Fired teacher says ‘biases deeply imbedded’

Trial: She says the jury allows illegal practices in hiring to continue

A former teacher who lost a civil suit accusing the Sevier School District of discrimination expressed disappointment Tuesday in the outcome.

“Despite warnings I received early on that it was impossible to get a fair-minded jury in this state, I believed in the goodness of Utahns,” Erin Jensen said in a written statement, the day after a 12-member federal jury unanimously rejected her claims that she was fired because she is a woman and a non-Mormon.

“But what has become evident to me is that when biases are deeply imbedded in a person’s mind, no amount of evidence can penetrate it,” she said.

The jury has allowed illegal practices in hiring and firing to continue, Jensen added.

The eight women and four men who made up the jury in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City spent five days hearing evidence in the case and about nine hours deliberating before rejecting Jensen’s claims. The jurors declined comment late Monday after returning their verdict.

Jensen’s attorneys also declined comment.

An attorney for the district, Kirk Gibbs, praised the verdict, saying there was no discrimination. “I think the jury made the right decision,” he said Tuesday.

Jensen filed the suit after her contract at South Sevier High School in Monroe was not renewed at the end of the 2002-2003 school year. She sought back pay and unspecified damages.

She contended she was fired because everyone in the small community knew she was not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Parents and district officials were gossiping about her affection for Halloween and theories that she was a witch, Jensen said, evidence that they considered her not one of them.

In her written statement, Jensen said she will continue to speak out about “these type of injustices.” She said: “Although highly disappointed, I’m far from defeated.”

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Salt Lake Tribune, USA
Oct. 26, 2005
Pamela Manson

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday October 27, 2005.
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