FORT WALTON BEACH — An Okaloosa County School Board candidate is suing the School Board for age discrimination regarding the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP).

Linda Evanchyk, a retired Choctawhatchee High School English teacher running for District 3, said in a complaint filed June 14 that she was denied participation in the DROP program at Choctaw because the district wanted to save money by laying off older teachers, according to the complaint. 

Evanchyk said Choctaw Principal Lee Hale signed off on her DROP extension, which would have allowed her to continue to teach for up to three years with annual approval from the superintendent. The DROP applied to qualifying teachers over the approximate age of 60.

According to the complaint, School Board member Melissa Thrush told Evanchyk the School District was expecting a financial shortfall and had decided to lay off the older teachers to save money. School Board Chairman Lamar White confirmed DROP would be discontinued for certain people, the complaint also said.

According to the complaint, in a meeting with Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson, Evanchyk was told that one teacher was allowed to continue in the DROP program because she was in a "critical storage area." When Evenchyk provided Jackson with a report stating she was located in the most critical area, Jackson allegedly became angry and ended the meeting, the complaint said.

Jackson confirmed Friday that a lawsuit was filed and given to the board's legal counsel. Jackson said she was not at liberty to comment because the lawsuit is pending.

Evanchyk could not be reached for comment as of late Friday afternoon.

Evanchyk was effectively terminated on June 2, 2017, the complaint said, and no action was taken to help remedy the alleged discrimination. Only one of 14 teachers was allowed to participate in DROP during the 2017-18 school year.