School bus driver claims he's being targeted for exercising free speech

Park Elementary School is part of a reorganization plan in the Madison-Grant school district. (WTHR photo)

FAIRMOUNT, Ind. (WTHR) - Plans to reorganize elementary schools in the Madison-Grant United School Corporation have a local fire chief crying foul.

Summittville Fire Chief Randy Sizelove is also a bus driver and claims he is being threatened with termination for speaking out against the plan.

It is a story of two small schools in two small towns and a big controversy that strikes at the hearts of parents.

The plan is to reconfigure the elementary schools in Summitville and Fairmount, make one for Pre-K through second grade and the other third through sixth grade. School administrators say that will even out class sizes and improve educational programs.

But many parents are against busing their small children out of town and losing touch with their neighborhood schools.

"I think it is pretty nasty so far," said parent Dee Amos.

With the parents?

"Yes. They don't want this." she answered.

School officials considered a similar plan two years ago.

"I was against it then. I'm against it now," said Sizelove.

After speaking out publicly, Sizelove said he was called into a meeting with school administrators.

"I was told I was a troublemaker. I had no right to speak. I had no right to my opinion," he said.

He received a letter from the assistant superintendent, telling him he was on paid administrative leave.

"Any additional comments made that are considered negative or unfavorable could result in termination of employment," the letter said.

Eyewitness News asked Superintendent Dr. Scott Deetz if there was a policy of disciplining, perhaps firing, employees who speak out against this plan.

"None whatsoever. This is America," said Deetz. "No employee has ever been disciplined about speaking out about this plan."

Deetz would not discuss Sizelove's suspension.

The letter accuses him of "making disparaging remarks" about the administration and school board members two years ago.

"This continued lack of respect and blatant disregard to the expectations of an employee of (the school district) will not be tolerated," the letter said.

"I never said anything bad about any board member or administrator," Sizelove insisted.

School board members will get their first look at the school realignment next week. Sizelove said he has an attorney. The controversy over what happens to classrooms in two small schools could find its way into the courtroom.

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