WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Midwest Academy Challenging Whistleblower Lawsuit

Feb 28, 2016

In the midst of a sexual abuse investigation, a southeast Iowa boarding school for troubled teens is also facing a whistleblower lawsuit from a former employee. Midwest Academy is disputing every aspect of the claim.

Cheyenne Jerred filed her lawsuit in South District Court on January 5, 2016. She said she was working for the school in November 2015 when she said she learned that a resident of the school “claimed that she had been sexually assaulted and harassed by an employee” of the school.

Jerred said she was fired for reporting the abuse and for encouraging the student to do the same. She said while employed at the school, she “made disclosures of information to public officials, law enforcement authorities and others” that she believed a school employee had sexually abused, assaulted, and harassed a student of the school.

Jerred filed an amendment to the lawsuit one month, stating she made her complaint specifically to her supervisors and to the Iowa Department of Human Services. She also changed the date when she reported the incident.

SCHOOL RESPONSE

The school responded to the amended lawsuit and denied almost every aspect of Jerred’s claim. The only points that are agreed upon is that Jerred worked for the school and that the school conducts business in the state of Iowa.

The school's response said Jerred was fired, but it denied that her termination occurred on December 5, 2015 as she claimed.

The school also offered 12 defenses of its own to the lawsuit, including:

  • Plaintiff is not a public employee.
  • There is no connection between plaintiff’s job loss and the employee’s reporting to a public official.
  • Plaintiff is an employee at will.
  • The Iowa Whistleblower statute has no application to private employment.
  • Plaintiff’s discharge was legally justified.

SECOND AMENDMENT TO LAWSUIT

Meanwhile, Jerred is seeking permission from the court to amend her lawsuit a second time. She wants to name Midwest Academy owner Ben Trane as a defendant.

The amended version identifies Trane as the director of the school and that he was responsible for hiring and firing at the school. It also states that Trane was responsible for the sexual abuse of the unidentified female student.

“On or about November 28, 2015, the plaintiff became aware that a resident of Midwest Academy claimed that she had been sexually assaulted and harassed by Benjamin Trane, the Director of Midwest Academy. [Jerred] informed the resident that the resident should report the abuse.”

Midwest Academy is challenging the request to amend the lawsuit a second time, specifically the addition of Ben Trane as a defendant.

“The addition of Benjamin Trane as a party to this litigation would unduly burden… Midwest Academy… by introducing issues not relevant to whether Midwest Academy improperly discharged [Jerred]."