Principal requests staff reassignment after harassment allegations | Crime
SACRAMENTO, CA - Two employees of an after-school program believe they're being treated unfairly after speaking up when an elementary school principal made inappropriate comments.
Vanessa Grant filed a sexual harassment complaint in May 2012 after she said Crocker-Riverside Elementary School Principal Carl Westphal made numerous inappropriate comments that made her uncomfortable.
Grant said the inappropriate comments started after Westphal took the job as principal of Crocker-Riverside Elementary School in Sacramento.
She said he often made comments about her looks, her clothing and her weight. She said he told her she's beautiful and offered her a trip to Lake Tahoe.
"I mean it was really obvious," Grant said. "I had one of my yard co-workers who thought it was a huge joke and he would always say 'Oh, here comes Mr. Westphal. He's going to say something to you now.'"
Grant said the comments started when she was working for the city as a recreation aide for the 4th "R" after-school program at Crocker. The after-school program is funded through the city of Sacramento, but operates in a separate building on the elementary school campus. Grant said the comments continued when she took a job for the school district as a temporary yard duty worker, which includes monitoring students during lunch and recess.
Grant said Westphal told her that his friends could help her out financially because she's so attractive.
During one conversation on school grounds, Grant said a parent told her she wished she could afford to hire Vanessa as a babysitter or nanny. Grant said Westphal overheard the conversation and replied, "I wish I could afford Ms. Vanessa too. Look at her."
"I just knew it wasn't right. It's not right to be in a position, an administrative position, a position of power, and to be like that," said Steav Jordan who was Grant's after-school supervisor at the time.
Grant first reported the principal's comments to Jordan, who then spoke with Westphal and told him the comments were making Grant uncomfortable.
"If he's saying this to (Grant), what is he saying to the sixth grade girls or what is he saying to other teachers?" Jordan said.
Grant said the comments stopped for a bit then continued. At that point, Grant filed a sexual harassment complaint.
The school district investigated then sent a letter, that was signed by Human Resources Director Roxanne Findlay, to Grant that said "... there is sufficient evidence to support your allegation that Mr. Westphal made some inappropriate and unprofessional comments to you that made you uncomfortable..." and further stated "appropriate action has been taken."
However, the district did not find "any unlawful activity, harassment, discrimination or disparate treatment..."
"It makes me really sad because he is basically getting away with this," said Grant.
The district would not disclose what action was taken.
Westphal sent a notice, nearly a month after the findings of the human resources investigation, requesting Steav Jordan and Vanessa Grant both be reassigned to another school site.
He said they made false and defamatory statements about administrative staff and refused to comply with requests.
In his letter, Westphal told the Recreation Manager for the City of Sacramento, "If you are not able to accommodate the request to reassign Mr. Jordan and Ms. Grant to another location, and remove them from their assignments at Crocker, this may impact Crocker's ability to continue its relationship with 4th "R"."
"I did what was right in the situation, made the proper reports, submitted a letter of my accounts of what happened and for that I'm now displaced," Jordan said.
After the principal's letter, Steav Jordan was moved to district headquarters. A letter was then posted for parents at the 4th "R" site. The letter read, "The transfer is at the behest of the school principal and school district to have Steav reassigned away from 4th "R" Crocker."
"My supervisor reiterated to me this isn't a performance issue, 'This has nothing to do with your performance here at 4th "R", you're very valuable to us. We're just simply moving you so that you don't, so that things don't become hostile out on the campus,'" Jordan said.
"There's a lot of kids that just miss him so much and they ask about him everyday - 'Where's Steav, where's Steav?" Grant said.
As for Grant, she has not been reassigned in the after-school program, but also said she's not been scheduled for any hours as a yard duty worker.
"It's really scary. If you know someone high enough up or if you make high enough up phone calls you can kind of call shots even if you're doing the wrong thing," Jordan said.
District Spokesman Gabe Ross released the following statement on Thursday afternoon:
The district conducted a thorough review and investigation into the initial complaint and responded in a manner appropriate to the circumstances. While we don't comment on what disciplinary actions were or were not taken against individual employees, we take all allegations of this nature extremely seriously and investigate every claim thoroughly and fairly.
When the district became aware of the request made regarding the potential transfer of employees from the program at this school, we immediately began investigating further and continue to work closely with our partners at the after school program to find the best possible solution.
Jordan said Westphal has declined to meet after repeated requests.
As of Thursday evening, Westphal did not respond to e-mail or phone messages.