A former Golden Valley High School special needs teacher is heading back to court next month for a lawsuit filed against the William S. Hart Union High School District claiming she faced discrimination and then retaliation as a result of her sexual orientation.
The civil complaint filed in April by Kayla Prieto also claims the district failed to prevent the behavior in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA.
The lawsuit followed a claim of discrimination with the state’s Department of Fair Employment, which pursuant to her administrative complaint, issued her a right-to-sue letter July 10, 2022.
District board President Bob Jensen said Friday the district could not discuss the lawsuit because it’s a confidential personnel matter.
A call Friday to Robert Stanford Brown, the attorney for the plaintiff, was not immediately returned.
The complaint states Prieto was hired by the Hart district in July 2020.
“During her employment with defendant, plaintiff reported her concerns about sexually harassing behavior and discriminatory statements which were racist, homophobic or mocking the disability of a student to her supervisors and Golden Valley High School officials,” according to the 28-year-old’s complaint. She also reported that she was falsely accused of having inappropriate relationships with students.
During a December 2021 meeting with a teacher Prieto identified as a designated “mentor,” according to the lawsuit, after discussing her workplace challenges she was told she maybe should look for work at a different high school because she didn’t fit in with the school’s culture.
While meeting with the school’s principal, “She brought up an example of a coworker engaging in homophobic behavior. Mr. (Sal) Frias asked why homophobia bothered her so much. In answering his question, plaintiff revealed that she was gay,” according to the lawsuit.
When the plaintiff asked why her contract was not being renewed two months later, according to the lawsuit, she was told she was “not a good fit,” according to the complaint.
Prieto states she then met with Deputy Superintendent Michael Vierra, who received her accusation of discrimination, said he would contact her, and then did not, according to the complaint.
The complaint also states at a meeting two months after her conversation with Vierra, Prieto had a meeting with Golden Valley’s principal, assistant principal and a union representative. At the meeting, Prieto says she was falsely accused of misconduct after advocating on behalf of a disabled student.
Her employment with the district ended on the last day of the 2021-22 school year.
A response the district filed in May cites 22 grounds for defense, claiming: the complaint fails to state sufficient facts constituting a cause of action; that the district’s actions were warranted; the complaint violates the statute of limitations; that the court lacks jurisdiction; and that the district’s actions were “a just and proper exercise of management’s discretion on the part of the defendant, or its agents or employees, and was undertaken for a fair and honest reason and regulated by good faith and probable cause under the circumstances existing at the time the employment decisions were made relative to plaintiff’s employment,” according to the complaint.
The complaint does not request a specific amount of damages for the three causes of action cited. A case-management conference is expected to take place Aug. 4 in downtown Los Angeles.