Sussex Tech, teacher settle lawsuit

Judgment: Neither side at fault in in copyright infringement case
August 8, 2017

The Sussex Technical Adult Division and Sussex Tech School District were ordered to pay $95,000 earlier this year to a former teacher and coordinator who said he was fired after he pointed out the district was copying textbooks without permission.

Terri L. Corder, principal of the adult division, is listed as a defendant along with the Board of Education of Sussex Technical School District and Michael Owens, director of extended learning of Sussex Technical Adult Division.

In January 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Leonard P. Stark ordered the district to pay Thomas Keeton $95,000 – Sussex Tech's offer, which was accepted by Keeton.

“This judgment shall not be construed either as an admission or findings of liability on the part of the defendants or that plaintiff has suffered any damage,” Stark wrote in his order.

Keeton, a former teacher hired in 2003 who had worked for four years as part-time coordinator for the adult division, filed a lawsuit against Sussex Tech in 2015 after his position was terminated prior to the end of his contract.

In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, Keeton said he was terminated after he told Corder that the district had been infringing on copyrights by copying from textbooks.

“Keeton presented a list of copyright infringments totaling almost half a million dollars that Sussex Technical Adult Division had been and was engaging in to Terri Corder, principal of Sussex Technical Adult Division, James Groves High School,” the lawsuit states.

Keeton spoke out about the copyright infringement out of public concern, and he was acting in good faith and honest motives by exercising his First Amendment rights, the lawsuit states.

After Keeton notified Corder of the copyright infringement, the lawsuit states that she retaliated against Keeton and dismissed him from his employment, costing him his livelihood.

Corder and Owens could not be reached for comment.

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