A Sequim School District employee has filed a lawsuit in the US District Court against the district and former Superintendent Robert Clark for sex discrimination.
Hanna McAndie, the district’s student assistance specialist, filed the lawsuit in the US District Court in Tacoma on March 29.
Their lawsuit stated that Clark harassed McAndie “by spreading malicious lies about sexual activity and maintaining a hostile work environment based on the plaintiff’s gender” and that this “constituted gender discrimination contrary to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 USC, violates Section 2000e. “
The complaint alleges, among other things, that in February 2020, as acting human resources manager, Clark asked the district maintenance and facilities director, John McAndie – Hanna McAndie’s father-in-law – to substantiate an allegation that Hanna McAndie was having an affair with a former district official.
“The actions of the Defendant Clark were completely unnecessary, unprofessional, and retaliatory. (His) actions caused the entire McAndie family, and the plaintiff in particular, considerable distress when they found out, ”the complaint reads.
Through its representative, Preg O’Donnell & Gillett of Seattle, the district called on the federal court to dismiss the case on April 19, according to court records.
The district wrote that McAndie “has not made a claim for relief” and that “any damage caused by (her) was caused in close proximity to anyone other than the district, and the district did not has legal liability “.
The complaint also alleges that Clark upheld McAndie’s “false allegation of sexual misconduct” in September 2020 when he discussed the allegation with Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Maughan, McAndie’s manager.
“Clark upheld this false assertion among SSD employees and had a serious and devastating effect on the plaintiff’s professional and personal life,” the complaint read.
The complaint also alleges that Clark “ruthlessly belittled the plaintiff’s professional and personal reputation with statements he knew or should have known were false and likely to harm and harm the plaintiff’s reputation.
“Clark has purposely done his best to destroy the plaintiff’s personal and professional reputation, her marriage and her relationship with her entire family with the whimsical rumors he was” trying to “investigate on behalf of SSD,” the complaint said .
Jane Pryne, interim superintendent of the Sequim School District, emailed April 10 that the school district had received the complaint from McAndie and was reviewing its contents.
“The process involves evaluating everyone from Ms. McCandie [sic] Allegations regarding their allegations of discrimination, retaliation and defamation, ”wrote Pryne.
“In the meantime, the district remains committed to providing a safe and supportive educational environment for all students, staff and administrators.”
The Directors of the Sequim School Board unanimously approved Clark’s resignation on Jan. 19. The filing states, “As Dr. Clark is resigning, the district agrees that a written report from the investigator will no longer be required.”
The McAndie complaint alleges that “Clark’s separation was negotiated as an evasive maneuver to avoid closing an investigation that would lead to the termination of Defendant Clark and increased legal exposure to SSD.”
In response to the complaint, the school district noted that McAndie’s “beliefs” about the conclusion are speculative and the district denies it.
Throughout the response, the district either denies McAndie’s allegations, says it lacks sufficient information to allow or deny certain allegations, and / or is directed solely at Clark and is unable to provide an answer.
The law firm admitted some parts of the lawsuit, such as hiring dates, resignations, and employee titles. It was also confirmed that, following an investigation, according to court documents, the Board of Directors “agreed with Dr. Clark’s decision and handover of this situation did not agree ”.
Clark declined to comment on the lawsuit.
McAndie started his work in the school district in October 2017 as a deputy paraducator, working as a special education paraeducator, public relations coordinator / information officer / liaison officer for early school leavers, and most recently as a student support specialist in the district.
On February 8, she went on personal vacation “caused by the strong emotional impact of the hostile work environment, discrimination and retaliation since April 2019,” the complaint said.
Before his vacation, McAndie had completed the course work to become a certified special educator, the complaint said.
“Due to SSD sexual harassment and retaliation against her, (McAndie) was unable to complete her documented class to obtain her certification, which prevented her from accepting a position as a certified special education teacher,” the complaint read. “The resulting loss of future profits is substantial.”
In the lawsuit, the claims for damages are not listed in detail, but “a joint and several judgment against the defendants as well as the granting of damages for mental anguish and emotional distress as well as special damages in an amount that must be proven in court for violating Title VII; and defamation ”, along with“ legal fees and prejudice interest for back payments and accrued interest for judgments ”and“ other and further facilities that the court deems just and just ”.
Origins of the lawsuit
According to the complaint, the “hostile work environment, sexual harassment and retaliation” lawsuit arises after McAndie filed a formal complaint on or about April 25, 2019 about the actions of Sequim Middle School director Vincent Riccobene against a special school student.
According to the complaint filed by the court, McAndie facilitated a hearing with the Community Truancy Board (CTB) to discuss truancy by meeting with a specific student in April 2019. The student’s mother was unable to attend and asked someone to help her son physically locates the meeting room and Riccobene arranged to attend the meeting.
According to the court document, Riccobene was “belligerent and intimidating” and “openly mocked and belittled (the) special school student in a discriminatory manner” to McAndie.
The complaint alleges that another district employee did not keep the complaint confidential after McAndie verbally reported the incidents to her manager.
The complaint also alleges that McAndie was intimidated into signing a job responsibility change in November 2019.
“It has destroyed the plaintiff’s sense of community at SSD, increased her anxiety and stress, made her insecure and anxious about SSD reasons, and damaged her personal relationships with her husband, family members, friends, professional references, and co-workers.
According to the complaint, McAndie experienced “a significant increase in anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, insomnia, poor diet and other negative physical and mental effects”.
She filed a formal sexual harassment complaint against Clark on October 9, “and any other employee who spread the rumor in violation of SSD guidelines.” Clark was put on administrative leave on October 22nd.
In December 2020, McAndie was informed that school district attorneys were negotiating a separation agreement with Clark. Clark agreed to step down in January 2021.
According to the complaint, McAndie believes that Clark’s resignation “has not been implemented or completed in accordance with SSD guidelines, the Washington Administrative Code, or the Revised Code of Washington.”
McAndie received a letter entitled “Completion of the Investigation of Your Complaint” on January 19 from Brandino Gibson, President of the Sequim School Board, in which he stated that “The investigation is now closed and Dr. Clark has resigned as Superintendent “says the complaint.
The complaint also accuses a district attorney hired attorney of conducting “invasive and irrelevant interrogation” with John McAndie about his son and daughter-in-law, which was “an additional punishment for the plaintiff and her family in retaliation for their sexual claims Harassment and advocating a special school student. ”
McAndie filed a lawsuit against the Sequim School District with the Equal Employment Office on December 22, 2020.
The school district, the complaint said, also released documents in response to a request from a Sequim school district employee for public records without proper editing. This agent contacted John McAndie with the information.
“This failure to properly edit the plaintiff’s personal information was additional retaliation by SSD against (Hanna McAndie),” the complaint said.
Michael Dashiell is editor of the Sequim Gazette for the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also includes other sound publishing newspapers, Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach out to him [email protected].
Matthew Nash is a reporter for the Olympic Peninsula News Group. Reach out to him [email protected]. He has a family who are employed and enrolled in the Sequim School District.