County school board to hear bus driver's dismissal case

Federal lawsuit stayed on Tsourakis appeal

April 06, 2002|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County school board, rather than a federal judge, will confront the question of whether a Manchester-area school bus driver was fired for safety infractions or for leading her students in the Lord's Prayer.

Attorneys for the Carroll County school superintendent and bus driver Stella N. Tsourakis, 37, agreed yesterday to a dismissal of her federal lawsuit without prejudice. That means either side can go back to the U.S. District Court in Baltimore if it finds the outcome before the county Board of Education is unsatisfactory.

Tsourakis was fired last month after what school officials said was a series of safety violations. She and her attorney, Steven L. Tiedemann, said the supposed infractions were a pretext to get rid of her, in violation of her First Amendment rights, because she had led students in prayer for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks soon after she began driving last October.

Tiedemann said he believes Tsourakis' constitutional rights were violated but didn't want a federal judge to decide the case based upon a list of disputed infractions compiled by county school transportation officials. They include running a stop sign, going 5 mph above the speed limit, and stopping at a convenience store, he said.

A hearing before the school board probably will not be scheduled for at least a month.

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