A jury Tuesday rejected the wrongful termination and retaliation claims of a former principal at a Catholic elementary school in La Mirada, who maintained that she lost her job in 2015 because she got pregnant and for reporting alleged misconduct by others at the campus.
The Los Angeles Superior Court panel deliberated for about a day before finding in favor of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and against 38-year-old Bobbie Castillo.
Attorneys for the archdiocese maintained Castillo lost her job at St. Paul of the Cross Catholic School for legitimate reasons, including plagiarism.
Castillo was hired as a seventh-grade teacher at the school in 2007 and was promoted to principal by the Rev. Joseph Visperas four years later, according to the archdiocese’s court papers. Prior to her maternity leave from October 2014 to January 2015 while she was principal, she also took a similar amount of time for a maternity leave in 2009 while she was a teacher, the archdiocese’s court papers stated.
In her testimony, Castillo said that after she told Visperas in 2014 that she was going on maternity leave, he responded by asking if she would be back in two weeks. She said the statement worried her because it occurred in March, the month principals are typically presented with contract proposals for the next school year. She said she never received a contract until the following February, after she returned from maternity leave.
Castillo also said Visperas told her after his alleged pregnancy remark that he was going to have members of the school staff rate her, which she said made her worry about her job security.
Castillo said that when she returned from maternity leave, Visperas, also the pastor of St. Paul of the Cross Church, asked if she was going to have more children. She also said she continued to fret about her job status.
“I was upset and concerned that I still didn’t have a contract,” Castillo said.
The misconduct Castillo alleged was committed by others in the school included the charging of parents for unworked bingo game hours. She also maintained a teacher had a dart board in her office that had sexually oriented writings on it.
Visperas testified he was joking when he asked Castillo if she was returning in two weeks. He also said that the teacher responsible for the dart board said she used it to teach the children about the saints of the Catholic Church.
Archdiocese attorneys maintained in their court papers that Castillo was let go in March 2015 because a comparison of a self-study book with that of a neighboring parish showed that many sections were identically worded and that the plaintiff had committed plagiarism.
Castillo claimed she was in labor when the book was turned in and that there is no evidence she drafted the allegedly plagiarized portions.