Jury finds in favor of VA ISD in age discrimination case

VAN ALSTYNE, Texas (KXII) -- After almost three days, the verdict in an age discrimination case filed by a former Van Alstyne Middle School teacher is returned in favor of the school district.

Craig Wood, the attorney for the Van Alstyne Independent School District, said he was confident in the federal jury's decision because there was plenty of documentation.

"We had a chance to visit with them afterwards and they confirmed that they listened to all of the evidence that was presented," said Wood. "I think that enabled them to reach the right result."

Wood said Deborrah Skaggs claimed that the school district, where she worked for almost two decades as a special education and language arts teacher, did not renew her contract because of her age.

She was 62 when the case was filed last March.

"The school district presented a case and convinced the jury that it didn't have anything to do with her age, but in fact, it had to do with her performance," said Wood.

Brandon Shelby, Skaggs' attorney, said he's disappointed in the verdict, but knows it could've gone either way.

"I was confident in the facts and the evidence that we had, that we presented," said Shelby. "We knew along though, that if it made it all the way to a jury, juries are unpredictable.".

Wood said the district's action was strictly performance-based.

"It's always difficult when you have to let an employee go, but the expectation is that we expect excellence from our kids and in order to do that we have to expect excellence from our teachers," said Wood. "If a teacher is not meeting that standard, then we have to go in a different direction."

Skaggs gave News 12 this statement: "Today was a victory as I see it. The goal of this whole trial was to bring to light what has and is taking place within the Van Alstyne ISD. I wanted to make it known that I was pushed out the door. This type of action has been taking place since the change in administration. When the superintendent came on board, a lot of great, long time teachers were pushed out."

She's since retired.

"I feel bad for her because she's a family friend, I've known her for a long time, but we'll move on," said Shelby.

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