A school district in Tucson, Ariz., has agreed to a settlement with a former employee who claimed she was fired for trying to get the district to adhere to federal disability laws. Tucson Unified School District will pay Rose Hamway, a former school psychologist for the district, $180,000.
According to Hamway, who was forced to leave the district in 2010 after the school board refused to renew her contract, the problems began after she noted that some students’ federal rights were being violated. She sought the help of district officials to educate special education workers and school administrators about federal disability laws.
Instead of protecting students by ensuring the law was enforced, however, Hamway was disciplined for bringing the matter to the district’s attention. When violations continued unchecked, Hamway continued to advocate for students by telling special-education staff that if they didn’t obey the law she would share her concerns with the Arizona Department of Education. In response, the district reprimanded Hamway, specifically citing her threat to report illegal activity as the reason for their actions. Eventually, Hamway was let go over her insistence that the district comply with federal law.
In addition to the lawsuit, Hamway filed a discrimination complaint the the civil rights office of the U.S. Department of Education. In her complaint, Hamway described what she called a hostile work environment created by the district in response to her attempts to advocate for disabled students. The civil rights office substantiated her claims and continues to monitor the district. It also found that the district failed to address Hamway’s complaints on behalf of the school’s students.
In addition to paying Hamway, the school district was ordered to take corrective action that includes familiarizing staff and administrators with education on the regulations regarding retaliation and enforcing discrimination grievance procedures.