TUSD Fed Probe: Mark Stegeman says this can't happen again
The Board member says he's shocked and disappointed after seeing Feds findings
Reporter: Valerie Cavazos
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- A TUSD board member finally gets his hands on the Federal findings against the District. The Office of Civil Rights found the District retaliated against a school psychologist for reporting discrimination against special needs students.
For weeks, Mark Stegeman has said to KGUN9 reporter Valerie Cavazos that he has not seen the details of the Office of Civil Rights findings. As of Tuesday, the district had yet to deliver the OCR's 15 page report to him. But KGUN9 gave him a copy.
After reading the details, Stegeman said he's never seen anything quite like it and he hopes he never does again.
Stegeman told Cavazos that he wasn't expecting such a scathing report from the Feds. "It's very disappointing to have participated in an action that has drawn this level of rebuke from the Office of Civil Rights."
The Feds found that the District retaliated against school psychologist Dr. Rose Hamway for reporting to the State Department of Education numerous cases of neglect and abuse of special needs students at two TUSD high schools.
Hamway filed a complaint with the Feds two and a half years ago. "In light of this case, we need to be very, very clear and strong and explicit that we will not, the Board will not, the staff will not tolerate retaliation and people need to feel free to blow the whistle on things, on problems they see."
Cavazos: 'You say you want to make it clear, you can send the message out, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the system is in place to make that happen."
Stegeman: "I think it would make sense for the Board to pass a resolution on the question of retaliation in particular. It doesn't have to say much, but it should simply say we regard this as absolutely unexceptable."
Moving forward, Stegeman says the District needs to make sure staff properly investigates complaints and the consequences of any violations should be severe.
Cavazos: "Some players have changed. Some have not. There are still current principals, current administrators. Shouldn't they be investigated based on this OCR report?
Stegeman: "I don't want to get into personnel issues. That's below where the Board goes. I trust Dr. (John) Pedicone will take appropriate action."
Stegeman said he just doesn't want see a repeat of how the District handled Hamway's complaints of discrimination, which led to her firing. "Of course, I'm disappointed because I voted for her termination. But I voted on her termination because of staff's recommendation -- not knowing a lot of the stuff in the findings."
Stegeman said TUSD employees should never feel they have to go to a federal level to get issues resolved.
Along with the OCR findings is a resolution agreement, signed by Dr. Pedicone. The District has four months to comply. But Stegeman said that's not enough. He recommends that the Board has some discussions and hears from the staff on exactly how the District plans to move forward.