Former Bedford deputy superintendent files multi-million dollar discrimination lawsuit

BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) The former deputy superintendent of Bedford County Public Schools is suing the school board and current superintendent for sex based discrimination.

Dr. Cherie Whitehurst has worked for Bedford County Public Schools since 1990. In June of last year, the Bedford County School Board voted 4-3 to reassign Whitehurst from deputy superintendent to the position of instructional coach.

In the complaint, filed by Byrnes Gould Law, Whitehurst is suing the Bedford County School Board for $300,000 in damages, back-pay since the date of her demotion (including the reduction in her salary), front pay until 2027 and her reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Whitehurst is also requesting $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages from Superintendent Dr. Schuch.

Whitehurst is requesting a jury trial.

In a statement to WDBJ7, an attorney representing Schuch and the school board denied the claims laid out in Whitehurst's lawsuit.

"The School Board and Dr. Schuch vehemently deny any liability to Dr. Whitehurst and they intend to vigorously defend this lawsuit," said attorney, Stacy Haney. "We believe that these claims are without merit and we plan to proceed accordingly."

In the complaint the parties allege that the Bedford County School Board discriminated against Whitehurst on the basis of sex and retaliated against her for alleging discrimination. Whitehurst also alleges that Dr. Schuch discriminated against her.

According to Hunter Byrnes, Whitehurst’s attorney, the lawsuit follows a written charge of discrimination filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in July of 2018. The EEOC issued Whitehurst a Notice of Right to Sue in Feb. 2019.

The lawsuit details her tenure with Bedford County Public Schools and includes copies of positive performance evaluations from Schuch specifically.

Whitehurst claims Schuch repeatedly made inappropriate comments about women in the workplace, including comments about women “cycling”. According to the complaint, when Whitehurst spoke out about Schuch's comments, her concerns were shared with Schuch.

Whitehurst claims that months later, in May of 2018, Schuch made an inappropriate comment to a candidate for a principal position during an interview about race and gender. Whitehurst said she told Schuch she disagreed with his comments.

She claims that weeks later Schuch recommended that BCSB demote her to the position of principal for 2018-19.

Following this action by Schuch, Whitehurst filed a claim of sex-based discrimination with BCSB, “outlining the sustained pattern of discrimination by Schuch that she had endured over the previous nine years,” according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges that the BCSB conducted a flawed investigation into Whitehurst’s allegations.

After the investigation, Schuch wrote a letter to Whitehurst (included in the complaint, which is attached to this article) that he would recommend to the board that they reassign Whitehurst to a teaching position.

The complaint claims Whitehurst has been diagnosed with acute stress reaction and post-traumatic stress disorder since her reassignment. The complaint is attached to this article.