A teacher who says Los Angeles Unified wrongfully suspended him after someone created a fake Facebook account and posted inappropriate messages using his name is suing the district, alleging there was a rush to judge him that caused him to suffer multiple nervous breakdowns.
Jason Christopher Duchan filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court. The allegations include retaliation, harassment, defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The suit seeks unspecified damages.
An LAUSD representative did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.
The suit says the former teacher at John Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley was placed on leave pending an investigation after school officials learned of the Facebook page and posts last November. They also sent memos, to students, teachers and parents, telling them that an employee had been removed for alleged misconduct.
Although Duchan was not identified by name in the memos, those who read them had also seen the Facebook page and lewd posts and knew they referred to the plaintiff, the suit states.
“LAUSD could have easily and immediately questioned plaintiff about the Facebook profile/posts and determined his innocence,” the suit states.
The district memos caused Duchan to develop a mental disability, to suffer nervous breakdowns and to request to have a comfort pet on the job, the suit states.
Ultimately a former student of Duchan’s confessed to being behind the posts, the suit states.
“Yet, despite LAUSD obtaining information clearing plaintiff of any wrongdoing, LAUSD refused to publicly clear (his) name,” the suit states.
The district told Duchan to return to the same school and classroom where he taught before the suspension, according to the lawsuit.
“This caused plaintiff to develop or exacerbate his mental disability,” the suit alleges. “Plaintiff suffered a severe panic attack.”
Duchan believed that being told to return to the same classroom without his name being cleared would invite disrespect and hostility from students, parents and other teachers, the suit states. He also feared he could be physically assaulted, the suit claims.
Although Duchan was eventually reassigned in January to the ArTES High School — part of the Cesar Chavez Learning Academies — he continued to experience retaliation, the suit alleges. His time cards were altered and his sick leave absences were reported as being unexcused, the suit states.
His car was vandalized when someone used a key to scratch the paint in February 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 states.
In March, 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.
— City News Service