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Thomas Jefferson Middle School

Thomas Jefferson Middle School is shown May 24, its final day in session. Students will attend Stephen Decatur Middle School next year, as Thomas Jefferson is renovated to house the district's Montessori programs. 

DECATUR — A former teaching assistant filed a federal lawsuit against the Decatur School District on Tuesday, alleging she was discriminated against because of her age and forced to resign. 

Carol Kretzer, 66, said in the U.S. District Court filing that a district official forced her to resign from French Academy in December. Kretzker, who said she was two years from retirement, is asking the court to award her two years' worth of her previous salary, or $48,941, along with attorneys' fees and court costs. 

District spokeswoman Maria Robertson said the district does not comment on pending litigation. Kretzer, who is representing herself, did not immediately respond to phone messages. 

Kretzer was appointed as a hearing interpreter for the district in 2002 and later transferred to French Academy in 2016 to work as a teaching assistant. In the lawsuit, she said she received positive performance reviews over the course of 13 years working as an interpreter. 

Kretzer said she had a temporary disability of chronic back and hip pain for which she occasionally used a cane when helping students to class from the school bus. After the principal and other employees saw her using the cane, she said, she was called in for a disciplinary meeting and asked to go through a medical examination. She said she was required to bring a letter from a doctor about whether she could perform her job.

Also during her time at French Academy, she said, she was asked about her age and a human resources employee told her more than once, “Isn’t it a good time to retire?”

Kretzer said she was urged in late November 2018 to resign from her job, which she did on Dec. 3 after what she described as "unrelenting pressure." 

This is the second federal lawsuit filed against the district by a former French Academy employee in recent years. The district earlier this year reached a settlement with a former teacher who said she was discriminated against because she took time off during a pregnancy.

The district denied wrongdoing in that case but agreed to pay $42,500 to the teacher, saying the litigation would be costly and tedious. 

Contact Analisa Trofimuk at (217) 421-7985. Follow her on Twitter: @AnalisaTro

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