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Published: Wednesday, 3/23/2005

Band's lawsuit proves costly


Rossford school officials have incurred thousands of dollars in legal expenses to date to defend themselves against a lawsuit filed by a Christian rock band that seeks $1 for each of the plaintiffs.

Superintendent Luci Gernot said the district has spent about $12,500 as a result of the lawsuit filed last month in federal court by Pawn against the district, the Board of Education, and Ms. Gernot in her official and individual capacity.

Four of the five Pawn band members filed the lawsuit after Ms. Gernot prohibited the band from playing at an anti-drug assembly in December during school hours.

In addition to the monetary compensation, the band members are asking for a ruling that they should have been allowed to play at the assembly.

Ms. Gernot said legal expenses must come out of the district's general operating fund because district officials recently learned their insurance company won't cover expenses incurred as a result of a religious discrimination case.

"I was surprised and dismayed," she said.

So the school board approved three resolutions relating to the lawsuit at its meeting Monday.

The first, which essentially stated that the district would be responsible for paying the legal expenses, according to Ms. Gernot, passed 4-1, with board member David Kleeberger opposing. He also is Pawn's manager.

Mr. Kleeberger also was the only board member opposed to a resolution hiring a separate attorney for Ms. Gernot. The vote was 4-1.

Mr. Kleeberger said he voted against both resolutions because he felt there should have been more discussion between board members and their attorneys.

"I wanted to talk about it more, and couldn't make an informed decision the way it was," he said. "I needed more time."

The final resolution approving Fritz Byers as an additional legal counsel for Ms. Gernot was approved unanimously.

Mr. Kleeberger and his son, Kyle, a senior at Rossford and a member of the band, are not part of the suit.

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