TUSD Whistleblower: School psychologist terminated for reporting civil rights violations

TUSD Whistleblower: School psychologist terminated for reporting civil rights violations

CREATED Aug 14, 2012

Reporter: Valerie Cavazos
Web Producer:  Forrest Carr

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- If a TUSD administrator were to blow the whistle on abuse, the district wouldn't retaliate against her, would it? And if the Feds were to intervene, TUSD isn't the kind of district that would keep that information from you, is it? One whistleblower says the answer to both of those question is: yes.

Dr. Rose Hamway, a school psychologist,  works from home now after TUSD terminated her contract more than two years ago. She says the district retaliated against her when she reported "the mistreatment of children with special needs, lack of due process, pretty blatant violations of law." She said administrators created a counterproductive work environment and then terminated her contract.

Dr. Hamway complained to the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.  OCR documents and emails show that staff launched an intenstive investigation. She said, "I have the email where they notified the district of the findings." That was back in May, but TUSD Board member Dr. Mark Stegeman said he was kept in the dark. "I'm disappointed that the board hasn't heard about it up to this point."

When Stegeman asked the district, in July, if there were OCR findings against TUSD, District staff answered that there were no OCR findings.

KGUN9 reporter Valerie Cavazos asked Stegeman if it's policy for the board to be notified right away. "I'm not sure it's policy, but it's good practice to be notified promptly of a negative finding of that magnitude."

Stegeman says retaliation against teachers is a serious issue and TUSD needs to address the culture of fear among teachers that has pervaded the classrooms. He said, "I know there is a concern about retaliation. When something happened at Pueblo High School a few weeks ago, there was a policy change. Teachers did not want to talk because they feared retaliation.  It's not a climate that people want to work in and we really have to change that culture."

Dr.  Hamway's initial whistleblower complaint involved 14 separate allegations of abuse and neglect against special needs kids. The Department of Education's Office of  Civil Rights reached an agreement with TUSD to resolve those 14 cases and also Dr. Hamway's retaliation complaint.

But the agreement remains secret. And Tuesday's board briefing took place in secret -- behind closed doors in executive session. 9 On Your Side will be knocking on TUSD's door to find out what the district is doing to make things right with the 14 students, their families and Dr. Hamway.