Retaliatory Complaint Filed by Parents of Bully:
Teacher Convicted by Merriam-Webster

The parents of the bully filed a retaliatory complaint against Sarah two months after the meeting that upset them: Ted and Kelly ***** wrote: "...let's remember we're talking about a 9 year old little [child] who loved Ms. Green, always referring to her as [his/her] "favorite" teacher."

Excerpts from the documents appear below. All of the documents cited are available online: just click the links in the titles below or the links at the bottom of this webpage.

A written report dated June 3, 2011resulted from an investigation conducted by Matthew W. Wright, HOLM WRIGHT HYDE & HAYS, against Sarah and Denise, who was a substitute teacher in the classroom when bullying incidents occurred.

GPS "Independent Investigation" Report to Complaint by Bully's Parents

The crux of the complaint against Sarah is that she acted unprofessionally during the meeting. The four parties who were present essentially agree about what happened. Sarah's position differs from the *****s and Principal Hester in that she feels that her acts were not improper.

Footnote: Sarah believes that she was charged with unprofessional conduct by Principal Hester and Assistant [sic] Superintendent Blanchard, and cleared of those charges because the only notice she received following their meetings had to do with improper labeling of students. Principal Hester said that no finding was made about Sarah's professionalism in light of this investigation.

Under District policy, Sarah was required to demonstrate positive and appropriate relationships with the *****s and conduct herself in a professional manner. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines acting "professional" as, "exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace." Sarah's open disdain for Principal Hester and refusal to engage the *****s was not courteous, conscientious, or businesslike. A more appropriate response by Sarah would have been engaging in the conversation by demonstrating her reluctance to have the child remain in the classroom, focusing on the interests of the other students, which Sarah genuinely felt would be harmed by the *****s' child staying in the class. Showing visible anger and refusing to speak about the issue further was not the professional thing to do. [emphasis added]

It could also be argued that Sarah failed to consider the best interests of the child when acting as she did during the meeting. Principal Hester expressed concern that she had never had a teacher refuse to keep a student in a class if the parents asked for one more chance, as the *****s did. But Sarah viewed the situation to be a conflict between what was best for the *****s' child, and what was best for the rest of the children in her class. For that reason, she did not act unprofessionally by her refusal to keep the *****s' child in her class. Instead, her improper conduct was limited to the unprofessional way in which she handled herself at the end of the meeting. [emphasis added]

IV. Recommendations.

Based on the investigation, I recommend professionalism training for Sarah. The problem she had in this instance is that she did not understand that her conduct in front of parents was unprofessional. Some simple training on this issue would be a benefit to Sarah.

Sarah's Response, August 19, 2011 (before getting a copy of the report):

The catalyst for the *****s' complaint against Sarah and Denise was Denise Lowell-Britt's request for an interview with the *****s. The *****s refused, and instead filed their own complaint, which stated on its face that the complaint was retaliation against me for an incident that had occurred two months and twelve days before. The *****s said they "felt compelled to set the record straight."

Their complaint charges that my behavior was "rehensable [sic] and grounds for discipline for insubordination in our opinion" and "unprofessionalism and rude behavior." The specific instance was:

Ms. Green sat in her chair, staring directly at Ms. Hester and in a very rude and disrespectful manner stated to Ms. Hester "that is not what we agreed to."

They noted that Vicki Hester apologized to them for my "unprofessionalism" and that they discussed their complaint with Vicki Hester before filing with District HR. The *****s also complained that my contact with them following my first report of [student's] bullying was insufficient, although they acknowledged that I told them it was because Vicki Hester was investigating the bullying incidents.

An interesting fact is that the *****s said "Even though the February 7, 2011 referral reflects that it was the second incident." I have no knowledge of a referral on that date and the computer database has never shown a referral on that date. In fact, the computer database never showed any disciplinary referrals for [student] while [s/he] was in my classroom. I don't know what the *****s were told about [student's] behavior, but it appears it was not what I reported, which was bullying. [emphasis added]

The *****s' complaint proves they did not know about the many incidents of bullying:

We will not make excuses for our [child's] behavior, we know there are issues which warrant action; however, it is the lack of action which we feel that Ms. Sarah Green failed to take when NOT bringing us into the loop immediately to help fix the problem on February 7, 2011. For Ms. Green to say she could not speak to us because of an investigation only leads us to believe she was seeking to build a case against our [child] rather than fix the problem.

...The *****s also were suspicious because I was on sick leave from February 17, 2011 through March 2, 2011.

Additionally, it also seems very odd to us that after the February incident involving [student], Ms. Green is absent from work for a couple of weeks?

...The *****s also complain that there was some kind of conspiracy:

Then, further allegations develop against our [child], with Ms. Green's mom, Denise, being the substitute teacher during this time? We found it unbelievable and alarming, leading us to suspect that the Greens' have a personal vendetta against Ms. Hester and is using our [child] as a pawn to accomplish their agenda.

...Vicki Hester scheduled a meeting with me on March 3, 2011 to discuss our meeting with the *****s the next day ... then Vicki Hester decided she would reassign [student] to another class. My concern was the safety and well-being of my students who were victims and those who were affected by [student's] bullying.

...The next morning, March 4, 2011,Vicki Hester arranged with [third grade teacher] for [student] to transfer to her class.

Note: This third grade teacher was NOT interviewed during either of the two investigations. It appears that this teacher's testimony would have destroyed the preordained conclusions of the investigations...because this teacher already had rearranged her classroom before the meeting on March 4th to accommodate this newly-reassigned student.

...the *****s did not know that I had warned Vicki Hester that they were smart, caring parents who would not accept superficiality.

Mr. ***** said that something wasn't adding up. At this point I nodded, because I really wanted him to seize on that. He, his wife, and [student] were being treated so badly. They didn't understand why this was happening, and they had not heard of any incident since the first one I had reported. As I suspected, they had never heard about the other incidents.

...Another point where our perceptions diverge was the *****s' description of how I left the meeting:

Ms. Green continued to sit there and Ms. Hester had to, all but tell her to go, get out of the room.

The *****s were not aware that my concern was this: Mr. ***** had dismissed me, which was what I expected from him. He obviously is accustomed to being in command of situations. In this case, Vicki Hester was my supervisor and I was well aware that if I left before SHE dismissed me, she could use that as the basis for a charge of insubordination against me.

...Even though Vicki Hester also accused me of unprofessional conduct, and Nikki Blanchard investigated that charge, neither of them ever told me what I did that was unprofessional. In fact, Nikki Blanchard closed her investigation without mentioning the charge that began it.

Finally, Denise Lowell-Britt said that it was unprofessional for me to refuse to take [student] back into my classroom when the *****s wanted that. I was stunned when she further explained, "Reality is fluid" as a justification for finding me guilty of unprofessional conduct. [emphasis added]

...It is abundantly clear to me that the investigator was grasping for straws to reach a preordained conclusion when the investigator failed to consult state law and District policies as support.

Unprofessional conduct is a career-ending charge for a certified teacher. I doubt the *****s were well versed in the intricacies of educational licensing, but Vicki Hester knew full well when the *****s discussed their complaint prior to filing it.

...My first concern in all of this was for my students. I begged for help for the bully as well as for the victims. The District's response was deliberate indifference to the victims. The *****s knew nothing about the complex back story with the other investigations, but Vicki Hester knew all about it when the *****s discussed their complaint with her prior to filing their complaint with HR. [emphasis added]

Although delays and dissembling about Vicki Hester's initial response to my reports of bullying exacerbated the situation, it still would have been simple for Vicki Hester to tell the truth to the  *****s about [student's] bullying...

Instead, we're left with the situation that the *****s believe I was unprofessional, as they concluded their March 4, 2011 meeting with Vicki Hester, after hearing Vicki Hester's apologies for my unprofessional conduct. The *****s still don't know that I was trying to protect [student] and not call out Vicki Hester's lies and omissions.

Another thing the *****s probably don't know is that the issues my parents and I reported were far greater than [student's] bullying. Civil rights violations were among the problems, and I was really, really worried about [student's] propensity for disparaging others and for bullying the student who [redacted].

...[student] was my student for most of the year; the *****s admitted that [student] loved me, and there were plenty of reasons for that. I did not want to see [student] wander into serious legal trouble because [s/he] had been allowed to bully with impunity. I felt very sorry that [his/her] parents were denied the knowledge of what [student] really had been doing, because that meant they could not help some of the most serious aspects of [student's] bullying.  [emphasis added]

I told Matthew Wright and Dominic Verstegen that I considered this entire matter to be harassment and retaliation because I had reported bullying and racial discrimination. It seemed, however, that nothing would stop Vicki Hester and Nikki Blanchard in their concerted harassment. The *****s joined in this harassment when they filed a complaint against me that had already been resolved.

...Finally, I have a few things to say about the investigator's recommendation that I attend professionalism training, whatever that might be. The investigator should have been hired by the district to conduct a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation. That initial validity, however, is in doubt because Nikki Blanchard hired the investigator. Whether Nikki Blanchard disclosed that she had already investigated the same matter is unknown, but I certainly disclosed it to Dominic Verstegen.

...I also note that although the investigator seems not to have included Denise in this investigation, the retaliatory motive of the *****s and their accusations remain a matter of public record that harms both Thomas and Denise. They should have checked their facts first, or listened more closely to Denise Green's descriptions of how their family was denied due process in the way that [student's] bullying was handled. Perhaps they could have helped their [child] more if they had sought better information.

Sarah's Addendum to Response, September 15, 2011 (after getting a copy of the report through a public records request to GPS) [bold text appearing below is added]

I believe this investigation was inadequate and it was intended to serve as cover for adverse employment actions that the District planned to take against me. [large bold font in original]

...I represent that the following examples of inadequate investigation nullify the report and its conclusions, showing the maliciousness of the adverse employment actions taken against me, and the intentional defamation that ruins my career and my professional reputation.

1. Regarding [student's] removal from my classroom: "[Vicki Hester] made no assurances that removal would definitely occur." This statement ignores the fact that Vicki Hester had already assigned [student] to [third grade teacher's] class early on Friday morning, March 4, 2011. Ms. [teacher] had already rearranged her classroom to accommodate [student] before the meeting with the *****s. I understand that the *****s rejected that assignment, and [student] ended up assigned to [another third grade teacher's] classroom as of Monday, March 7, 2011. It would have been a simple matter for the investigator to speak to Ms. [teacher] to determine the truth of Vicki Hester's assertion that she had "made no formal assurances."

2. The investigator decided I acted unprofessionally and wrote "A more appropriate response by Sarah would have been engaging in the conversation by demonstrating her reluctance to have the child remain in the classroom, focusing on the interests of the other students, which Sarah genuinely felt would be harmed by the *****s' child staying in the class." This statement ignores that the *****s' complaint was explicit about that very issue: "Ms. Green elaborated by explaining that our [child] had lost the trust of all the other children in the class and she was fearful of there being more "victims" in her class." The investigation was inadequate due to internal inconsistency: the complaint itself shows that I did exactly what the investigator recommended as a "more appropriate response."

3. The investigator concluded: "Although Sarah did not think her conduct was unprofessional, her actions caused Mrs. ***** to cry, Mr. ***** to get angry, and Principal Hester to apologize." I do not recall that Mrs. ***** cried and the *****s' complaint does not say anything about that. By way of comparison, in the meeting on August 5, 2011 when I first learned the results of this investigation, I cried as I related my students' distress after enduring bullying in my classroom and my disappointment that the district did nothing to help them. I wouldn't characterize my crying as the fault of Assistant Superintendents Shane McCord and Clyde Dangerfield, simply because they were present. The investigator should extend the same level of tolerance regarding the March 4th meeting that was very stressful to all concerned. Mr. ***** should not have become angry, but he did, and I think it would be wrong to criticize him for that. In my opinion, Vicki Hester was wrong to apologize for my behavior, but I did not witness any apology. The investigation was inadequate because the investigator improperly concluded that I caused certain behavior by others; this was not logical or cited in the complaint.

4. The report states, "What Sarah failed to do was act in a professional manner by controlling that anger ..." I deny that I did not control my anger and I represent to you that showing anger through facial expression is not unprofessional. I absolutely controlled my anger, if not my facial expression, and I did nothing wrong.

5. "Sarah also claims to have raised additional concerns about the child." This statement appears on page 3 of the report. This statement indicates carelessness and inattention, which are hallmarks of an inadequate investigation. I gave Dominic Verstegen copies of email messages to Vicki Hester and to the school social worker in which I raised "additional concerns about the child" during the month of February 2011. I believe this statement in the report indicates that the investigation was preordained to result in findings against me, so it was unnecessary to ascertain the truth of my statements to the interviewer.

6. "The initial discussion involved a discussion of the allegations of the child's behavior, including the second referral." This statement is inaccurate on two levels. First, it refers to an incident involving [student] bullying another student that I did not know about until I received my public records request for copies of the two investigation reports. Denise Lowell-Britt's report includes Vicki Hester's statement that she discussed this incident (one that I did not report) on March 4, 2011, before I came into the meeting with the *****s. Second, I have never seen any referrals resulting from my reports of bullying, not for [student] and not for the other students who were involved in the incident on February 7, 2011. I certainly never saw the "second referral." I gave both investigators screen shots from my computer showing that there were no referrals about [student] in the database in February and March of 2011.

If I had known the information contained in Denise Lowell-Britt's investigation report on pages 14 and 15, I would have considered [student's] actions [redacted] and [redacted] against one of the students I had seen [him/her] harassing previously. I would have reported it as severe, pervasive and offensive [redacted] harassment under Title IX. The victim could not participate fully in educational opportunities because [s/he] was afraid to come to school as a result of this harassment and bullying. The harassment and bullying affected all the students in my class, not just the victims. I tried to prevent [student] from continuing to bully students to such a level of severity, and instead of supporting me, the District administrator and superintendent to whom I reported began harassing me and retaliating against me. I don't believe for a minute that their actions were unintentional.

7. The investigation report relegates a serious issue to a footnote on page 7. "Sarah believes that she was charged with unprofessional conduct by Principal Hester and Assistant Superintendent Blanchard, and cleared of those charges because the only notice she received following their meetings had to do with improper labeling of students. Principal Hester said that no finding was made about Sarah's professionalism in light of this investigation." This statement is not accurate for several reasons...This footnote also ignores the double jeopardy that accrued when Nikki Blanchard authorized another investigation against me for the same charge, unprofessional conduct, from the same meeting, March 4, 2011. That willful ignorance renders this investigation inadequate, but at the same time it illustrates the lengths the District went to in order to garner any finding of "unprofessional conduct" to use against me.

8. The conclusion of the report states: "The problem she had in this instance is that she did not understand that her conduct in front of parents was unprofessional. Some simple training on this issue would be a benefit to Sarah." This statement reveals two things: I did not then, and I do not now, know exactly what was deemed "unprofessional." This statement and the unnecessary adjective "simple" modifying the recommended "training on this issue" are demeaning in their imputation that my intelligence and ability are limited. I note that the *****s employed similar derision in describing me: "...the problem is Ms. Green is not nine, she is a 25+ supposedly trained professional..."

The fact is, I dispute that conclusion. Not knowing what specific conduct was deemed unprofessional "under the common definition, and the view of everyone else present" is different from not understanding. In addition, relying on "the common definition" is misleading in this context. State law precisely defines unprofessional conduct for a teacher. I represent to you that the understanding in the community is that a teacher whose conduct is unprofessional is unfit to teach.

In my opinion, what the conclusion reveals is the failure of Vicki Hester, my supervisor, to clearly communicate her expectations or her belief that I did not meet those expectations. This statement also reveals that Nikki Blanchard failed to communicate in the same way. The two revelations are a concern because they show managerial deficiencies of top level supervisors. The two revelations are alarming because after Nikki Blanchard investigated Vicki Hester's charge against me arising from the same meeting with the *****s, she could not articulate a specification for the charge of unprofessional conduct against me.

The purpose of this investigation should have been to discover the facts as to the complaint and to ensure that no further incidents occur... It appears that no one has a clear vision of what might constitute an impropriety, but they're all really, truly, positively sure that I was unprofessional. This renders the investigation inadequate.

...I believe that even the timing of the investigation was retaliatory, because Nikki Blanchard notified me of a complaint against me just before employment contracts for 2011-2012 were made available to teachers for signature. It would have been most convenient for the District if I had not signed my contract. There would be no need to continue the investigation. Vicki Hester and Nikki Blanchard would no longer have to search out infractions of District policies to blame on me by email. I was well aware of all this. I signed and turned in my contract to Vicki Hester's admin assistant, and I also made a .pdf copy of my contract and emailed it to Nikki Blanchard. Ignoring that I reported retaliation renders this investigation reckless and inadequate.

...The headings on the written report show that the investigator considered himself in an attorney-client relationship, instead of being an impartial, neutral investigator. That rendered the investigation unfair from its inception. Further, the District had a responsibility to ensure that this investigation was conducted with the degree of thoroughness and care necessary to support the conclusions reached. Instead, it appears that the District was trying to hide deeper problems and protect administrators and a top level superintendent whose substantial departures from accepted norms show that they failed to exercise appropriate professional judgment in many situations, harming the District's interests and reputation. I doubt the District can keep their misdeeds forever hidden from the public.

Nikki Blanchard letter to Mr. and Mrs. Ted *****, June 7, 2011 (Sarah guessed this letter existed, but had to make a public records request to get a copy of this letter defaming her.)

The law firm of Holm, Wright, Hyde and Hays PLC, investigated the complaint. I have included the investigator's summary below.

"At the District's request, we conducted an investigation into a complaint filed by Ted and Kelly *****. The complaint was against Sarah Green, teacher of the *****s' third grade student, and Denise, the teacher's mother, who was a substitute teacher in that classroom. The crux of the Complaint was that Sarah Green acted unprofessionally in a meeting with the *****s on March 4, 2011. Second, the *****s complained about Denise's actions. With respect to the second issue, our investigation found that Denise no longer substitute teaches in the classroom and the District, so that issue appears to be resolved. Therefore, the focus of our investigation was just Sarah's professionalism surrounding the March 4, 2011 meeting."

The complaints against Ms. Sarah Green were substantiated. Ms. Green's improper conduct was limited to the unprofessional way in which she handled herself in the meeting of March 4, 2011. [emphasis added]

Sarah's Response to Nikki Blanchard's lack of due process and defamation in her letter to the complaining parents of the bully, September 15, 2011. [bold text appearing below appeared in the original]

I believe it is outrageous that you sent a defamatory letter about me without ever telling me. You gave me no opportunity to respond before you put at risk my substantial property interest in my employment and my liberty interest in my reputation. I had to guess that you wrote to the *****s and then I had to make a public records request to see your letter. Your malice and intent to injure me are apparent in the stealth and dissembling about this entire matter. There was no fairness, no good faith in denying me due process, defaming me, and failing to advise me about what you had done to me and my reputation.

Procedural due process was not satisfied because you, as the decision maker, were biased. You had already investigated the meeting about which the *****s complained. You wrote in your March 8, 2011 letter to my parents that you expected to complete your investigation after March 22, 2011.

...Had I been given a genuine opportunity to respond to an investigation report from a person who never met me, I would have pointed out that state law defines "unprofessional conduct" by a certificated teacher. The attorney who wrote the investigation report about the *****s' complaint instead convicted me by Merriam-Webster in order to arrive at the conclusion that you, his client, desired. The words in your letter and in the investigation report unreasonably cast me in a false light to the public and imply an unfitness for teaching students. Considering the inadequacy of the investigation and your personal animus toward me, I have no doubt all this was purposeful.

Had I been given a genuine opportunity to respond, I would have pointed out that there were factual errors in the investigation report and the conclusion reached...

...It appears you apply a standard to my conduct that you do not adhere to in your own conduct. I gave my contemporaneous notes about our March 7, 2011 meeting to attorney Denise Lowell-Britt in April 2011 and to Dominic Verstegen on May 23, 2011, which describe your anger toward me and your physical manifestations of that anger...

Even now, three months after you wrote to the *****s that their complaints against me "were substantiated," I still don't know what you decided was wrong. Your letter to the *****s states: "Ms. Green's improper conduct was limited to the unprofessional way in which she handled herself in the meeting of March 4, 2011." The written report by Matthew Wright says "...she did not act unprofessionally by her refusal to keep the *****s' child in her class." In contrast, during the meeting on August 5, 2011 to outbrief the investigations, attorney Denise Lowell-Britt said that I was unprofessional not to take [student] back into my class because "Reality is fluid."

It appears that you and your attorneys don't have a clear vision of what might constitute an impropriety, but you're all really, truly, positively sure that I was unprofessional. Your rush to close out the [parents'] complaint by defaming me reveals your malice toward me and your intent to ruin my career...

To make matters worse, after you wrote to the *****s, you involuntarily transferred me to a different school and had the district seize my personal property. I believe that your conduct defamed me by implying to the *****s and the entire population of Meridian Elementary School and Highland Park Elementary School that I had been transferred as a matter of discipline. I have stated many times that I believe that the reason you transferred me was retaliation because I reported bullying and racial discrimination. I believe that you intended my transfer to serve as an abject lesson and warning to other teachers of the consequences of such reporting.

...Your letter to the *****s conflates in the public eye a disputed charge and process against me with serious, potentially criminal charges that also are deemed "unprofessional conduct." I am aware of a history of publicly releasing this information: the Arizona Republic on December 28, 2010 quoted a conclusion in Denise Lowell-Britt's investigation report related to a middle school teacher who was accused of inappropriately touching a female student during class--the teacher "engaged in unprofessional conduct."

...I will close by noting that there was an incident involving [student] bullying another student that I did not know about until I received the public records I requested...

...Many of the problems here could have been averted by openly communicating and ensuring that Meridian Elementary School provides a safe, secure and respectful learning environment for all students. My goal was to stop [student's] bullying, but also to reduce the risk of future incidents. This was my parents' goal as well. Instead of working collaboratively toward that goal, you took a complaint from parents that stated on its face that it was retaliatory, and you pursued a malicious course of conduct with the motive of ruining my career.

Links to documents:

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Gilbert Public Schools, Arizona Anti-Bullying Law, racial discrimination, elementary school bullying, classroom bully, GPS, Superintendent Dave Allison, Assistant Superintendent Clyde Dangerfield, Associate Superintendent for Human Resources Nikki Blanchard, Assistant Superintendent Shane McCord, Spectrum Elementary School principal Debbie Singleton, Highland Park Elementary School principal Jason Martin, Meridian Elementary School principal Vicki Hester, GPS, Gilbert Education Association, GEA President Diane Drazinski, Arizona Education Association, AEA, attorney Denise Lowell-Britt, Udall, Shumway & Lyons, Mesa, attorney Matthew W. Wright, Holm Wright Hyde & Hays, Phoenix, attorney Donald Peder Johnsen, Gallagher & Kennedy, Phoenix, Civil rights, violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 703, national origin discrimination, retaliation for engaging in protected activities, retaliation for association with protected persons, illegal retaliation, hostile work environment, harassment, dismissal of certificated teacher, Arizona Revised Statutes, ARS 15-539, Arizona Civil Rights Act, Arizona Attorney General, Arizona Civil Rights Division, United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, General Prohibition Against Unlawful Discrimination and Harassment, fire teacher, National Board Certified Teacher, dismiss teacher for reporting bullying and racial discrimination, defamation, destroying a teacher's reputation, Gilbert Unified School District, GUSD, due process,  Ted and Kelly *****