A Charleston, S.C., high school teacher is suing the Charleston County School District under the state’s whistleblower retaliation protection law alleging she was wrongfully reprimanded and held back from new employment opportunities in retaliation for reporting her concerns the school was facilitating graduation for failing students.
Valerie Paquette, a computer and business teacher at North Charleston High, filed the lawsuit May 27 in the Court of Common Pleas, claiming that school administrators retaliated after she went to the superintendent with concerns about questionable advantages the school gave some failing seniors, allowing them to graduate.
One example Ms. Paquette gives involves a student who was given back a final exam to complete questions that had been left blank, which resulted in the grade being changed from failing to passing after the test deadline was up. In another case, she cites the example of a failing student who was allowed to pass an “entire year course” with a computer course that “allegedly took place entirely in the weekend before graduation.”
Paquette’s lawsuit also alleges that North Charleston High School Principal Robert Grimm “instructed her to give no student a grade below 61.”
The lawsuit says that Mr. Grimm’s contract contains provisions for goal-based bonuses, one of which includes an award for improving the school’s graduation rate. According to The Post and Courier, “the school’s graduation rate has [increased) from 45 percent in 2012 to 53.9 percent in 2014,”and the school’s pass rate on end-of-course exams rose from 42 percent in 2012 to 65.6 percent in 2014.
The plaintiff says that after she expressed her concerns to the superintendent, she received letters of “formal reprimand” from Mr. Grimm and the Associate Superintendent and was labeled as “insubordinate” in another written notice.
Ms. Paquette says she was then reassigned to a Charleston middle school for the 2014-2015 academic year.
Ms. Paquette seeks unspecified actual and compensatory damages from the school district, attorney’s fees, and the removal of any letters of formal reprimand from her personnel file. Her lawyer told The Post and Courier that the case is one of the first in South Carolina to invoke the state’s whistleblower law for a complaint in the education field.
Source: The Post and Courier