TUSD Federal Probe: Findings are damaging to the district

TUSD Federal Probe: Findings are damaging to the district

CREATED Sep 3, 2012

Reporter: Valerie Cavazos

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- What happens if you fight your bosses in an attempt to protect the most vunerable children? TUSD fired a school psychologist for it, but the Feds sided with her.

KGUN9 obtained a copy of the findings and resolution agreement from the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights or OCR. In March 2010, school psychologist Dr. Rose Hamway filed a complaint with the Feds that TUSD staff at two high schools abused and neglected special needs students and the district retaliated against her. The Feds agreed with Hamway.

It's a 15 page report and its contents are damaging to the District.

Hamway told KGUN9 reporter, Valerie Cavazos, that she couldn't bring herself to read the findings by the Office of Civil Rights. Her husband had to read them to her. "It was painful to read. It was not, 'Hurray. I won.' It was, 'Oh God, you know.' This happened."

After a two and a half year federal investigation, Hamway says she now feels vindicated. The OCR findings shows that Hamway's numerous complaints that TUSD discriminated against the special needs students were legit and that the "District never responded to her complaints," which is in violation of federal law.

Hamway told KGUN9, "They didn't respond to any of my findings. But that everything that I reported was in fact violation of law. It was going on." The proof, now in front of her, in black and white.

In the report, the OCR investigated the district's claim that Hamway failed to follow a chain of command in dealing with and reporting alleged violations, however, the OCR findings revealed that there was no clear direction from the district. The OCR stated it had "contradictory evidence from District and school administrators and staff members about who school psychologists were to report to."
Investigators discovered that the District singled out Hamway. The report stated: "Other school psychologists were allowed to perform their jobs, while she was not."

Hamway said, "So not only were they guilty of what they did to me on the site. The way they treated those children. They interfered with my ability to do my job which is what I'm paid to do by the government. They went a step further and created evidence. That was clearly false."

As the report put it, when Hamway "repeatedly and passionately advocated for the rights of students with disabilities," TUSD gave her a written reprimand articulating the Districts position that "contacting the state Department of Education place (Hamway's) job with the District 'at risk.'" The OCR found that "the case presented a clear example of a District getting rid of an employee who was engaged in an ongoing protected activity of which it was clearly aware and which it did not like."

KGUN9 reporter Valerie Cavazos asked Hamway: "Does that pretty much sum it up for you? 'Absolutely. Absolutely. And I can't come to grips with that. I can't come to grips with how a school, this is a school where children are."

Hamway said she vows to make sure TUSD changes how it deals with its most vunerable students.
"This isn't going to end here for these kids. We've just begun," she said..

The findings included a resolution agreement, which states that the District must, within two months, make sure all employees are aware of its' policy for retaliation complaints. And within four months, it must provide training to staff on that topic.  It states that the Feds will be monitoring the district's actions.

If the District doesn't comply with the agreement, it will be in breach of contract and launch another OCR investigation that could lead to a loss of Federal dollars.

KGUN9 will continue its investigation into this case.