A former Los Angeles Unified art teacher who accused the district of wrongfully suspending him after an ex-student of his allegedly created a fake Facebook account and posted inappropriate messages in his name reached a $500,000 settlement with his ex-employer.
Jason Duchan also received a letter of exoneration, according to his attorneys, Toni Jaramilla and Dan Stormer.
“The laws protect workers from harassment by non-employees, such as students,” Jaramilla said. “Employees have a right to work in a hostile-free environment, including teachers like Mr. Duchan, who take pride in devoting their careers educating our children.”
Stormer said the LAUSD “tried to ruin this man’s career. Their behavior was despicable. It is a tragedy that was only prevented because of Mr. Duchan’s courageous acts in fighting back.”
Lawyers for the district maintained in their court papers that the lawsuit should never have been brought because it arose from “protected activity” involving the district’s investigation of misconduct allegations made by students against Duchan.
Duchan sued in Los Angeles Superior Court in March 2016, alleging harassment, failure to prevent harassment, retaliation, failure to accommodate a disability and defamation. He alleged that an LAUSD student created a false Facebook profile bearing his name and photograph, which also contained sexually explicit Facebook posts purportedly written by him.
Duchan was assigned at the time to John Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley. He was placed on leave pending an investigation after school officials learned of the Facebook page and posts in November 2014, the suit stated. The officials also sent memos to students, teachers and parents, telling them that an employee had been removed for alleged misconduct, according to the lawsuit.
Although Duchan was eventually reassigned in January 2016 to the ArTES High School — part of the Cesar Chavez Learning Academies — he continued to experience retaliation, the suit alleged. His time cards were altered and his sick leave absences were reported as being unexcused, the suit stated.
His car was vandalized when someone used a key to scratch the paint in February 2015 and an ambulance was called after he suffered another panic attack the same month, the suit states.
Duchan was stripped of his opportunity to have a service animal and his request for another transfer was denied, the suit states. He was eventually ordered to report to the school library, “where he was given no duties and had absolutely nothing to do,” the suit stated.
In March 2015, the ArTES High principal asked school staff members if Duchan was “acting crazy,” the suit alleges. He also was told he had to undergo an examination to determine his fitness for duty or he could no longer receive his salary, according to the lawsuit.
Duchan maintained that the LAUSD was aware that he did not create or direct anyone else to create the Facebook profile. The student responsible for creating the fake Facebook profile of Duchan was criminally charged for impersonating Duchan on the Internet, according to Duchan’s lawyers.
“I am very pleased that everything has been resolved and that LAUSD issued a letter of exoneration,” Duchan said in a prepared statement. “I am ready to move on with my life.”