Whistleblower case costs LAUSD a $3.3 million jury award
Vanessa Romo | December 19, 2014
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LA Unified sustained another legal blow this week in a “whistleblower” case that’ll cost the district millions.
After nearly a month-long trial, a Los Angeles jury awarded retired Air Force Officer and Junior ROTC instructor, Archie Roundtree, $3.3 million, finding that the district had revoked his teaching certification in an act of retaliation.
This latest setback comes a month after the district announced a $139 million settlement in civil cases stemming from the actions of a former teacher at Miramonte Elementary School.
Shortly after reporting a series of violations in the operation of the JROTC program at John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley, Chief Academic Officer Gerardo Loera began complaining to the Air Force about the veteran instructor. The Air Force subsequently revoked Roundtree’s 15-year certification to teach JROTC cadets.
According Renuka V. Jain, a lawyer who represented Roundtree, “The jury awarded Roundtree $1,810,840 on the whistleblower claim, $1 million in defamation damages against Loera, and $500,000 against Assistant Vice-Principal Adriana Maldonado-Gomez. The jury also concluded that Loera had acted with malice, oppression or fraud.”
“The settlement is good but he will never be able to get his certification back,” Jain told LA School Report. “There is no appeal, there is no review. The only people who can get it back is Air Force and they’re not going to do that,” she said.
The district said in an email response it is “very disheartened” by the verdict.
“It is never the intention of the District or its administrators to engage in defamation or retaliation against any employee for any reason,” the district said. “While the jury found in favor of Major Roundtree, the District believes and maintains that each of the administrators’ actions were taken with the students’ interests at heart and were not done in retaliation against Major Roundtree.”
The district is currently reviewing the record and considering its options with respect to any challenges to the verdict.