Suspended teacher sues LAUSD over Facebook page he says is fake
Craig Clough | August 21, 2015
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A teacher at LA Unified filed a lawsuit against the district Wednesday after he was suspended in 2014 over a lewd Facebook page that was created with his name and image on it.
A student was eventually arrested by the LAPD and charged with creating the page, but not before the teacher, Jason Duchan, was suspended from his job as an art instructor at John Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley.
Duchan’s lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and seeks unspecified damages, includes allegations of retaliation, harassment, defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to City News Service. Duchan also claims he has suffered panic attacks and other mental health struggles as a result of his suspension and the district’s retaliation.
Duchan spoke to LA School Report in March and he outlined the details of his complaints against the district, which began in November of 2014, when he said he was suddenly suspended without being told why. Duchan said if district officials had asked him about the Facebook page, the matter could have been cleared up in one afternoon without a suspension.
“They should have called me in and showed me the Facebook page,” Duchan said in a phone interview.
Duchan provided screen shots of the Facebook page, which had a total of one friend and three posts that included some mild sexual references. Duchan said the one friend the page had turned out to be the student who was arrested for creating it. Duchan said he had caught the student drawing genitals on a desk — something one of the Facebook posts made a reference to — and reported him to the school’s principal. He said he believes the Facebook page was created as a revenge plot by the student.
The district sent out a letter to all the school’s parents informing them of Duchan’s removal, something that is district policy in the aftermath of the Miramonte Elementary abuse scandal when LA Unified created new procedures to deal with sexual misconduct allegations against district employees.
Duchan said the district eventually offered him his old job back after a few weeks but refused to publicly clear his name. LA School Report confirmed in March that a student had been arrested and charged with creating the page. The student was not publicly identified because he was a minor. Despite the arrest, Jose Cantu, head of the district’s Student Safety Investigative Team, said that an active investigation of Duchan by the district was still underway.
“They were putting me into a hostile environment. They had already sent letters home, and wouldn’t parents be upset to find out a teacher under investigation was back in the classroom?” Duchan said.
Sending him back to the same classroom without clearing his name would invite disrespect and hostility from students, parents and other teachers, put him in physical danger, and “caused plaintiff to develop or exacerbate his mental disability,” the suit alleges, according to City News Service. “Plaintiff suffered a severe panic attack.”
LA Unified communications director Shannon Haber said the district was reviewing the lawsuit and had no comment.
Duchan was given a teaching job at the Cesar E. Chavez Learning Academies, but the lawsuit claims the district continued to retaliate against him through various means, including his sick leave absences being reported as being unexcused, City News Service reported.