High School. In 2004, he retired after serving seven years in a similar position as the district's activities director.

Before he retired, Danielson worked 34 years for the school district in various capacities. The district rehired him in fall 2007 as a health and physical education teacher at Stillwater Junior High School, a position in which he still serves.

Keven Seim, a substitute teacher and assistant boys' basketball coach then in his 20s, was hired instead for the position, which was created in a structural reorganization following Danielson's departure. He also coaches the Stillwater Area High School boy's basketball team.

This isn't the first EEOC age-discrimination suit for which the school district has paid. In August, 2006, it agreed to pay $1.12 million to 57 former employees as part of a class-action suit the agency filed against the district the previous December. The suit alleged that the district violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act by paying retiring employees less as they aged.