The High Desert's largest school district sharply denies firing a teacher in retaliation for her helping LGBT students who complained about alleged administrator and teacher prejudice.
Tuesday morning, attorneys representing English teacher Julia Frost sued Hesperia Unified in San Bernardino Superior Court. The 109-page lawsuit alleges her contract not being renewed was "unlawful retaliation" for her helping members of the Sultana High School Gay Straight Alliance file complaints about the behavior of teachers and administrators. Weeks before the ACLU of Southern California got involved in March, calling out the district on its treatment of the GSA and LGBT students, Frost was told her contract would not be renewed with the district, after two years on the job. (The district and ACLU ultimately agreed to changes in policy and training for employees.)
Tuesday afternoon, Hesperia Unified's top official denied Frost's allegation.
"While the district may not discuss personnel matters, Ms. Frost's allegations that the district dismissed her because she 'blew the whistle' with the ACLU about students' equal rights, specifically the rights of our LGBT students, is absolutely false," Superintendent David McLaughlin said in a written statement.
"The simple matter of fact is that a probationary teacher was legitimately and appropriately dismissed, a fact that will become evident as this matter is litigated, and she is now trying to cloud the matter, and turn it into legal action for personal gain," McLaughlin's statement continues.
California law allows non-tenured teachers to be fired without cause, although all public school teachers must be informed before March 15 if their services will not be required in the coming school year. Frost's attorneys -- Los Angeles-based Lambda Legal and Pasadena-based Traber and Voorhees -- allege that she was fired for illegal reasons, however: retaliation and discrimination against Frost, who is a lesbian, which she said Sultana Principal Larry Bird brought up in their very first meeting after she became one of the GSA's advisers.
"Ms. Frost's performance as an English teacher at Sultana was exemplary. Nevertheless, she was discriminated against, harassed and retaliated against during the course of her employment at Sultana," Frost's legal complaint reads in part. She was reportedly accused of "teaching homosexuality" and "gay things."
According to Frost's complaint, a student who filed a complaint against a teacher for making homophobic comments was interrogated about where they had gotten the complaint form, which Frost had printed out at the student's request.
"Ultimately, HUSD elected not to renew her teaching contract after her second year because she is a lesbian who is open about her sexual orientation, who complained about and attempted to challenge discrimination, retaliation and harassment directed against her and others, and who supported the legal rights and the health and safety of Sultana students who are, or were received to be, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and/or gender non-conforming and those who associated with them," it continues.
According to Frost's complaint, she had received five excellent performance reviews from superiors at Sultana, and only received a negative one following the ACLU's letter to the district.
"Sadly, her efforts serve only to fuel the argument that public education cannot dismiss teachers who do not meet district expectations without controversy and, potentially, costly legal battles," McLaughlin's statement concludes. ___