ALTAMONT — An assistant principal in Labette County is still awaiting word if the United States Attorney General’s Office will pursue his employment case.
Kansas Army National Guard Capt. Ed Raschen last month refused a final offer made by the Labette County USD 506 Board of Education in an attempt to settle a Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act of 1994 claim brought by Raschen in May 2018. Raschen said the final offer by the district still dismissed his reason for filing the case.
USERRA protects veterans and allows them to be re-employed in their civilian job or an equivalent job with the same seniority, status and pay when they return from active duty.
Raschen has served in the Kansas Army National Guard since 2007. He was hired for the 2015-16 school year as the assistant principal and athletic director at Labette County High School, his alma mater. He was called to active duty in June 2017. Upon his return to the district, Raschen was informed he would not be reinstated to the supplemental athletic director position that paid $10,000 annually.
While Raschen was overseas, USD 506 Superintendent John Wyrick employed two teachers to fill the athletic director position, paying each $10,000. Wyrick said the duties of the athletic director are demanding and better handled by two people, and that it was in the best interest of LCHS students for Raschen to focus on his assistant principal duties for the 2018-19 school year.
Raschen was shaken by the loss of position and pay. He pursued the process through USERRA until his claim was handed to the U.S. Department of Labor, which is responsible for interpreting the law. After federal investigators reviewed documentation from the district and interviewed USD 506 personnel, the DOL found merit in Raschen’s claim and stated the district was noncompliant.
The attorney for the USD 506 Board of Education said the district had done nothing wrong. Months of mediation brought no acceptable resolution, so the DOL forwarded the case to the U.S. attorney general.
Negotiations between Raschen and the district continued after the case was forwarded to the A.G. The district agreed to all but one of Raschen’s requests. The board agreed to return Raschen to athletic director, let him resign that position immediately and allow those in place to continue. The district also agreed to compensate Raschen the $10,000 for the athletic director position that would have been due him.
The one thing the district refused to do was admit any fault or liability in what it had done in not returning Raschen to both of his positions. The board stood by its stance that it did not violate Raschen’s rights.
Raschen said his claim has never been about money but accountability in accordance with USERRA.
“It’s been about the real possibility of me deploying again, and my rights being upheld. It’s like anybody else that has their rights violated; you just want them to be upheld. You want someone to make it right,” Raschen said. “Just as adamant as they are that they haven’t done anything wrong, I’m just as adamant on the other side saying, ‘Yes, you have, and we even had someone come in and investigate, and they said you have.’”
Raschen said he knows the district is comfortable in the fact that there is a possibility the AG will not pick up the case.
“To me it’s not about, ‘Ha, you’re wrong, and you violated me,’ but we need that kind of closure and that determination, just to say, ‘OK, let’s make it right so it doesn’t happen again.’ It’s something that’s so clear to us, but I have to step back and say it must be clear to them because they are willing to dig in.
“We know we’re taking a chance if the AG doesn’t pick it up. If they don’t, we have the option of getting a private lawyer and letting them do what they need to do,” Raschen said. “It’s definitely something we’ll consider. I’m fine with that, too, because I feel the decision by the Department of Labor stands on its own and I feel very confident in the job the Department of Labor did. I’m OK with however it goes with the AG, but we pray every day that they do pick it up.”
Wyrick did not respond to a request for comment.
USD 506 Assistant Superintendent Tony Blackwell stated he visited with Wyrick and said, “Mr. Raschen has the right to have the attorney general’s office review the case.
“Since the beginning of this matter it is my understanding that if the attorney general’s office finds in favor of Mr. Raschen and he is to be reinstated as athletic director then 506 will do so immediately,” Blackwell said.