Friday, September 18, 2015

Internal investigator at San Diego Unified fired for refusing to cleanse a report about sexual assaults in boys bathroom

I have long argued that there is too much secrecy in schools. A new lawsuit (see NBC 7 article below) makes the same case.

The Michael Gurrieri lawsuit (see NBC 7 article below) against Cindy Marten, the superintendent of San Diego Unified School District, claims that Marten knew and approved of the firing of Gurrieri, an internal investigator who looked into a serious sexual molestation problem at an elementary school. The district wanted Gurrieri's report to be cleansed to cover-up the fact that the principal failed to act to protect children. Gurrieri refused to censor his report as the district demanded, and he was fired.

Marten has filed a Motion to Dismiss herself as a defendant in the case, claiming that Gurrieri has no proof that Marten was involved. I think Marten is a pretty good superintendent; it is the system itself that is bad. In my experience, almost all school districts simply do whatever they want to do, and then have their lawyers protect officials from responsibility. The question of Marten's involvement in personnel actions has been raised regarding the removal of another principal. Many believe that a principal was removed from her school in retaliation for failing to make sure that board member Marne Foster's son got a good college recommendation.

The District Deeds blog and Voice of San Diego have written about recently discovered emails showing that Marten was informed of Marne Foster's wishes.

The following is from the District Deeds blog:

"Regardless of the reason why she removed Lizarraga, the latest emails show that Marten was aware of Foster’s overreach at the school.”
-- Reporter Mario Koran – Voice of San Diego 

Koran has proven, through multiple emails and communication between Trustee Marne Foster and former Chief Student Services Officer Joe Fulcher that copied Supt. Cindy Marten, that BOTH FOSTER AND MARTEN VIOLATED SDUSD Board of Education Policy which states:

"The board will not give direction to any employee other than the superintendent and any other employee who may report directly to the board.”


Here is a story about the Gurrieri case:

San Diego Unified Lawsuit Moves Forward
Rory Devine and R. Stickney
Aug. 13, 2015

See federal complaint here.

After the San Diego Unified School District paid $105,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging sexual assault in a boy's bathroom, a new suit has been filed relating to the case.

A former employee who alleged a "cover up" of student-on-student sexual misconduct at SD Unified will soon be heading to settlement talks with the district.

A September 24 date has been set for settlement negotiations in the suit brought by former school district investigator Michael Gurrieri. He was hired by SDUSD in March 2014 as a probationary internal investigator.

Gurrieri claims he uncovered a problem of student-on-student sexual assaults within the district as he was looking into an allegation at Green Elementary School in San Carlos.

In May 2013, parents of a kindergartener said their son was sexually assaulted by another kindergarten student in the boy's bathroom at Green Elementary. The parents were awarded $105,000 to settle a lawsuit in the case, and the district did not admit guilt.

When Gurrieri filed his report, he claims he was told to remove allegations of incidents of abuse in the school that the principal was aware of and didn't do anything about, according to his attorney.

Gurrieri was terminated from his job because he objected to the district's “cover- up,” his attorney claims.

The lawsuit originally named Superintendent Cindy Marten, Executive Director of the Quality Assurance Office Carmina Duran and the district's General Counsel Andra Donovan as defendants because the district cannot be sued in federal court under the claims of First Amendment violations.

A judge is considering a motion to remove Marten and Donovan that claims Gurrieri failed to prove he had a conversation with either Marten or Donovan regarding his report.

However, Gurrieri's attorneys say the judge has yet to make a final decision on whether Marten and Donovan will be defendants.

Duran did instruct Gurrieri to focus his report on one student's allegations, court documents show.

The district ended Gurrieri's employment in October 2014, court documents show. The district has said it will not comment on pending litigation.

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