On January 3, 2011, five former employees of the Kasson-Mantorville school district spoke during the open forum time of the regular school board meeting. All of the five former employees communicated concerns regarding the recent termination of a school district employee.
On February 15, 2011, the school district received two written complaints. The first complaint alleged that a current School District administrator was engaged in harassment towards a former School District employee(s) and member(s) of the community. The second complaint alleged that the school board was failing to follow its policy of investigating complaints and misinterpreting the Minnesota Data Practices Act.
Additional violations were alleged during the course of the investigation and these allegations were investigated also.
The school board appointed the law firm of Reppe Law, PLLC to investigate the matter and make a report to the school board. Interviews of witnesses were conducted by Jonathan K. Reppe. Neither the investigator nor the law firm had any personal or professional relationships with the complainants, the school board, or the administration of the Kasson-Mantorville school district.
Witness interviews were conducted at the convenience of witnesses. As a result, the investigation has taken approximately three months. The investigator interviewed approximately twelve witnesses seeking information relating to the complainants' allegations. The list of witnesses was provided to the investigating attorney by the complainants and school district administration. Additional witnesses were identified during the course of interviews of the original list of witnesses. Those persons interviewed included members of the school district administration, former employees, and citizens.
The investigating attorney was not limited in any way by the school district in terms of witnesses to be interviewed or the manner in which the investigation was conducted. Rather, the investigating attorney was given free reign in proceeding with the investigation, and all interested parties were cooperative in meeting with investigators in providing their testimony. Some of the interviews were conducted in person at witnesses' homes and some were conducted by telephone at convenient times for the witnesses. The last interview was concluded on June 10, 2011 at 10:00 a.m.
The investigation was concluded on June 14, 2011.
School District Policies
The following recitation of School District Policies is not a full listing of School District Policies but only a citation of the pertinent sections of the policies at issue in the instant matter.
413 HARASSMENT AND VIOLENCE
The purpose of this policy is to maintain a learning and working environment that is free from religious, disability, gender, racial or sexual harassment and violence. The school district prohibits any form of religious, racial or sexual harassment and violence.
II. GENERAL STATEMENT OF POLICY
A. It shall be a violation of this policy for any pupil, teacher, administrator or other school personnel of the school district to harass a pupil, teacher, administrator or other school personnel through conduct or communication of a sexual nature or regarding religion and race as defined by this policy. (For purposes of this policy, school personnel include school board members, school employees, agents, volunteers, contractors or persons subject to the supervision and control of the district.)
B. It shall be a violation of this policy for any pupil, teacher, administrator or other school personnel of the school district to inflict, threaten to inflict, or attempt to inflict religious, disability, gender, racial or sexual violence upon any pupil, teacher, administrator or other school personnel.
C. The school district will act to investigate all complaints, either formal or informal, verbal or written, of religious, disability, gender, racial or sexual harassment or violence, and to discipline or take appropriate action against any pupil, teacher, administrator or other school personnel who is found to have violated this policy.
514 BULLYING PROHIBITION POLICY
A safe and civil environment is needed for students to learn and attain high academic standards and to promote healthy human relationships. Bullying, like other violent or disruptive behavior, is conduct that interferes with students' ability to learn and teachers ability to educate students in a safe environment. The school district cannot monitor the activities of students at all times and eliminate all incidents of bullying between students, particularly when students are not under the direct supervision of school personnel.
However, to the extent such conduct affects the educational environment of the school district and the rights and welfare of its students and is within the control of the school district in its normal operations, it is the school district's intent to prevent bullying and to take action to investigate, respond, remediate, and discipline those acts of bullying which have not been successfully prevented. The purpose of this policy is to assist the school district in its goal of preventing and responding to acts of bullying, intimidation, violence, and other similar disruptive behavior.
II. GENERAL STATEMENT OF POLICY
A. An act of bullying, by either an individual student or a group of students, is expressly prohibited on school district property or at school-related functions. This policy applies not only to students who directly engage in an act of bullying but also to students who, by their indirect behavior, condone or support another student's act of bullying. This policy also applies to any student whose conduct at any time or in any place constitutes bullying that interferes with or obstructs the mission or operations of the school district or the safety or welfare of the student, other students, or employees. The misuse of technology including, but not limited to, teasing, intimidating, defaming, threatening, or terrorizing another student, teacher, administrator, volunteer, contractor, or other employee of the school district by sending or posting e-mail messages, instant messages, text messages, digital pictures or images, or Web site postings, including blogs, also may constitute an act of bullying regardless of whether such acts are committed on or off school district property and/or with or without the use of school district resources.
B. No teacher, administrator, volunteer, contractor, or other employee of the school district shall permit, condone, or tolerate bullying.
C. Apparent permission or consent by a student being bullied does not lessen the
D. Retaliation against a victim, good faith reporter, or a witness of bullying is prohibited.
E. False accusations or reports of bullying against another student are prohibited.
F. A person who engages in an act of bullying, reprisal, or false reporting of bullying or permits, condones, or tolerates bullying shall be subject to discipline for that act in accordance with school district's policies and procedures. The school district may take into account the following factors:
1. The developmental and maturity levels of the parties involved;
2. The levels of harm, surrounding circumstances, and nature of the behavior;
3. Past incidences or past or continuing patterns of behavior;
4. The relationship between the parties involved; and
5. The context in which the alleged incidents occurred.
Consequences for students who commit prohibited acts of bullying may range from positive behavioral interventions up to and including suspension and/or expulsion. Consequences for employees who permit, condone, or tolerate bullying or engage in an act of reprisal or intentional false reporting of bullying may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination or discharge. Consequences for other individuals engaging in prohibited acts of bullying may include, but not be limited to, exclusion from school district property and events and/or termination of services and/or contracts.
G. The school district will act to investigate all complaints of bullying and will discipline or take appropriate action against any student, teacher, administrator, volunteer, contractor, or other employee of the school district who is found to have violated this policy.
For purposes of this policy, the definitions included in this section apply.
A. "Bullying" means any written or verbal expression, physical act or gesture, or pattern thereof, by a student that is intended to cause or is perceived as causing distress to one or more students and which substantially interferes with another student's or students' educational benefits, opportunities, or performance. Bullying includes, but is not limited to. conduct by a student against another student that a reasonable person under the circumstances knows or should know has the effect of:
1. harming a student;
2. damaging a student's property;
3. placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or property; or
4. creating a hostile educational environment for a student.
B. "Immediately" means as soon as possible but in no event longer than 24 hours.
C. "On school district property or at school-related functions" means all school district buildings, school grounds, and school property or property immediately adjacent to school grounds, school bus stops, school buses, school vehicles, school contracted vehicles, or any other vehicles approved for school district purposes, the area of entrance or departure from school grounds, premises, or events, and all school-related functions, school-sponsored activities, events, or trips. School district property also may mean a student's walking route to or from school for purposes of attending school or school- related functions, activities, or events. While prohibiting bullying at these locations and events, the school district does not represent that it will provide supervision or assume liability at these locations and events.
IV. REPORTING PROCEDURE
A. Any person who believes he or she has been the victim of bullying or any person with knowledge or belief of conduct that may constitute bullying shall report the alleged acts immediately to an appropriate school district official designated by this policy. A student may report bullying anonymously. However, the school district's ability to take action against an alleged perpetrator based solely on an anonymous report may be limited.
B. The school district encourages the reporting party or complainant to use the report form available from the principal of each building or available from the school district office, but oral reports shall be considered complaints as well.
C. The building principal or the principal's designee or the building supervisor is the person responsible for receiving reports of bullying at the building leveL Any person may report bullying directly to a school district human rights officer or the superintendent.
D. A teacher, school administrator, volunteer, contractor, or other school employee shall he particularly alert to possible situations, circumstances, or events that might include bullying. Any such person who receives a report of, observes, or has other knowledge or belief of conduct that may constitute bullying shall inform the building principal immediately.
E. Reports of bullying are classified as private educational and/or personnel data and/or confidential investigative data and will not be disclosed except as permitted by law.
F. Submission of a good faith complaint or report of bullying will not affect the complainant's or reporter's future employment, grades, or work assignments, or educational or work environment.
G. The school district will respect the privacy of the complainant(s), the individuals) against whom the complaint is filed, and the witnesses as much as possible, consistent with the school district's obligation to investigate, take appropriate action, and comply with any legal disclosure obligations.
V. SCHOOL DISTRICT ACTION
A. Upon receipt of a complaint or report of bullying, the school district shall undertake or authorize an investigation by school district officials or a third party designated by the school district.
B. The school district may take immediate steps, at its discretion, to protect the complainant, reporter, students, or others pending completion of an investigation of bullying, consistent with applicable law.
C. Upon completion of the investigation, the school district will take appropriate action.
Such action may include, but is not limited to, warning, suspension, exclusion, expulsion, transfer, remediation, termination, or discharge. Disciplinary consequences will be sufficiently severe to try to deter violations and to appropriately discipline prohibited behavior. School district action taken for violation of this policy will be consistent with the requirements of applicable collective bargaining agreements; applicable statutory authority, including the Minnesota Pupil Fair Dismissal Act; school district policies; and regulations.
D. The school district is not authorized to disclose to a victim private educational or personnel data regarding an alleged perpetrator who is a student or employee of the school district. School officials will notify the parent(s) or guardian(s) of students involved in a bullying incident and the remedial action taken, to the extent permitted by law, based on a confirmed report.
The school district will discipline or take appropriate action against any student, teacher, administrator, volunteer, contractor, or other employee of the school district who retaliates against any person who makes a good faith report of alleged bullying or against any person who testifies, assists, or participates in an investigation, or against any person who testifies, assists, or participates in a proceeding or hearing relating to such bullying. Retaliation includes, but is not limited to, any form of intimidation, harassment, or intentional disparate treatment.
VII. TRAINING AND EDUCATION
A. The school district annually will provide information and any applicable training to school district staff regarding this policy.
B. The school district annually will provide education and information to students regarding bullying, including information regarding this school district policy prohibiting bullying, the harmful effects of bullying, and other applicable initiatives to prevent bullying.
C. The administration of the school district is directed to implement programs and other initiatives to prevent bullying, to respond to bullying in a manner that does not stigmatize the victim, and to make resources or referrals to resources available to victims of bullying.
D. The school district may implement violence prevention and character development education programs to prevent and reduce policy violations. Such programs may offer instruction on character education including, but not limited to, character qualities such as attentiveness, truthfulness, respect for authority, diligence, gratefulness, sell-discipline, patience, forgiveness, respect for others, peacemaking, and resourcefulness.
The school district will give annual notice of this policy to students, parents or guardians, and staff, and this policy shall appear in the student handbook.
206.1DM COMPLAINT PROCEDURE FOR INVESTIGATING AND REVIEWING COMPAINTS MADE BY STUDENTS, EMPLOYEES, PARENTS, AND OTHER PERSONS
The school district takes seriously all concerns or complaints voiced by students, employees, parents or other persons. At the same time, the school board recognizes the importance of conducting neutral, orderly and efficient investigations, or follow-ups and the need to communicate to a complaining party what determinations are made regarding the complaint.
The purpose of this policy is to provide procedures to assure an orderly follow-up, investigation and review regarding complaints voiced by students, employees, parents or other members of the public, as well as to protect the due process and privacy rights of individuals under the law. If a specific complaint procedure is provided within any other policy of the school district, the specific procedure shall be followed in reference to such a complaint. If a specific complaint procedure is not provided, the purpose of this policy is to provide a procedure that may be used.
II GENERAL STATEMENT OF POLICY
A. Students, parents, employees or other persons may report concerns or complaints to the school district. While written reports are encouraged, a complaint may be made orally. Any employee receiving an oral report must reduce the complaint to writing. The employee receiving the complaint must forward the written complaint to the employee's principal, immediate supervisor and the superintendent.
B. Any complaining party may forward a complaint directly to the superintendent or school board without the need to present the information to the building administrator or school employee directly involved in the concern. If the building administrator is the subject of the complaint, the written complaint must be forwarded directly to the Superintendent or the school board without the need to present the information to the building administrator.
C. The superintendent shall make an initial determination as to the seriousness of the complaint and shall determine the nature and scope of the investigation or follow-up procedures and designate the person responsible for the investigation or follow-up relating to the complaint. The designated investigator shall ascertain details concerning the complaint and respond promptly to the superintendent concerning the status or outcome of the matter.
D. The superintendent or the superintendent's designee shall respond in writing to the complaining party concerning the outcome of the investigation or follow-up, including any appropriate action or corrective measure that was taken. The response to the complaining party shall be consistent with the rights of others pursuant to the applicable provisions of Minnesota Statutes Chapter 13 (Minnesota Government Data Practices Act)or other law.
E. In the event that the complaining party is dissatisfied with the outcome of the investigation or follow-up, including the action or corrective measure taken the complaining party may file a request for review of the complaint to the complaint review committee. The request for a review shall be in writing, shall detail the areas of dissatisfaction and must be delivered to the school district within twenty calendar days of the date the school district issued its initial response.
F. The complaint review committee shall serve as an advisory committee to the school board. The committee will be comprised of three school board members and a member of the school district leadership team, none of whom have a direct involvement with the complaint. The school board members will be appointed by the school board chair, and the leadership team member will be appointed by the superintendent. The complaint review committee shall meet twice a year to review complaints. However, at the committee's discretion or the school board's direction, the committee may convene whenever necessary.
G. The complaint review committee shall review the action taken by the school district and determine whether additional action is needed. The committee's decision regarding the review of the complaint shall he communicated to the complaining party in writing and shall be consistent with the rights of others pursuant to the applicable provision of Minnesota Statutes Chapter 13 (Minnesota Government Data Practices Act) or other law.
H. The decision of the complaint review board may be reviewed by the school board in its discretion. A request for school board review of a decision of the complaint review committee shall be submitted to the school board chair, in writing, within twenty days of the date of the decision of the committee. The school board shall notify the complaining party of its decision to review or not review the decision of the complaint review board in writing.
There are three categories of allegations contained in the complaints.
The first category of complaints alleges a violation of school district policy by a school district administrator.
The second category of complaints contains allegations that school district administrators and the school board are violating school district policy by failing to follow-up or investigate citizen complaints.
The third category of complaints contains allegations that the school district is misinterpreting the Minnesota data practices act and/or violating the act.
It is the intention of the investigator to address each of these allegations specifically with
the following preface.
A. Five former employees spoke during the open forum session at the regular January 3, 2011 school board meeting. Many of the concerns raised by the former employees were addressed an investigation conducted in 2004. It is clear that many residual issues still remain.
B. Several of the witnesses had very strong and sincere views of school district
administrator wrongdoing. Witness comments can be categorized into two areas. First, issues that have been previously addressed by the 2004 investigation. Second, issues focusing on administration style or management rather than misconduct or violations of school district policy.
A. Allegation One: Violation of the school districts harassment policy.
1. The complainant alleged that the school district superintendent. Peter Grant, violated the school district's harassment policy.
2. Incident 1. Facts as provided by witness(s): Mr. Grant telephoned a public agency administrator and informed the administrator that one of his employees was using her computer and e-mail to send political messages.
3. The public agency contacted by Mr. Grant has an employee policy that prohibits employees from using the employer's computers or e-mail to communicate political messages.
4. The complainant acknowledged that she violated the public agency's employment policy.
5. Mr. Grant acknowledged e-mailing an administrator of a public agency regarding an e-mail that was forwarded to Mr. Grant. Mr. Grant identified two public agency employees who were using their e-mail to forward political speech regarding an upcoming Kasson-Mantorville school district referendum.
6. Witness(s) did not report that they believed that Mr. Grant's actions were motivated by employee's gender, religion, or race.
7. Incident 2. Witness alleged an incident of harassment of an employee during her employment. The employee voluntarily resigned in 2007. Facts as provided by witness(s). Employee had experienced a high level of anxiety and stress working at the high school. Employee stated that she was physically ill due to the stress and anxiety. Superintendent Peter Grant scheduled a meeting with Employee and other administrators. Employee stated that she left work because she felt physically ill. Witness(s) stated that
Mr. Grant called employee's husband at home to verify that employee was at her residence.
8. Mr. Grant acknowledged calling the employee's residence. Mr. Grant indicated that he called the employee's residence to speak with employee about her absence from a scheduled meeting. Mr. Grant reported that he did not intend speak with employee's husband but did so when informed that employee was not available. Witness(s) did not report that they believed that Mr. Grant's actions were motivated by employee's gender, religion, or race.
9. Incident 3. Witness alleged an incident of harassment of an employee during her employment. Employee requested adjustment of her schedule amongst High School and Middle School to move to a full time position rather than a non-full-time position.
10. Mr. Grant acknowledged that after speaking with the separate school administrators that they agreed that the employee request for full-time status did not align with the needs of the School District. Witness(s) did not report that they believed that Mr. Grant's actions were motivated by employee's gender, religion, or race.
11. Incident 4. Witness alleged an incident of harassment of an employee during her employment. Employee's responsibilities and duties were modified. Employee's performance was questioned.
12. Mr. Grant acknowledged that there were concerns regarding employees performance and attitude after she was denied a move to a full-time position. A meeting was scheduled to address the employee's concerns but never conducted due to employees resignation. Witness(s) did not report that they believed that Mr. Grant's actions were motivated by employee's gender, religion, or race.
13. Incident 5. Witness alleged an incident of harassment of an employee during her employment. Witness alleged that Mr. Grant requested to meet with employee after employee wrote an editorial to a newspaper. Witness never met with Mr. Grant but was told the purpose of the meeting was to discuss School Board Member concerns regarding the content of the editorial. Witness reported that an email discussion was conducted with Mr. Grant.
14. Incident 6. Witness alleged that during a conversation with Mr. Grant. Mr. Grant continually referred to employee by the wrong name. Witness(s) did not report that they believed that Mr. Grant's actions were motivated by employee's gender, religion, or race.
15. Incident 7. Witness(s) alleged multiple incidents of harassment and bullying by students against another student and the failure of the School District Administrators to address the issue.
16. Incident 8. Witness(s) alleged gender discrimination of an employee while employed at the School District.
17. Incident 9. Witness(s) alleged violations of medical procedures and regulations for School Nurses and the failure of School District Administration to respond.
18. Incident 10. Witness(s) alleged that former School District Administrator or current School District Administrator contacted another School District and reported that former employee was a "trouble maker”.
A. Violation of the school districts Harassment policy.
1. The school districts harassment policy does not cover incident number one. Under the general statement of the policy, individuals who are protected under the policy are limited to pupils, teachers, administrators, and other school personnel. At the time of incident number one, the complainant was no longer an employee of the school district.
2. The acts described by complainant in incident number one are not covered under the harassment policy. The harassment policy defines harassment based on religion, race, sexual harassment, and violence. Superintendent Peter Grant notified an administrator in a public agency of inappropriate activities by public agency employees. Superintendent Grant's actions cannot be described as harassment. In addition, Mr. Grant's actions cannot be viewed as inappropriate. Reporting a violation of a public agency's policies is within the scope of responsibility of any individual citizen. Mr. Grant's position as a Superintendent of a School District does not prevent him from acting as a normal citizen outside of the responsibilities of his position.
3. The acts described by witness(s) in incident number two are not covered under the harassment policy. The harassment policy defines harassment based on religion, race, sexual harassment, and violence. Complainant did not report that she believed that Mr. Grant's actions were motivated by complainant's gender, religion, or race. It is not uncommon for managers to follow-up on an employee who has left work and missed a meeting due to illness. In addition, the action cannot be defined as inappropriate. Calling an employee at home after leaving work during the work day, is a duty within the normal scope of responsibilities, for a School District Administrator.
4. The acts described by witness(s) in incident number three are not covered under the harassment policy. The harassment policy defines harassment based on religion, race, sexual harassment, and violence. Complainant did not report that he/she believed that Mr. Grant's actions were motivated by complainant's gender, religion, or race. It is not. uncommon for managers to deny an employee's request to modify their work hours either by increasing the hours or decreasing the hours. The decision to grant an employee full-time status is in the purview of management responsibilities. Employees may disagree with the decision and question the logic of the decision but never-the-less, the decision is
a management decision. Furthermore, Public Employees are afforded numerous employment rights by statute and by contract. The complainant had the right to grieve any perceived negative employment action or alleged violation of her contract rights but did not do so. In addition, the actions of Mr. Grant as reported, fall into the normal duties and responsibilities of a School District Administrator and cannot be defined as inappropriate.
5. The acts described by witness(s) in incident number four are not covered under the harassment policy. The harassment policy defines harassment based on religion, race, sexual harassment, and violence. Complainant did not report that he/she believed that Mr. Grant's actions were motivated by complainant's gender, religion, or race. It is not uncommon for managers to adjust or modify an employee's work duties and responsibilities. Public Employees are afforded numerous employment rights by statute and by contract. The complainant had the right to grieve any perceived negative
employment action or alleged violation of her contract rights but did not do so. In addition, the actions of Mr. Grant as reported, fall into the normal duties and responsibilities of a School District Administrator and cannot be defined as inappropriate.
6. The acts described by witness(s) in incident number five are not covered under the harassment policy. The harassment policy defines harassment based on religion, race, sexual harassment, and violence. Complainant did not report that he/she believed that Mr. Grant's actions were motivated by complainant's gender, religion, or race. Mr. Grant's request to meet with an employee regarding an editorial the employee wrote to a local newspaper. The editorial addressed issues about the School District. Mr. Grant's request to talk to the employee about the editorial cannot be defined as inappropriate. A meeting between management and an employee cannot be assumed to be disciplinary in nature. Mr. Grant's request for a meeting and communication to the employee, that School Board Members voiced concern about the editorial, are legitimate administrative duties and cannot be defined as inappropriate.
7. The acts described by witness(s) in incident number six are not covered under the harassment policy. The harassment policy defines harassment based on religion, race, sexual harassment, and violence. Complainant did not report that he/she believed that Mr. Grant's actions were motivated by complainant's gender, religion, or race. The complainant indicated that they did not believe that Mr. Grant was calling them by the wrong name on purpose but due to lack of familiarity. The complainant's first and last name may easily be confused by an individual who is not familiar with the complainant. Mr. Grant's actions are excusable as unintentional.
8. The acts described by witness(s) in incident number seven are covered under the harassment policy. However, the complainant forwarded her/his complaint to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. The Department of Human Rights has investigated the complaint and the complainant has provided documentation to the investigator in this matter. Any determination regarding Incident Seven is outside the scope of this particular investigation.
9. The acts described by witness(s) in incident number eight are covered under the harassment policy. However, the complainant filed a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. Documentation regarding the complainant's Minnesota Department of Human Right's file was provided to the investigator. The Minnesota Department of Human Right made a finding of no probable cause regarding the allegation of harassment due to gender or discrimination due to gender. 1 he Minnesota Department of Human Rights found that the School District Administrator's actions were
in the nature of legitimate management duties. The current investigation has found no additional evidence to refute the findings of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
Additionally, at least one complainant had further opportunity to report alleged harassment and violations of School District Policy during the employment grievance and arbitration process. That arbitration decision was provided for review. The arbitrator found no harassment nor violations of School District policy. The current investigation has found no additional evidence to refute the findings of the Arbitrator.
10. The acts described by witness(s) in incident number nine are not covered under the harassment policy. The harassment policy defines harassment based on religion, race, sexual harassment, and violence. Complainant did not report that he/she believed that Mr. Grant's actions were motivated by complainant's gender, religion, or race. Witness (s) acknowledged that School District Administrators responded and took action regarding their concerns. However, complainant and witness(s) were not satisfied with the nature of the response by School District Administrators. Complainant(s) filed a complaint with the Minnesota Board of Nursing. Any investigation conducted or determination made by the Minnesota Board of Nursing is outside of the authority or scope of the current investigation.
The acts described by witness(s) in incident number ten are not covered under the harassment policy. The harassment policy defines harassment based on religion, race, sexual harassment, and violence. Complainant did not report that he/she believed that School District Administrators actions were motivated by complainant's gender, religion, or race. In addition, there is no evidence from either complainant or witnesses that any School District Administrator actually made contact with another School District in any manner regarding the former employee.
B: Violation of the school districts bullying prohibition policy.
1. Complainant claims that incidents one through six and eight, nine and ten also violate the school districts bullying prohibition policy.
1. The stated purpose of the bullying prohibition policy is to attain a "safe and civil environment for students". The intent of the policy is clearly to protect students. The policy is not intended to protect other parties.
2. The bullying prohibition policy does not apply to incidents one through six and eight, nine and ten
3. In addition, the actions complained of in the incidents cannot be viewed as inappropriate under the circumstances of Mr. Grant's duties as a School District Administrator.
C. Allegation three: failure of School District to follow complaint procedure.
1. The complainant alleged that the school district failed to follow the complaint procedure policy because no one from the district responded to concerns raised by five former employees at the school board meeting of January 3, 2011.
2. Two of the five former employees who spoke during the open forum of the January 3, 2011, school board meeting reported that they had requested to be contacted about their complaint. Neither individual was contacted by the school district.
1. The school district is in compliance with the complaint procedure. Initiating and contracting for the present investigation provides compliance with the school district's complaint procedure.
2. The complainant and other witnesses could not provide specific circumstances in which school district administration had failed to conduct or respond to complaints.
D. Allegation Four: Complainant alleges that the school district is misinterpreting the Minnesota data practices act.
1. Complainant alleges that citizens speaking during the open forum of school hoard meetings are not allowed to comment or speak regarding employee issues specifically in connection with a particular employee.
2. Complainant could not provide any specific incidents.
1. The Minnesota data practices act prohibits school districts from providing confidential information to the public. There is no restriction on citizens making complaints or providing information to the school district in a public forum. However, the School District has a legitimate concern that they may incur liability to creating a forum in which the Data Practices Act could be violated. The school district should clearly communicate the requirements of the Minnesota data practices act. School board members and administrators are prohibited from responding publicly to these open forum comments.
1. Residual issues from 2004 citizen petition and investigation: Many of the witnesses contacted commented about experiences and issues that either arose prior to 2004 or were similar in nature to issues investigated in 2004. The witnesses, who were former employees, communicated continued hard feelings towards the high school administration. Several issues were reported that are frankly beyond the nature of this investigation. This investigation was initiated on the basis of allegations of misconduct. Many of the comments by witnesses were described as leadership issues, management issues, and perceived lack of community participation. Several of the former employees indicated that they had never received an exit interview. Many of the witnesses indicated that they perceived a management problem at the high school because of a high turnover rate of staff secretaries and school nurses. One former employee reported that the school district has utilized the management consultants in the past.
A. Address residual issues from 2004 investigation by creating opportunities between the School District and members of the community to develop working relationships rather than adversarial relationships.
1. Community members (witnesses) restated that the only opportunity for feedback was the school district open forum. Participation in less public communication may lead to greater community satisfaction Create alternative, less formal opportunities for community feedback.
2. Encourage community member participation on advisory committees.
B. Educate public on restrictions of Minnesota Data Practices Act and provide alternative to public to provide information on employee issues.
1. Create a notice to School Board Meeting public forum speakers regarding the Minnesota Data Practices Act and an alternative complaint procedure.
C. Modify complaint process to provide recommended timelines to provide feedback to complainant. Notifying parties that the complaint is being investigated is a requirement of a effective complaint procedure.
D. Notify witness(s) and complainant of completion of investigation and provide copy of public report.
E. Modify complaint process to provide alternative complaint procedures. If the complainant is complaining about school district administration, assign a School Board Designee.
F. Provide training to School Board Members regarding complaint process. It is recognized that School Board members often are approached in public regarding School District issues. At times comments from citizens are indistinguishable as statement or requests to investigate.
G. Make exit interviews a practice within the district.