The lawsuit, seeking millions of dollars, claimed that Starnes’s actions amounted to negligence and led to emotional distress and that the school system was negligent in supervising him and retaining him as principal. At the time,
in March 2012, the plaintiffs’ attorney, Robert Weltchek, said in a statement that his clients would “much prefer” the removal of Starnes as principal.
Montgomery schools spokesman Dana Tofig has previously said that complaints about Starnes did not hold up. “They were investigated and found to have little or no merit,” Tofig said in March 2012. Tofig declined to comment on the case this week.
In a motion asking that the case be thrown out, county attorneys challenged the legal basis for the suit and took a different view of the suit’s many allegations. They disputed key parts of a young teacher’s account involving reporting suspected abuse, for example, and contended that Starnes did not touch a male teacher inappropriately.
The settlement follows a period of turmoil at Kemp Mill. As many as 10 teachers filed claims of sexual harassment with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2010. The EEOC did not pursue those cases. Weltchek, the attorney, stepped in and filed a broader civil complaint after his daughter, Emily, became a teacher at the school and encountered problems with the principal.
Court filings in the case contend that a survey at Kemp Mill showed that before Starnes took over in 2007, 100 percent of school staff said they would recommend it as a good place to work. Afterward, less than 30 percent described it that way, according to court documents.The suit also contends that the school’s test scores dropped, and by June 2011 more than half of the teachers had left.
Mia Andrews, PTA treasurer, said that the allegations against Starnes and the lawsuit have been unfortunate for the school but that she sees no similar problems now. She said she likes the principal, whom she finds “very friendly, very welcoming.”
“The kids love him,” Andrews said.
Dan Morse contributed to this report.