Lawsuit alleges retaliation for exposing administrator recording students and staff
Whistleblower Elena Rodriguez — whom readers may recall from a series of interviews aired earlier this year by Contact 13 Investigative Reporter Darcy Spears — has filed a lawsuit against the Clark County School District and two district administrators, alleging retaliation, discrimination and First Amendment violations.
Named defendants in the lawsuit are Anita Wilbur, principal at the Academy for Individualized Studies High School, and Associate Superintendent Dr. Edward Goldman — Wilbur’s former supervisor and the district’s new chief contract negotiator.
In her U.S. District Court lawsuit, Rodriquez contends that she faced retaliation for reporting surreptitious recording of students and staff by Wilbur at the Academy for Individualized Studies. Rodriguez, a 22-year school-district employee, also alleges she faced harassing and disparate treatment because of her national origin, and was retaliated against for her actions in complaining about the discrimination to her supervisors and CCSD’s Diversity and Affirmative Action division, and for filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“Shortly after she arrived” at AIS High School, says the complaint, “the Plaintiff discovered that Wilbur was using hidden cameras to surreptitiously videotape and record employees, students and parents at the school.
“The Plaintiff informed Wilbur that this was a violation of District rules, an invasion of privacy and a possible violation of state and federal laws which govern wiretapping and student records. The Plaintiff further advised Wilbur that her actions could subject Wilbur and the District to potential financial liability.
“When Wilbur refused to stop using cameras and microphones to spy on employees, parents and students and in fact added more cameras at AISHS, the Plaintiff informed higher ups at CCSD, including the legal department and Goldman, about Wilbur's use of hidden cameras, microphones and surreptitious videotaping.”
However, continues the complaint, “Instead of correcting the problem Wilbur, Goldman and CCSD administrators set out to punish and demote the Plaintiff because of her whistleblowing.”
CCSD is misusing a new evaluation procedure, says Rodriguez’s attorney, Richard “Tick” Segerblom, to “vindictively … get rid of administrators who the administration doesn’t like.”
Unbeknownst to Rodriguez, Goldman, serving as the district’s chief contract negotiator, had negotiated a new evaluation system in the spring of 2011 that “allowed the District to demote an administrator who had received two negative evaluations without regard to seniority and bumping rights.” Rodriguez had received a negative evaluation in 2010 after she had complained of racial discrimination and filed an EEOC complaint.
After the administrators union announced the contract change on May 17, 2011, Rodriguez received an “oral warning summary” on May 26, which, according to the complaint, Wilbur used to give her an unsatisfactory evaluation on June 6.
The original intent of the new procedure, explains Segerblom, “was to have the administrators be held to the same standards that teachers are.”
However, “the reality is, I think, out of a thousand administrators only two were subjected to the reduction-in-force (RIF),” said Segerblom.
“Goldman eliminated her position,” said Segerblom, “notified her in writing and at that time he knew if she got a negative evaluation — which was going to come up in a month or two — that, that would result in a demotion…
“He knew that in actuality, given the contract language that was going to be coming into effect that she would actually end up being demoted out of an administrative position.”
Rodriguez had been hired by the school district in 1990 as a support staff employee. By 2002, she worked her way up to an administrator position. According to numerous employee evaluations obtained by Nevada Journal, she was a valuable employee with an impressive work history.
Former CCSD assistant superintendent Keith Bradford said in Rodriguez’s 2008 annual evaluation that she “demonstrated excellent leadership” as a liaison between SAP/ERP — the enterprise-resource planning initiative the district contracted for with the European software giant SAP — and the district’s Human Resources office and was “instrumental” in helping to accomplish a workable interface in the district’s SAP/ERP system.
CCSD spokesperson Amanda Fulkerson stated she wasn’t aware of the lawsuit and did not provide any further comments by press time.