LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A bus driver for Jefferson County Public Schools has been fired after refusing to wear a mask during work as required for district employees who report to buildings during distance learning, records obtained Thursday by WDRB News show.
Shavonda Offutt was notified of her termination by a Jan. 8 letter from Superintendent Marty Pollio after she reportedly refused a request to wear a face mask by security at Sanders Elementary School on Dec. 11. At one point, a superior called Offutt directly and told her to wear a face mask because school workers had complained to her bus compound, personnel records show.
While she was leaving for the day, Sanders Elementary staff reported that Offutt walked into the cafeteria and began "forcefully coughing and laughing" while not wearing a face mask, according to Offutt's discharge recommendation that she refused to sign.
Offutt, who could not be reached for comment, was suspended indefinitely without pay on Dec. 21 because of her "blatant lack of concern for policies and procedures" and the "serious health risks" associated with her conduct, personnel records show. Offutt's supervisor at Lees Lane Compound, Jayna Martin, recommended her termination Jan. 5, according to records obtained by WDRB News.
JCPS requires employees to wear masks if they are around other people or moving through buildings. Bus drivers like Offutt have been assigned various jobs throughout the district while students learn from home during nontraditional instruction as JCPS classrooms remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Renee Murphy, the district's chief of communications and community relations, said Offutt has appealed her termination.
Offutt claimed during a Dec. 16 meeting with her manager that she only took off her mask once to eat and did not put it back on because it was dropped on the ground and dirtied, according to her discharge recommendation. She also blamed her coughing fit on a candy she was choking on at the time, the discharge recommendation says.
Sanders Elementary Principal Alison Dahlgren and the school's security officer also provided statements recounting her alleged behavior.
Dahlgren, who said she directed all employees to follow district protocols, said Offutt had also been asked "several times" by Sanders Elementary's plant operator to wear a mask. Offutt allegedly walked past the security monitor who reported her behavior and pretended to cough while not wearing a mask, according to a Dec. 11 email from Dahlgren included in Offutt's termination letter.
"This is unacceptable, especially during this time of the pandemic," Dahlgren said in the email. "My employees should not have to worry that someone is not following protocols and interact with someone who thinks it is a joke. Because of the tension she has caused, I would like her to not return to Sanders."
Offutt previously received a written warning and three reprimands in 2019 for tardiness and unapproved absences, personnel records show.
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