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New lawsuit filed against school district alleges harassment, hostile work environment

By Bob Conrad
Published: Last Updated on
Lockers at Reed High School.

Another lawsuit has been filed against the Washoe County School District. It is the latest complaint against WCSD that alleges the mishandling of legal and personnel issues.

This Is Reno first reported last year that Victoria (Coates) O’Toole filed a complaint with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission. NERC in January issued to Coates a notice of right to sue.

A former Pine Middle School science teacher, Coates said that she was bullied at work and the school district retaliated against her after she went on an extended maternity leave due to pregnancy complications.

“Upon Mrs. Coates return to work after her pregnancy [district personnel] refused to offer Mrs. Coates any full-time teaching position … and instead … only offered her a half-time ELL position,” the complaint states. “Mrs. Coates was not credentialed for the … position, and this position was given to her … in order to force her to eventually leave Pine.”

According to Coates’ attorney, Pine’s principal “removed her from her position only two months after [she] had taken leave. Consequently, [she] was denied the opportunity to continue teaching science and also was denied full-time wages, instead being forced to accept a half-time position.”

Coates said that when she returned to work, she was given a student desk to work from and no place to lock up confidential student documents and her personal items—requirements the school district is supposed to meet, according to an agreement with the teachers’ union.

“The hostile and abusive conduct Mrs. Coates received from her supervisors at Pine was hostile and abusive,” Coates’ attorney wrote in the complaint filed March 20, 2020. “The harassment and abusive conduct … interfered with Mrs. Coates’s work environment and created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”

Coates is seeking upwards of $150,000 in damages.

Pending lawsuits

Coates’ suit is the most recent faced by the School District.

Trina Olsen‘s case is in federal court. A court hearing scheduled for February was canceled after WCSD issued to Olsen a formal notice of reinstatement that was meant to occur a year prior, according to Olsen’s attorney. Interim Superintendent Kristen McNeill said Olsen’s request for a preliminary injunction was “wholly unfounded.” Olsen’s attorney said the reinstatement notice was still deficient.

Former Superintendent Traci Davis‘ lawsuit against WCSD is ongoing. Davis’ attorney, William Peterson, said Davis’ dramatic firing last year was illegal and improper, — specifically, he said that it violated the open meeting law and breached the contract Davis had with WCSD.

Byron Green’s lawsuit filed last year alleges WCSD’s attorney lied to court officials about public records. He said he had a binding agreement with the WCSD that should have prevented his firing last year.

Green said that WCSD “knowingly and willfully conspired and agreed among themselves upon a plan and scheme riddled with malice, deceit and disinformation … to wrongfully terminate the settlement agreement and release existing between Green and the District on a pretext without basis in fact and to deny Green his contract rights not to be disciplined for any issues released in the settlement agreement and release.”

District officials have said they will not comment on pending litigation.

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