TUSD whistleblower: "Someone has to answer to the families."
New details surrounding the Fed's findings against TUSD
Reporter: Valerie Cavazos
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - New details surrounding the Fed's findings against Tucson Unified School District.
School psychologist Dr. Rose Hamway blew the whistle on TUSD, after she says the district fired her for reporting civil rights violations against special needs students. In a 15 page report by the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, federal investigators found her concerns that students were neglected, even abused, were true.
Sitting in her home office, Dr. Rose Hamway, looked over the Feds findings that she's waited to see for two and a half years. In the report, TUSD stated that Hamway was, in part, fired for "failing to establish a good working relationship with staff."
Hamway claimed there was a reason for that. "I had witnessed a child being manhandled by an instructional assistant. And I also had a behavior plan that was supposed to be followed for another student with a serious mental illness that they were violating egregiously," she explained.
The report states that Hamway told not only the assistant about her concerns, but also "several other school officials and at least one District administrator that same day." "What I said was there has been an abuse issue at the site. I need help. And I tried to say that over and over," she said.
In the report, TUSD claimed Hamway sent out an email the following week to several staff members accusing them of creating an unsafe environment for one of the students. But according to the report, here's what the Feds say actually happened: Hamway only sent the email to administrators. And they say all her concerns about student mistreatment were valid. As for TUSD's claim Hamway couldn't get along with her co-workers, investigators say that's just not true. "The people I didn't get along with. The people who chose not to get along with me were the very people who were violating the kids rights," said Hamway.
The report states that a "preponderance of the evidence supports that the reason" the District claimed Hamway failed to get along with staff "was actually a pretext to discriminate against her" as she tried to "advocate for the student's rights."
Hamway said she was fired for going over her bosses' heads to report discrimination.
In the OCR findings, the District claimed Hamway failed to follow the chain of command when she reported problems at the schools.
The Office of Civil Rights finding show that School psychologist Dr. Rose Hamway first filed a grievance with "the District's Employee Relations Department in September of 2009 and sent a copy to the District's lead Psychologist, her direct supervisor." The Feds found that the "District never responded."
The federal report states that one month later Hamway met with an Assistant Superintendant, but instead of discussing her concerns, Hamway claimed "the agenda of the meeting was to rebuke (Hamway) in writing." Hamway said, "I never received a response from the district except to discipline me."
Hamway said she sent a letter to the Superintendent Elizabeth Celania-Fagen, who was the District's top administrator at the time, and she received no response.
The report states Hamway then climbed up the chain of command and contacted the State Department of Education. "The state department has compliance reports on the district every year that are atrocious. What I was saying was already confirmed by the State Department," she said.
But that move put her job in jeopardy. The OCR report shows that the "District stated in writing that Hamway's job was at risk after reprimanding her for taking her concerns to the State Department of Education."
And the State Department's response after Hamway contacted an administrator? Hamway said she was told to fill out a form. "And I just did not. It wasn't going to benefit these kids at all," she said.
She said she believes that the state didn't do it's job either. "And how they let this go on in TUSD to operate in such a non-compliant manner for years. Someone has to answer to that to me and to the families that's their job," she said.
From 2009 to 2011, Hamway said she sent letters to State Superintendents Tom Horne and John Huppenthal, the District Superintendents Elizabeth Celania-Fagen and Dr. John Pedicone, and the TUSD Board before she finally filed a complaint with the Feds.
The Feds found that the District never clearly spelled out the chain of command to report problem and the federal investigators concluded that TUSD was wrong to use that as a reason to fire her.
Now, 2 and a half years later, Hamway said she's still worried that the District is neglecting special needs students.
Reporter Valerie Cavazos asked Hamway: "So you believe TUSD hasn't taken action?
Hamway replied, "No they have not taken action. They have not. No."