School District Sued in Harassment Case

A former employee of Fullerton Joint Union High School District has filed a lawsuit against the district and her onetime supervisor, saying that she was sexually harassed.

Desiree Winter, who worked as an usher at the district's Plummer Auditorium from March 1994 to April 1998, alleges in the suit that Walter Dejong, the auditorium's manager, made lewd comments in front of employees and touched her "arms, legs, chest, back and buttocks."

"Dejong would yell at school district employees and/or physically intimidate them," the suit, filed Wednesday, alleges. "In addition, [Winter] and her fellow employees were aware that Dejong was a part-time and/or reserve police officer [and] that he carried a concealed weapon . . . which contributed to [Winter's] extreme fear of refusing to submit to Dejong's wishes."

A Newport Beach Police Department official confirmed that Dejong was a reserve officer with the department since 1989 but recently left. He would not say under what circumstances.

Winter's attorney, Robert D. Coviello, said Friday that his client had informed the school district of the situation but officials failed to take action.

"She was forced to quit because of the conditions," Coviello said.

District Supt. Michael Escalante said he was aware of the complaints against Dejong but could not comment because it is a personnel matter. "We have been investigating it along with the Police Department," he said.

Dejong took a leave absence in June and later resigned, Escalante said.

Winter is seeking unspecified damages.

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