Judge grants partial summary judgment in Carmel Clay Schools discrimination case  


A federal judge on Jan. 4 granted – in part – Carmel Clay Schools’ motion for summary judgment regarding several claims raised by a former Carmel High School counselor who said she faced harassment and discrimination because of her race and sexual orientation. Certain claims of retaliation, however, may proceed to trial.

Dianna Stringham, who began working at CHS in 2014, claimed that she faced discrimination from her supervisor because she was a “homosexual Hispanic woman” and that a co-worker told her early in her employment that she should not make it known that she was gay because “that could be trouble for (her),” according to court documents.

Stringham filed a complaint with CCS in September 2020, and a CCS investigation determined that Stringham’s faltering job performance – not her race or sexual orientation – led to implementation of an improvement plan that she viewed as harassment and discrimination.

In January 2022, Stringham filed another report of discrimination with CCS, stating that she was “being targeted, harassed (and) micromanaged after being put on an improvement plan” and that she faced extreme intolerance and retaliation. Later that month, her supervisors presented her with a second improvement plan.

In March 2022, after a lengthy hearing, the school board unanimously decided to cancel Stringham’s contract after determining she could not show she was meeting work performance expectations after the fall of 2019. Stringham filed the complaint in court against CCS the following month.

In her decision, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt threw out Stringham’s claims of harassment and discrimination but determined Stringham’s claims of race, national origin and sex retaliation relating to the second improvement plan can proceed to settlement or trial. The judge stated that, since no other CHS counselors were put on improvement plans after making errors, Stringham appeared to be “singled out.”

Jamie Maddox, an attorney representing Stringham, said the retaliation is expected to go to trial.

“Although we disagree with some of the court’s ruling, Ms. Stringham is looking forward to having her claims heard and decided by a jury,” Maddox said.

CCS declined to comment on pending litigation.