Local political activist Thomas Kovach filed a federal lawsuit Monday against Metro Nashville Public Schools over an incident that occurred in February 2007 when he, working as a special education teacher at Whites Creek High School, was involved in a physical scuffle with a student.
In the aftermath of the Feb. 20, 2007, incident, criminal charges were filed against Kovach, who Metro Schools later terminated. The suit filed in U.S. District Court alleges that the actions taken against him were racially and politically motivated.
Kovach, who is white, claims in the suit that the incident — in which he was allegedly repeatedly assaulted by an unruly black student — reveals an 'unwritten rule' at Whites Creek High School that white teachers are not allowed to dispense discipline to black students.
In the incident, Kovach claims he was typing in the school's library when an unruly student attempted to slap him in the face. He grabbed the student's arm to prevent the assault, and then escorted the student to the school's office for disciplinary action, according to the suit.
Kovach claims school resource officers would not allow him to file an assault charge following the incident, and instead he submitted a formal statement of what had occurred to the school's principal.
The suit names Metro Nashville Police, Whites Creek Principal Dr. Jamie. S. Jenkins, as well as the father of the student involved in the 2007 altercation as co-defendants.
The school record of the event was later released to the student's father who used it to file criminal charges against Kovach, which have since been retired.
Central to Kovach's claim is that “the political aspirations of the Plaintiff have been severely damaged as a proximate result” of the situation, the suit says. Kovach, who is the Tennessee state chairman of the Independent Party, ran an unsuccessful bid for Jim Cooper's seat in 2006.
The suit also alleges the school system failed to protect the plaintiff from "violence in the workplace.”
Kovach seeks $2.3 million in actual damages from each of 10 defendants. His demands are broken down as follows: $875,000, the amount he would have earned as a career employee of Metro Schools; $1.3 million, the annual salary of a congressman multiplied by eight years; $125,000 for physical pain, mental anguish and stress.
He also seeks a public apology from the Metro Nashville Police Department and Metro Schools, the suit says.
When contacted for comment on the lawsuit, Metro Schools’ spokesperson Noelle Mashburn said school administration had yet to see the suit and could not comment.