Teachers Ask State to Punish Principal : Schools: Their union charges that the Van Nuys school official retaliated against a ‘whistle-blower.’ The group wants her credential revoked.
The Los Angeles teachers union, in the first such action in its history, has asked state authorities to revoke the credential of the principal of Chandler Elementary School in Van Nuys, accusing her of harassing a “whistle-blowing” teacher.
The union charged that the principal, Jacklyn Thompson, had retaliated against teacher Sheila Hopper, who had tipped off state authorities that the Los Angeles Unified School District was improperly cutting corners on its special education classes.
A month after Hopper filed her final of several complaints, the district investigated her for child abuse and battery and threatened to suspend her. Hopper, a special education teacher, was eventually cleared.
If Thompson is found guilty of initiating those investigations as a form of harassment, she could become the first Los Angeles principal to lose her state credential, a school district official said.
“The only thing I have to say is that it’s tremendously unfair,” Thompson said Monday. “I’ll carry this case to the highest court until I’m vindicated.”
Thompson said she had no motive for retaliation because Hopper’s complaints were made against the district. Hopper said the principal was acting under orders from district officials.
A school district lawyer who is representing Thompson denied Hopper’s allegations.
The principal testified Thursday before a committee of the state’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which is investigating the matter and has the authority to revoke Thompson’s credential.
The committee is expected to make a recommendation to the full commission by week’s end. Thompson can appeal.
The case dates back to 1989 when Hopper, a 27-year veteran, first told state officials that special education teachers in Los Angeles were not being included in meetings to plan student curriculum. State law requires such teacher involvement.
Hopper filed complaints with state and federal agencies.
In February, 1990, the state ordered the Los Angeles school district to comply with the law.
In the meantime, the district informed Hopper that she was being investigated for child abuse involving a student and battery on a teacher’s aide. Both charges were filed by Thompson.
“In other words, I’m a whistle-blower and the district retaliated against me,” Hopper said.
An arbitrator exonerated Hopper. She, in turn, filed complaints against Thompson and another principal. The committee found the second principal innocent of wrongdoing, but continued its investigation of Thompson.
The union, United Teachers-Los Angeles, said it has championed Hopper’s case as an example of a principal misusing authority.
“It’s frustrating for us because no matter how bad a principal is, the district supports them,” said Roger Segure, the union’s director of grievances. “We finally got fed up with it.”
The state Education Code prohibits retaliation against school employees who report violations or noncompliance.