Crime

Opposing sex offender student’s botched transfer cost administrator her job, suit says

An administrator for the Clover Park School District alleges in a lawsuit that she lost her job after opposing some of the district’s practices.
An administrator for the Clover Park School District alleges in a lawsuit that she lost her job after opposing some of the district’s practices. thinkstockphotos.com

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a statement from the Clover Park School District.

A former Clover Park School District administrator who says she was retaliated against for opposing the “irresponsible transfer of known sexual predators between schools” and other practices has sued the district.

Moureen David, who had worked for the district since 1999, was the assistant superintendent of secondary schools when the district let her contract expire in June, according to records filed as part of her lawsuit.

The complaint, filed Wednesday in Pierce County Superior Court, alleges that district officials retaliated against her for raising issues with the district, such as how it handled students accused of sex crimes, those learning English and exchange students.

It also alleges the district unlawfully withheld her wages and violated the public records act.

Asked about the lawsuit, district spokeswoman Kim Prentice said in a statement that the district got a complaint in September 2016 that David had created a hostile work environment, and the district hired consultants to investigate.

“Based on that report, the district made a decision about whether that administrator could continue to work effectively in our district,” the statement said.

David’s dismissal letter, which was filed with the lawsuit, says the consultants recommended “new leadership should be assigned for secondary schools,” in part, because if David continued in the role, the district might have trouble keeping and recruiting other administrators.

In addition, the district would risk damaging its “reputation in the larger educational community,” the letter stated.

David’s lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, gives this account:

One example of how the district handled a student accused of sexual assault involved a Lakes High School student who was to be supervised from when he was dropped off and when class started.

He sexually assaulted another student before school at Lakes in May 2016, and then was transferred to Lochburn Middle School.

That was done “without communicating anything to Lochburn’s principal about the student’s problems, a safety plan or the fact that other students may be at risk for sexual assault,” the complaint alleges.

David learned of the move at the end of the school year, and told the administrator responsible that “the manner in which he was handling the safety plans was inappropriate and that it was placing students at risk for sexual assault.”

In September 2016, the district told David it had hired consultants to investigate her, after the administrator she accused of mishandling student safety plans complained that David “was hostile or aggressive in her dealings with him.”

The letter the district wrote David said she’d been accused of acting “angrily and/or impulsively when directing staff, resulting in criticizing administrators in front of others and creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.”

In response, David emailed Superintendent Debbie LeBeau and the district’s lawyer to say in part:

“The complaint about me is in retaliation to my steadfast opposition to discrimination against ELL (English language learners) students, special education students, and the irresponsible transfer of known sexual predators between schools in the district, which has lead to sexual discrimination and harassment of our students.”

David said she initially was told she could continue to work during the investigation, but after the email was put on leave.

“She writes them on the 30th of September, asserting that she feels like she’s being retaliated against for having spoken out on all this stuff,” said David’s attorney, James Beck, who occasionally represents The News Tribune. “Within hours, they place her on administrative leave.”

Among the other allegations in David’s suit is that Clover Park High School was putting English language learners on a five-year graduation plan.

It also states she learned the district had a plan in place allegedly to “manipulate the grade level of exchange students who do not speak proficient English in an effort to inflate measured statistics for the district.”

By being changed from juniors to seniors, the exchange students didn’t have to take standardized tests they likely wouldn’t pass, which allegedly inflated the district’s scores.

“David asked to have the issue scheduled for discussion, but her request was not honored, and there was no acknowledged response to her opposition on this topic, illustrating that it was not well-received by district management,” the complaint says.

The lawsuit also alleges the district paid David lower wages than she was entitled to under her 2016-17 contract, and that it has failed to adequately respond to her public records requests.

A separate lawsuit she filed against the district in April also alleges inadequate responses to her requests for records.

David’s latest lawsuit is not the first raising questions about how the school district has handled students accused of sexual assault.

After the district was sued in 2013, a jury ordered it to pay $754,000 to a girl with developmental disabilities who was sexually assaulted by another student in 2011, in a bathroom at Lochburn Middle School.

Then the same boy sexually assaulted another student, after the district transferred him to Hudtloff Middle School. As part of a settlement in that case, the district agreed to pay the victim $275,000.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell

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