James Island Charter HS principal files lawsuit against school

JAMES ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - A lawsuit has been filed against James Island Charter High School (JICHS) by the school's principal, claiming the school's Board wrongfully relieved him of his job responsibilities last month and damaged his reputation.

Robert Bohnstengel is suing JICHS for tortious interference with contractual relations, and defamation and defamation by innuendo. Additionally, he is requesting temporary and permanent injunctive relief.

The lawsuit was filed in Charleston on December 2.

According to the suit, JICHS Principal Robert Bohnstengel was placed on leave after a vote by the school's Board on November 25, without providing reasons for his dismissal.

In the suit, Bohnstengel, who says his last job performance evaluation was "excellent", claims he previously made the Board angry because he refused to give a job to one of the Board member's brother, and also refused to give construction work at JICHS to another Board member.

The lawsuit goes on to say certain members on the Board were mad because Bohnstengel "will not allow them to choose the next football coach."

The suit states Chairman of the Board Keith Bolus sent Bohnstengel a letter November 21 attempting to place the principal on "temporary paid administrative leave status."

According to the letter from Bolus, the school board intended to leave Bohnstengel in his position until his contract expires in June 2014 while also searching for a new principal, but "recent incidents which occurred after we gave you notice of our intent and apparently at your direction or with you cooperation have been, in our estimation, disruptive and counterproductive to the school's environment and well-being."

The leave status was to "serve as a 'cooling down' period" and was "intended to afford the Board an opportunity to conduct an orderly review of the situation," the letter reads.

As a condition of the leave, the letter states Bohnstengel was not allowed to go on school property or contact school employees.

The suit states the letter, which contained false statements, was "widely circulated by email" to a number of people, including former board members. This allegedly damaged Bohnstengel's reputation.

The lawsuit contends Charleston County School District policies do not allow for individual board members to make employment decisions regarding the principal, so Bohnstengel resumed his role as principal.

On November 25, the school board voted to place Bohnstengel on leave.

"Board has refused to state a reason for their sudden action against [Bohnstengel], wrongfully inferring to the public, JICHS students, parents and staff that [Bohnstengel] has done something seriously wrong," the suit states.

Bohnstengel is asking for a temporary and permanent injunction so he can continue his duties as principal for JICHS, and for actual damages that the court deems appropriate.

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