Saturday, April 21 , 2018, 2:03 pm | Fair 68º


Former Principal of Adams Elementary Sues Santa Barbara School District

Marjorie Variano, terminated last year, alleges labor-code and civil-rights violations, most of them involving the special-education program

A former Adams Elementary School principal has filed a lawsuit against the Santa Barbara School District over civil-rights and labor-code violations, according to court documents.

Marjorie Variano went to work as the school’s principal in April 2007 and, according to the court documents, was told in March 2009 that she would be “terminated” on June 30 of that year.

The district’s reasons for termination are “a pretext for discharging her because she made continual complaints to SBSD for what she in good faith believed to be violations by them of state and federal law,” the lawsuit alleges.

In her time as principal, Variano said she made “continual complaints” to district administration regarding special-education students and staff dedicated to the program. She also claims she was blamed for the district’s failure to hire enough specialty teachers and for not providing training to parents and teachers when she did.

The court documents include allegations of civil-rights violations under the Rehabilitation Act, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Variano also filed a violation of the California Labor Code and Non-Payment of Wages and Waiting Penalties in U.S. District Court.

Though the document’s complaints also include education codes, building standards and labor codes, the majority of them center on civil-rights violations involving the special-education program.

The complaint cites months worth of incidents, including concerns that Adams needed more assistance in accommodating special-needs students and the legal requirements related to that. One incident involved the removal of instructional aides, and her concerns brought to then-program director Anissa McNeil — who resigned in November 2008 — were “ignored.”

The school district doesn’t comment on lawsuits, but Superintendent Brian Sarvis called the filing “groundless,” communications coordinator Barbara Keyani told Noozhawk.

Variano is also seeking damages against the defendants, compensatory damages for nonpayment of wages and attorneys fees. She is being represented by attorneys Janice Cleveland and Gary Bennett.

A scheduling conference is scheduled for June 28, Bennett said in an e-mail to Noozhawk. The case was filed with the western division of U.S. District Court.

The district paid an outside consulting company about $56,000 last year to review its special-education programs, and the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team recommended an overhaul. The FCMAT report cited the lack of organization, written mission or staffing formula — among other things — as problem areas.

Since the report’s findings were published, the district has held stakeholder meetings with involved parties and hired a new executive director and two directors for the program. Executive Director Tom Guajardo announced his resignation in March, making him the latest in a long line of top administrators who have held the position for less than a year.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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