JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – During its meeting on Tuesday night, the Duval County School Board voted in favor of finding a settlement agreement in a civil case brought against the district by Amy Donofrio -- one of its teachers.
The vote was 6-1 in favor of reaching a settlement. Board member Charlotte Joyce was the “no” vote.
“Given the facts of the case, even though we know we haven’t done anything wrong, these are taxpayer dollars and I just cant support paying those kinds of dollars over a three to five year period on a case we could settle tonight,” board member Warren Jones said prior to the vote.
Attorney Stephen Busey, who was hired by the district as legal counsel, addressed the matter during the meeting before the Board’s vote. He noted it was set to go to trial in February 2023. He said it was reasonable to expect appeals “no matter who prevails at the trial level.” Busey estimated three to five years before the case reached a conclusion.
Busey was also asked about the estimated cost.
“We estimated for the Board somewhere between one and two million dollars at the trial level, and beyond that it could be two to three million dollars if you took it all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which is a possibility,” Busey said.
The details of the agreement were not included in the meeting’s agenda and Donofrio’s attorney has told News4Jax that she was prohibited from discussing the terms of the deal. News4Jax has requested a copy of the settlement agreement.
The Southern Poverty Law Center and Donofrio filed the lawsuit against DCPS in April, claiming the district retaliated against the Robert E. Lee High School teacher and violated her right to free speech.
Donofrio had been reassigned to paid, non-teaching duties while the district investigates what it described as “several matters” related to allegations of misconduct. The reassignment followed her refusal to remove a Black Lives Matter flag that had been hanging outside her classroom for months.
The district claims that the BLM flag violates its policy prohibiting teachers from advocating for social or political causes, but Donofrio and her attorneys claim such a rule is unconstitutional and represents discrimination.
The district has maintained that it is unable to comment on pending litigation and that its internal investigation of Donofrio is “active and ongoing.”
However, Donofrio is listed among the teachers that did not receive a re-appointment to her previously assigned school, now named Riverside High School. So, her future with the district is unclear.