After 3 1/2 years, Karen Kelly will once again be Hesperia Unified School District's assistant superintendent of Personnel Services when school resumes.


Kelly's return is the result of a years-long legal battle in which she alleged the HUSD systematically treated women administrators differently than their male counterparts especially when it came in the wake of alleged sexual relationships.


Kelly was first suspended and then demoted twice in four months, along with a $60,000 cut in her salary. The school board later voted to replace her with a man making more money. And the male contractor Kelly had been involved with while separated from her husband continued to work for the HUSD, serving as a public face for the district.


"The emotional distress has been horrendous," Kelly wrote in a May 20, 2011 declaration to the court. "HUSD has not only demoted me on more than one occasion and terminated my employment contract (causing significant emotional harm) but has sought to destroy my reputation in the community and essentially left me in a position where I cannot apply for employment because of the inexplicable 'demotions' and employment agreement termination."


Officially, the private lives of district employees is no one's business, according to HUSD policy. But the reality is apparently different, according to court documents filed by her lawyers, with male and female administrators treated very differently:


A male assistant superintendent who reportedly had an affair with another administrator has been promoted twice since the rumors became known.


A married high school administrator suffered no ill effects to his career after it was discovered he was having a relationship with a newly graduated former female student.


A male principal was promoted after it turned out he was living with a parent of a student at his school.


A female school administrator was discouraged from applying for a principal position when it came open, despite being the most qualified person for the position.


The decision to affix a scarlet letter to Kelly's chest wasn't a unanimous one: The demotions were both 3-2 votes, with then-board members Hardy Black, Robert Kirk and Anthony Riley voting in favor of them and minority members Chris Bentley and Lee Rogers against them.


In the end, Kelly prevailed: On Dec. 16, McKinney sent an email to all district employees, officially welcoming Kelly back as the assistant superintendent of Personnel Services beginning Jan. 1.


Legal representatives for both sides are scheduled to appear in Victorville Superior Court to formally dismiss the case on Feb. 15. Typically, the full details of settlements in employment cases are not made public.


Staff writer Tomoya Shimura contributed to this report.


Beau Yarbrough may be reached at (760) 956-7108 or at Beau@HesperiaStar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.