Maura Larkins
v.
Chula Vista Elementary School
District
Case Summary
My case was the result of an odd confluence of circumstances, and at the same time it
was a typical event in the system that controls many schools across the United States.
This prevailing culture values politics and personal loyalty among adults over the duty to
educate and protect children.

Individuals at my school were desperate to prevent any changes in the power structure
at the school.  It may seem odd that these people spent so much time, money and energy
in the quest to hold sway over
Castle Park Elementary School, which is low-profile to
say the least, sitting on a dusty corner in a low-income neighborhood near the Mexican
border.

The ruling clique at Castle Park Elementary didn't like my independence from them, my
efforts to bring more teachers into the decision-making process as required by the
Comer program and the law, and, most of all, didn't like the bilingual program I taught in
and my complaints about
civil rights violations at the school.

The district's human resources director, Richard Werlin, also didn't want anyone
changing the status quo, which was that most of the children in the bilingual program
were kept in 100% Hispanic classrooms, with no integration for academic subjects.

These small-time Machiavellis decided to use my mentally-ill
ex-sister-in-law, Kathleen,
to get rid of me once and for all.  

The story starts across town, in a run down apartment building owned by my father.


MY EX-SISTER-IN-LAW'S GOAL WAS TO BECOME
THE MANAGER OF MY DECEASED FATHER'S APARTMENTS.

I had been teaching at Chula Vista Elementary
School District for 27 years when the problem began.
It started with a family problem: I was
co-administrator of my father's estate,
and one of my brothers was secretly
unhappy about it. He and his ex-wife decided
to use the police to remove me from my position.


MY TROUBLED EX-SISTER-IN-LAW WAS TAKEN
SERIOUSLY BY THE DISTRICT

I was removed from my classroom
on February 12, 2001 due to a false police report
(see "A False Police Report" on
this page)
made by my mentally-ill and substance-abusing
ex-sister-in-law. However, the district didn't
want to admit this, since using the
illegally-obtained police report
(no charges were filed against me)
was a misdemeanor.


THE DISTRICT DECIDED TO COVER-UP ITS MISTAKE

There is no chance that the district
would have been charged with a crime
for its silly little misdemeanor
(Labor Code section 432.7), but the district
decided it would rather spend $100,000s
of tax dollars to pay its lawyers to cover up the mistake
than to simply admit it made a mistake.


THE DISTRICT CAME UP WITH A STORY

The reason given by the district for my removal was that
two teachers had called assistant superintendent Richard Werlin
at home on a Saturday evening and said they believed
I might be about to kill them. Oddly, the district
created NO DOCUMENT at this time to explain
the reason I was removed from my classroom,
nor did it investigate the alarming report.


THE DISTRICT CHANGED ITS STORY

Within a month, the district changed its story,
saying that only one teacher,
Jo Ellen Hamilton,
had called Richard Werlin about me. Hamilton later
testified under oath that she had simply called
Werlin at his invitation to discuss a planned meeting.
Robin Donlan, the teacher who illegally obtained the police
report with the help of her brother, Santa Barbara
sheriff's deputy Michael Carlson, stayed behind the scenes.


A FAX CAUSED CVESD TO DO AN ABRUPT ABOUT-FACE

On April 3, 2001 I sent a
fax to the district,
with information about Kathleen's history
of mental illness.  The next day I was abruptly
asked to return to work, and at the
same time the district belatedly
prepared a document to explain why
I had been removed from my classroom
in the first place. The document
contained a new, completely false
accusation by Richard Werlin and
never mentioned the teacher reports.


I WENT BACK TO WORK

I went back to teach in April 2001 because
it seemed clear that my accusers had
been deemed unreliable (either crazy
or dishonest or some combination of the two),
and I assumed that the fabricated excuse in
Richard Werlin's document , was merely
an effort by an embarrassed human resources director
to cover up his mistake.

But I was wrong. It was more than a cover-up;
it was, in fact, a set-up.


BIZARRE NEW ALLEGATIONS

A week after returning,
Linda Watson, one of the
teachers who had called Richard Werlin on February 10,
and a new accuser,
Alan Smith,
came forward with bizarre allegations.


AN IMPENDING ELECTION CAUSED THE TEACHERS UNION TO ABANDON ITS
OBLIGATIONS

I did not know it at the time, but the teachers
union,
Chula Vista Educators, was
working with my accuser Linda Watson. CVE President
Gina Boyd had worked at my school until 1995, and
although she did not share the
motivations
of her friends at Castle Park Elementary,
she was running for reelection and felt she
needed to keep them happy in order to win.
This effort was supported by California Teachers
Association Board of Directors member
Jim Groth.

Richard Werlin, with the approval of the cabinet
(including Libia Gil and
Lowell Billings),
had triggered an all-out hysteria at my school.
Two staff members told me that many teachers were afraid
that I was "going to come to school and shoot everybody.”


THE DISTRICT DID NOT BOTHER TO INVESTIGATE MASS MURDER RUMOR THAT
CAUSES HYSTERIA AMONG TEACHERS

Without making any effort to
establish that a Columbine-type
event was not in the offing, the
district demanded that I come back
to work in September of 2001. This
time I refused.

My lawyer demanded an investigation
to clear my name and cool down the crucible
that Castle Park Elementary had become, but
the district refused. It was clear that anyone
could make any accusation against me, and it
would be believed and acted on: I was not
safe at work.


SCHOOL ATTORNEY MARK BRESEE GOT HELP FROM DANIEL SHINOFF

Attorney Mark Bresee, who was then working with
Parham & Rajcic and was recently chosen as chief counsel
for Terry Grier at SDUSD, had been giving legal advice
to CVESD up to this point.

When I filed a tort claim on October 4, 2001, attorney Diane Crosier and claims
adjuster Rodger Hartnett of San Diego County Office of Education Joint Powers
Authority, along with their favorite attorney,
Daniel Shinoff of Stutz, Artiano Shinoff
& Holtz, became involved.


THE DISTRICT RETALIATED WHEN I FILED GRIEVANCES

I filed 3 grievances on November 13, 2001. The very next day the
district
threatened me with dismissal. This was a violation of
the
Elementary Education Relations Act (EERA) and other laws.

The district took no action on its
threats, however, until I filed a
lawsuit on March 12, 2002. On May
7, 2002 Patrick Judd, Cheryl Cox,
Pamela Smith, Bertha Lopez and
Larry Cunningham voted to dismiss
me, thus violating California Labor
Code section 1102.5 which prohibits
retaliation against employees for
reporting wrongdoing. This was also
a violation of the constitutional right
to petition for redress of grievances.


THE
OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS (OAH) HAS A GIFT FOR COMEDY

My dismissal was upheld by the
Office of Administrative Hearings.
Judge H. James Ahler conducted
a hearing that was almost as comical
as it was illegal. At one point
Judge Ahler jumped up and
ordered the panelists to join him in a
side room, where he told them to
disregard my testimony. I heard his
words because I was sitting on the
witness stand a few feet from him.
The court reporter and all the rest of us
sat at attention during the ten
minutes the panel was in the little
room, but the judge's words were
not included in the transcript
because the reporter couldn't hear
them.

The school district spent many tax
dollars, and the California Teachers
Association spent plenty of teachers'
dues, to get my lawsuit thrown out.
Alteration of documents was required,
as well as perjury by employees and even
the
Sheriff of Santa Barbara, but the effort
seemed to pay off for the district and CTA
when my lawsuit was dismissed in 2005.


DISTRICT LAWYERS BROUGHT THE CASE BACK TO COURT IN 2007

As fate would have it, however, my case is back in court.
Ray Artiano, the managing
director of CVESD’s law firm, Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz, decided to bring this
case back to San Diego Superior Court in 2007 by filing a defamation suit against me
for publishing this website.

The case is still active now, a year later, so it’s still possible that justice and sanity
will find their way back to Chula Vista Elementary School District.

by Maura Larkins
November 8, 2008
Note from the author: Many people have told me that my case is so
complicated that they simply don't understand it. In response, I have written
the following summary.
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