Bay Area teacher sues school district for firing her over sexual harassment complaint

An elementary school teacher sued the Mountain View Whisman School District for wrongful termination and for retaliating against her after she reported her colleague’s alleged sexual harassment. Instead of protecting her from a hostile work environment, district administrators allegedly retaliated against the teacher by withholding a recommendation letter, giving her a negative final evaluation and wrongfully terminating her.

Crysti Flowers-Haywood was a teacher at Theuerkauf Elementary School during the 2017-2018 school year. One of her responsibilities involved holding regular meetings with Bryan Rios, a first grade teacher. Flowers-Haywood claimed Rios subjected her to harassment and “hostile, erratic and aggressive” conduct during their meetings.

According to the lawsuit filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court, Flowers-Haywood reported the alleged harassment to her supervisors. She followed up on her complaints multiple times and asked the school principal, Ryan Santiago, to sit in on her meetings with Rios.

Flowers-Haywood claimed school district superiors repeatedly ignored her complaints and did not take any corrective action. Instead, Santiago started criticizing her teaching and described her as a bad fit for the school. She was also allegedly subjected to enhanced scrutiny in retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment in the workplace.

The school district’s spokeswoman maintained that Flowers-Haywood was let go once the school year concluded as specified in her contract. She issued a written statement that described any allegations of the district wrongfully terminating or retaliating against a school employee for complaining about Rios as “false and misleading.”

The suit pointed out that Rios was employed at Theuerkauf Elementary School even though the district had received complaints about his behavior from female teachers at the school where he previously worked. Police later arrested Rios on sexual assault charges in a separate case. However, prosecutors did not press charges due to a lack of evidence. Rios does not teach at Theuerkauf anymore.

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