School district employee's lawsuit seeks $1.5 million

An Ocean View School District employee has filed a lawsuit against the superintendent and board of trustees claiming they pressured her to resign and harassed her because of her age and sexual orientation.

Holly Marvin, 49, a communications supervisor for Ocean View, filed the lawsuit Aug. 19 and is seeking $1.5 million in damages. In addition to the school board — specifically naming Trustees Debbie Cotton and Tracy Pellman — and Supt. William V. Loose as defendants.

According to her attorney, Betsy A. Stansell, the district broke an agreement to let Marvin move to Maryland, where her wife got a job with the Department of Homeland Security, and do her job with Ocean View electronically on alternate weeks.

The district approved the arrangement in 2010 under previous Supt. Alan Rasmussen, but reneged on it after Loose took office early this year, Stansell said.

In addition, the lawsuit claims the district mistreated Marvin and other employees over the age of 40 in an effort to force them to retire or resign; that it humiliated Marvin by moving her to a small office in the district's copy and mailroom; and that Loose, on one occasion, hung his swim trunks with the crotch side out on his car's side-view mirror next to Marvin's vehicle.

The action was intended as a dig at Marvin's sexual orientation, Stansell said.

"They're trying to get rid of her," she said. "They're trying to make her leave her job after 23 years."

Attorney Daniel Spradlin, representing the district, declined to comment on specific accusations but said the district did not treat Marvin in a discriminatory manner. He noted that he had read a previous claim filed by Marvin but had not yet seen the lawsuit.

"I will say this: that she's a valued employee," Spradlin said. "The school district strives to treat all employees, including Ms. Marvin, fairly. I think there are occasional differences of opinion in times of tight budgets in terms of what's possible and what's not, and various issues that come up from time to time."

Loose declined comment, calling the issue with Marvin a personnel matter.

According to the lawsuit, Marvin and her wife, whom she legally married before Proposition 8 passed, sold their Westminster home and purchased a house in Maryland after the district gave the go-ahead for the telecommuting arrangement. Loose allegedly expressed support for the plan at first, but soon after becoming acting superintendent, informed Marvin that she would have to work full-time in Huntington Beach starting July 1.

Marvin's wife's name does not appear in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims Loose ordered Marvin to help develop the district's reprographics department into a for-profit entity, an action that she believed was possibly illegal. The superintendent also told other staff that Marvin planned to resign, according to the lawsuit.

Marvin is now staying full-time at the Huntington apartment that she had meant as a part-time residence, Stansell said.

"It's grueling," she said. "She's separated from her family."

Marvin would probably be unable to get health insurance if she left her Ocean View job because of preexisting medical conditions and the fact that the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage, which would make her ineligible for her wife's benefits, Stansell said.

In addition to Marvin, the lawsuit names six other employees over the age of 40 whom the district allegedly harassed and pressured to leave. Among them are former Deputy Supt. Beverly Hempstead, now superintendent of the Cypress School District, and former Director of Curriculum and Instruction Anne Silavs, now assistant superintendent of curriculum for the Fountain Valley School District.

Silavs declined to comment on the lawsuit, but Hempstead, reached Tuesday, called it inaccurate and said no one in Ocean View coerced her to leave.

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

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