UNO scandal #5: Firing whistleblower for exposing student sexual assault

This one isn’t remotely humorous.justice

Press release *** For Immediate Release

May 3, 2013

Contact: Elaine K. B. Siegel, David Corral – 312-583-9970

Teacher lawsuit v UNO Charter Inc to proceed

Whistleblower exposed unsafe UNO policies that led to locker room sexual assault

Chicago, IL – In what amounts to a David v Goliath victory, the United States District Court, Eastern Division, ruled Wednesday that a lawsuit by teacher David Corral against his employer, UNO Charter School Network, Inc,. should proceed to a jury trial.

Mr. Corral brought the lawsuit against UNO, claiming that he was fired for blowing the whistle on unsafe policies that resulted in a student sexual assault.

David Corral was the physical education teacher and athletic director at UNO’s Dr. Hector P. Garcia, M.D. High School. In 2008 and 2009, Mr. Corral ran the high school physical education classes by himself.. Boasting an “extended day,” UNO had double periods of physical education. Yet UNO did not even have a gym for Mr. Corral’s first year, and part of his second, at UNO. To hold class, he had to take the students – a coed class of 50 students – back and forth to a park several blocks away, weather permitting. (In bad weather, the students were stuck in the building and did activities like running up and down the stairs.) When Mr. Corral warned that this arrangement did not allow for adequate supervision, UNO did not respond.

The students had to change from their three-piece school uniforms into their gym clothes. There was no one but Mr. Corral to supervise both the boys and the girls during the changing period. Garcia High had no locker rooms until November of 2009.. In the meantime, the girls used a classroom that looked out onto a factory. The factory workers complained to UNO that they could see the girls while they were changing their clothes.

When the locker rooms finally opened, they were inadequate, and badly designed. One could see from the boys’ into the girls’ locker room, an error that Mr. Corral caused to be corrected.

During the changing periods, Mr. Corral was supposed to supervise both the boys’ locker room and the girls’ locker room, as well as the students who came into the gym for class. At the same time, he was supposed to enter attendance into his computer. When Mr. Corral warned that this arrangement did not allow for adequate supervision, UNO refused to modify the schedule or provide assistance. Yet UNO was aware that there had been discipline problems in the boys’ locker room.

There was no way for a student to call for help from the locker room, except to shout. A student who was unable to yell (for example, because he was ill or being subdued) could not get help.

A few weeks after the locker rooms opened at Garcia High, Mr. Corral discovered an incident of bullying in the boys’ locker room. Upon investigation , it turned to be a sexual assault. The victim stated, “I felt assaulted – if I didn’t fake it, it would have gone further. I felt like I was being raped, when someone gets on top of you and you want them to stop but they don’t.”

The police came and arrested two of the perpetrators.

UNO turned the investigation over to a nun, Sister Barbara, UNO’s Director of Academic Affairs.

UNO fired Mr. Corral four business days after he discovered the bullying. At the meeting where he was discharged, he told the UNO administrators that “there is absolutely no way that I could – that I could supervise boys’ locker room, girls’ locker room, and all the students that are in the gym.” He said he was being fired for reporting a sexual assault, and that one of the perpetrators had disciplinary problems and should not have been allowed back into the school. Sister Barbara covered her ears, and said, “I can’t hear that, I can’t hear that.”

Having terminated Mr. Corral, Sister Barbara continued her investigation, until the victim’s mother decided not to bring legal action.

Since UNO fired Mr. Corral, he has never been able to find work anywhere else.

Mr. Corral brought this lawsuit in federal court against UNO, claiming that UNO fired him to retaliate for whistle-blowing. He alleged that UNO’s actions violated both state and federal law. In 2012, UNO claimed that no evidence supported Mr. Corral’s claims, and moved for summary judgment, i.e., UNO asked the court to throw out the case.

On May 1, 2013, the court denied the motion for summary judgment. The court held that Mr. Corral had presented evidence that requires a trial by jury to resolve the case. It cited, in its decision, Illinois law that “demonstrates the importance which society has placed on the reporting of child abuse.” The court ruled that a jury could decide in favor of Corral, that he was fired because he “was speaking up about UNO’s policies (or l ack thereof) to prevent the type of sexual assault that occurred” in the UNO locker room.

Read the full court order here.

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.

Support PURE!
About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.