You are on page 1of 12

15812727310

01-15-'18 '10:57 FROM- PakltTightlnc

T-023 P0002/0011 F-157

STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT


THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

In the Matter of the Disciplinary Proceeding Brought Pursuant


to Education Law section 3020-a By
The Board of Education of the Syracuse City School District,
DECISION
Charging Party,

SED File No
27,545
-andlaura Viera-Suarez,
Respondent-Tenured Principal.

Before: Ivor R. Moskowitz, Esq., Hearing Officer

Parties:
Board of Education, Syracuse City School District
By: Ferrara, Fiorenza, P.C.
(Miles Lawlor, Esq.)
{Heather Cole, Esq.}

laura Viera-Suarez
By: O'Hara, O'Connel/ & Ciotoli, Esqs.
(Dennis O'Hara, Esq.)
(Steven Ciotoli, Esq.)

01-'1:'- " 10 '1 0: :'1 r~lJIII-

'I$ 1L (2/31 0

Pakltl ight l rc

H),Zd

PlJ(J(J0/OUll H:'I

Preliminary Statement
Ms, laura Viera-Suarez ("Respondent" or "Ms. Suarez"), is a multi-year employee of the
Board of Education, Syracuse City School District ("Charging Party", aBoard" or "District"). Until
she was placed on administrative leave in June of 2014, she was the Principal of the District's
LeMoyne Elementary School ("School"), On July 8, 2015, the Board found probable causa
pursuant to Education law sec. 3020-a to issue six charges including specifications against Ms,
Suarez alleging conduct unbeoomlng a principal, misconduct, misconduct constituting physical
REDACTED
abuse, neglect of duty,
and other just causes for disciplinary action (Jt.1, Jt.2).
The Board sought dismissal as a penalty and suspended Ms. Suarez without pay (Jt. 2). On or
IIbout July 21, 2015, Ms. Suarez requested a hearing on the July S charges (Jt.3).
on August 5, 2015 a probable cause hearing was held in SED File No. 27,544 before
Hearing Officer Stephen Lalonde regarding Ms. Suarez suspension without pay. . On August 6,
2015, Hearing Officer llILonde found no probable cause for Respondent's suspension without
pay, but did not rule on the merits of the charges.
Thereafter, Ivor R. Moskowitz was ilppointed as hearing officer In this case. A prehearing conference was held in this matter on September 1, 2015 at which time hearing dates
and discovery matter were initially agreed upon . Hearings totaling 13 days were held on
October 8, 13, 14,16, 22, November 3, 4. 5, 6, 19,20, December 2 and 4, 2015.
Both parties were represented by counsel and were given full and fair opportunity to
present witnesses and enter such other evidence as was relevant and material Into the record
of these proceedings. Sixty-two exhibits were placed in evidence by the District (0.4 was not
admitted); 73 by the Respondent (E.S and E.ll were not admitted); and there were five joint
exhibits. A transcript was taken totaling 2310 pages and prOVided to the parties.
Sriefs were jointly filed by the parties on December 23, 2015. The following constitutes
the hearing officer's decision In the above entitled matter, based solely on the record herein.

I.

fl
t,

The Charges (July S. 20151-Jt. 1

Charge No.1
CONDUCT UNBECOMING A PRINCIPAL, MISCONDUCT, MISCONDUCT CONSTITUTING
REDACTED
PHYSiCAl ABUSE, NEGLECT OF DUTY,
REDACTED

MS. Suarez is guilty of conduct unbecoming a principal, misconduct, misconduct


REDACTED
constituting physical abuse, neglect of duty,
REDACTED
, more particularly described as follows:

I.
2

()Flb-~'Io

10:57 FROM-

T-023 P0004/0011 F-157

15812727310

PakltTightlnc

Specifications:
1.1 On or about October 29, 2013, Ms. Viera-Suarez placed a disabled male student in a
windowless, closet-like room in the LeMoyne Elementary School marked as the Elevator
Machine Room, for purposes of subjecting the student to a "time out".

REDACTED

1.2

1.3 The placement of the disabled male student in the LeMoyne Elementary School Elevator
Machine Room on October 29, 2013 for "time out" purposes was not authorized by the

student's Individuafized Education Program orthe student's Behavior Intervention Plan.

REDACTED

1.4

Charge No.2
CONDUCT UNBECOMING A PRINCIPAL, MISCONDUCT,
REDACTED , NEGLECT OF DUTY,
REDACTED

REDACTED

REDACTED

Ms. Viera-Suarez is guilty of conduct unbecoming a principal, misconduct, REDACTED


REDACTED
REDACTED
, neglect of duty,
more particularly described as follows:
Specifications:
2.1 During the 2013-2014 school year, Ms. Viera-Suarez directed District employee Cheryl
McDonald to place a disabled male student in a windowless, closet-like room in the LeMoyne
Elementary School, marked as the Elevator Machine Room, for purposes of subjecting the
student to a "time-out", despite the fact that:
b) placement of the student in the Elevator Machine Room for "time-out" purposes was not
authorized by the student's Behavior Intervention Plan.
2.2

REDACTED

2.3 During the 2013-2014 school year, Ms. Viera-Suarez falsely represented to Ms. McDonald
that the use of the Elevator Machine Room for purposes of subjecting the student to a "timeout" was authorized by the student's grandmother.
3

0'/-15-'1610:58 FROM-

15612727310

PakltTightlnc

T-023 P0005/0011 F-157

, '.

Charge No.3

CONDUCT UNBECOMING A PRINCIPAL, MISCONDUCT, NEGLECT OF DUTY,REDACTED


REDACTED

Specifications:
3.1 In or about June, 2014, Ms. Viera-Suarez requested that District employee cheryl
McDonald make false statements to District personnel who were investigating the placement of
a disabled male student in the LeMoyne Elementary School Elevator Room. More specifically:
al In or about June, 2014, Ms. Viera-Suarez requested, in sum or substance, that Ms.
McDonald disclose to District investigators only one of the several incidents she knew Ms.
McDonald was aware of in which a disabled male student was place in the LeMoyne Elementary
School Elevator Machine Room for purposes of subjecting the student to a "time out", and
further requested that Ms. McDonald not discfose any other such incidents that Ms. McDonald
was aware of.
b) On or about June 18, 2.014, Ms. Viera-Suarez requested, in sum or substance, that Ms.
McDonald "stick" to the story that Ms. McDonald had previously related to District investigators
and not other incidents Ms. McDonald was aware of in Which a disabled male student was
placed in the LeMoyne Elementary School Elevator Machine Room for purposes of subjecting
the student to a "time out."
Charge No.4

CONDUCT UNBECOMING A PRINCIPAL, MISCONDUCT, NEGLECT OF DUTY, REDACTED


REDACTED

Ms. Viera-Suarez is guilty of conduct unbecoming a principal, misconduct, neglect of


REDACTED
duty,
, more particularly described
as follows;
Specifications:
4.1 On or about June 17, 2.014, Ms. Viera-Suarez requested, in sum or substance, that District
employee Donna Dooley make false statements to District personnel who were investigating
the placement of a disabled student in the leMoyne Elementary School Elevator Machine
Room.
4.2 More specifically, Ms. Viera-Suarez requested, in sum or substance, that Ms. Dooley
represent to District investigators that she had misunderstood a directive that she had received
from Ms. Viera-Suarez on or about October 29, 2013 directing Ms. Dooley to place a male
student in the LeMoyne Elementary School Elevator Machine Room for purposes of subjecting
the student to a "time out."
4

15612727310

01-15-' 16 10:58 FROM- Pak ltTightl nc

T-023 POOO6/ 0011 F-1 57

'.

Charge No.5
CONDUCT UNBECOMING A PRINCIPAL. MISCONDUCT. NEGLECT OF DUTY. REDACTED
REDACTED

Ms. Viera-Suarez is guilty of conduct unbecoming a principal. misconduct, neglect of


REDACTED
duty,
, more particularly described
as follows:
SpecifICations:
5.1 On or about June 12, 16 and/or 17, 2014, Ms. Viera-Suarez failed to truthfully answer
questions posed to her by District personnel investigating reports that a disabled male student
had been placed in the LeMoyne School Elevator Machine Room.
5.2 More specifically, Ms. Viera-SUarez falsely stated to District personnel that she had never
placed a student in the LeMoyne Elementary School Elevator Machine Room, and/or that she
had never directed a District employee to place a student in the LeMoyne Elementary School
Elevator Machine Room.
CHARGE NO.6

REDACTED

lIl-18-~loIO:88

rROM-

15612727310

Pakltl ightlnc

T-023

P0007/0011 H57

Discussion

Both parties have been ably represented by their attorneys. The Respondent denies the
charges in their entirety and has challenged the veracity and recollection ofthe District's
witnesses. Her attorneys have called District employees to testify on her behalf as well as
heartfelt character witnesses enumerating her humane, nurturing treatment of students and
her own adopted and foster children. The District, by its attorneys, has presented numerous
witnesses asserting contrary views of the facts and challenging the credibiUty and veracity of
the Respondent and her witnesses. In assessing credibility, it is noted that all District employee
witnesses may be motivated, in part, by concerns about their continued employment
(including. of course, the Respondent and Administrative Intern/Acting Vice Principal Cheryl
McDonald).
How then to determine whether there is a preponderance of the record evidence or lack
thereof to prove the charges? (For the standard of proof necessary in Section 3020-. cases, see
Martin v. Ambach, 67 NY2d 975 (1986).) As In any case where there is conflicting evidence, the
finder of fact must consider factors such as demeanor, documentary evidence, bias and motive.
Add to this other considerations such as the relationship and timing of events. The list goes on.
Should guilt be established, there is a final consideration of whether there is just cause to
impose penalty.

Findings of Fact
The LeMoyne Elementary School (previously referred to as "School") is the venue of the
charges herein. It has approximately 500 students in pre-K to grade 5, with an attendant staff
of approximately 100 professional and support personnel, which included a Principal (Ms.
Suarez), Administrative fntern/Vice Principal (Ms. Cheryl McDonald), special education
teachers, teaching assistants, a behavior intervention counselor, head custodian, psychologist,
school nurse and social worker.
Ms. Suarez was LeMoyne School Principal for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school
years. For those two years, Ms. McDonald (previously a long time physical education teacher)
seIVed as an Administrative Intern under Ms. Suarez' tutelage, performing some, but not all, of
the duties of a Vice-Principal. (For a listing of the duties of a Vice-Principal, see, E.20.) The
testimony revealed that the District used the AdministratiVe Intern position to provide its future
administrators with appropriate training and (some opined) to extend their probationary
periods. the staff throughout this hearing often referred to Ms. McDonald, incorrectly, as the
Vice Principal.
The School had a separate special education class, called an "8-1-1" class, which
included a number of behaViorally difficult students some of whom needed a separately
assigned aide (a "l-to-l") in addition to classroom teachers to optimize their educational goals
(closing the gap between themselves and students at grade level). The students in this class
were given Individual Educational Plans (UIEPsU) by the Committee on Special Education ("CSE")
6

1&31272731 0

OH 5-' 16 11 :54 FR(JI)-- Pak I tT i ght I nc

T-D25 POOO2/0003 F-159

made up of a group of professional educators and support staff (including classroom teachers,
parents or guardians, outside experts (as needed) and the school p5ychologist)- the
"stakeholders" who were Involved in a particular student's education. Those special education
students with disciplinary problems were given a Behavior Intervention Plan ("SIP") by the CSE.
The SIP was created after the Committee performed a behaVioral assessment of the student
Soth the IEP and SIP were regularized plans, created by the CSf and could not be changed on
an ad hac basis without formal CSE approval.
Attending the School during part of the 2012-2013 school year was student A , a very
difficult, troubled, emotionally disabled student, prone to behavioral episodes including
tantrums, rages and acting out In a variety of ways: striking staff and students, running away
from dass and hiding throughout the School. This behavior manifested in the classroom as well
as in the rest of the School. Some time before the end of the 2012-2013 school year, A was
transferred to the McCarthy School, a more restrictive environment than at LeMoyne. While
other emotionally disabled students were named In this hearing, student A is primarily the
focal point of the charges.
At the start of the 2013-2014 school year, A returned to LeMoyne from McCarthy and
was assigned to an 8-1-1 class. Through the action of the CSE, A was given both an IEP (D.1,
0.2) and a SIP (0.5) which took into account his academic shortcomings (below grade level) and
well documented explosive behavior. Although he was old enough to be a third grader, A
fUnctioned academically as a kindergartner. Initially, upon his return to leMoyne, he was not
a.5$igned an aide because the aide position had been lost upon A s transfer to McCarthy.
In October of the 2013-2014 school year, an aide was requested for A (E.l). Prior to
approval, Kathleen Warren had functioned as his unofficial" aide. A 's classroom teachers
Included spedal education teache,... C.olleen Will. and Kristen Moulton. Thl?rl?aftp.r, most likely
in January 2014 Ms. Warren was officially appointed as A 's 1-to-l aide (T.1932). Teaching
assistants for the 2013-2014 school year also included Susan Muehl (referred to as Mule or
Meal in the transcripts).
A 's BIP (D.5) induded as responses to his enumerated behaviors: e.g., redirection,
verbal warnings, last chances, placement in the COnference Room (in Ms. Suarez multi-use
office suite). "Time out"locations were set out for use when A s behavior warranted them.
The SIP was approved by, among others, A s REDACTED and legal guardian (" C "), A 's
social worker, teacher (Moulton), school psychologist (Kristi Cleary) and Ms. Suarez.
On October 28, 2013, Ms. Suarez met with C and discussed A s behavior at the School
(E.28-Suarez notes, p.l0). C mentioned that she used a "special room" at her home when he
"tantrums". Ms. Suarez stated to her that there were possible rooms at LeMoyne that could
serve the same purpose. Ms. Suarez testified that one possible room she had in mind was the
vestibule or anteroom marked "Elevator Machine Room" ("EMR"). [The hearing officer was
taken by the parties and their attorneys to such a place and observed the name plate above the
(locked) door in question marked "Elevator Machine Room". He then observed a vestibule or an
anteroom behind the first door (locked) and thereafter a second room behind a second door
(locked). There is no proof in the record that A was ever in the second room.) For purposes of
simplicity and given that all parties have the same frame of reference, the anteroom or
vestibule, as it is set forth in the charges, will be referred to as the "EMR"-shorthand for
"Elevator Machine Room".

01-15-' 18 11 :55

FRO~'I-

15612727310

Pak ItT i ght Ino

T-025 P0003/0003 F-159

On June 11, 2014, A s REDACTED was notified that she needed to come to the school
as A was out of control and the police had been Summoned to bring him to St. Joseph '$
hospital for a mental health examination ("CPEP"). When C came to the school, she stated
that A s behavior resulted from being locked "in a closet in the basement" of the School
(T.1849-1850: Suarez testimony). An investigation by the District shortly commenced, a
confidential report ofa child abuse In an educational setting, dated June 18, 2014, was filed
(D.ll) and criminal charges were brought against the Respondent. The criminal charges and
their disposition (whether pending or dismissed) are not at issue here. Thereafter the charges
dated July 8, 2015 resulted.
It is not in dispute that the EMR is a locked windowless room, approximately 5'x6' in
size. It is constructed of whitewashed concrete or concrete block with an overhead light. The
door to this room is solid and contains no Window. Anyone in this room cannot see out of it and
outside parties cannot see in. The interior ofthe room is bare. The record does not show that
C requested or approved the use ofthe EMR for A . There is no proofthat use ofthe EMR
was approved by the CSE or included in A 's BIP.

Respondent's Motions to Dismiss and for Damages Based on a Finding that the Charges
Herein are Frivolous
The motion to dismiss is denied for reasons of sufficiency set forth in a determination of
the charges. Similarly, due to the findings set forth below, the hearing officer finds sufficient
basis in the charges to deny the second motion as well.

The Charges

Charge 1. On October 29, 2013, at 9:31am, one day after Ms. Suarez conversation with
A 's REDACTED which concerned, in part, the use of a "special room" to deal with A s
tantrums, Nurse Donna Dooley recorded (0.14, pp. 8-9):
"Instructed by principal to take student to small room desinated (sic) for student to have
less stimuli and be able to cooperate with staff without biting, throwing punch drink at
assistant teacher or using fowl (sic) language in front of kindergarten children and no
longer disrupting first floor classes in session. Student stayed in small room for timed 4
minutes. Student left room with better behavior and could return to main office
conference room to wait for principal. DDRN"
This is an official record entered into the District's computer system. The District placed it into
evidence, together with the testimony of Nurse Dooley.
After hearing Nurse Dooley's testimony in support, the Respondent claimed several
things: first, that the computer record could have been added after the fad; second, that
content of the record was false when recorded; third, that Nurse Dooley's account was an
impossibility since Ms. Suarez was not at the EMR, but rather attending to an emergency
8

1581272731 0

01 -15-' 1811 :00 FROM- Pak ltT isht lnc

T-023 POOO8/0011 F-157

behavioral incident of a violent nature involving property damage lind personal injury due to an
altercation and Its aftermath with student, B
Insofar as the argument that the computer record was altered, beyond mere conjecture
there is no proof that it was. (See, question and answer Suarez' testimony: "0. Now, Ms.
Suarez, you don't have any evidence that Ms. Dooley altered her nurse's notes with regard to
Student ( A I, do you? A. No, I do not. fT. 1962).) Having made this argument, the burden was
upon the Respondent to prove such alteration. She did not.
Insofar as the argument that Nurse Dooley's notes were a falsity when recorded, both
Ms. Suarez and Nurse Dooley gave conflicting accounts. Although it was not easy to make a
judgment between Nurse Dooley and Ms. Suarez as to their relative credibility, later testimony
by other witnesses and Ms. Suarez herself undermined her credibility. First, Ms. McDonald
testified credibly that she had discussed the matter of using the EMR for A with Ms. Suarez
after a meeting convened in late October or early November 2013 (this was the meeting of
November 8,2013-0.13). (See also, T.67S-676 and Suarez testimony at T.1838-1839 T.1964:
no. In-In this fall of 2013, you did have discussion with Ms. McDonald about using a room for
Student [ A ) when he tantrumed (sic), correct? A. We had a conversation about the possibility
of using a room for Student [ A ). Q. And the use of the elevator machine room was discussed
as a possibility with Ms. McDonald, correct? A. That WilS one of the possibilities.") Such
conversation took place when: "Shortly after the meeting Laura mentioned that ( A 's)
REDACTED had given permission to use the 'time out room'." (0.16, p.2.) Ms. Suarez denied
that C ever gave her permission to use the EMR as " time out room. Ms. Suarez also denied
telling Ms. McDonald to use the "time out room (EMR). McDonald asserted in a statement
given to police that the first time she was actually told to ~ the EMR was by Suarez in January
2014 (D. 16, p.2). Second, as an administrative intern, it is highly unlikely that Ms. McDonald
would have used the EMR without approval from Ms. Suarez. Third, MS. MCOonald admitted
using the EMR, while Suarez denied either using the EMR herself or adviSing McDonald to use It
for controlling A 's behaVior. Fourth, Ms. Suarez was well aware that the EMR had been used
for A , being present at the EMR at the very least once in December 2013 as witnessed by Mr.
Anthony Bishop fT.223O-2234S) and confirmed by Suarez herself (T.1840-1842). While Suarez
admitted seeing McDonald, Bishop and A at the EMR at that time, there is no proof that she
took any affirmative action to question or admonish McDonald, If, In fact, the placement was
contrary to her expectations.
The last argument, that of impossibility, also fails. The incident of October 29, 2013
involving A was recorded by Nurse Dooley at 9:31 am (D.14, p.8-9, 0.15, p.l). Ms. Suarez did
not appear in her office until after 9:30 am and possibly after 9:45 am. Her injury from a fall
(together with B t in the Principal's office suite is set forth in Respondent's Employee Injury and
. Illness Report as occurring at 10:00 am (E.17-Suarez; see also, E.62,63 and 65 re: student B ).
The underlying Incident involving a classroom fight between B and several other 8-1-1 special
education students occurred, according to the disciplinary referrals filed by Ms. Muehl (E.14,
15, 16), at 8:45 am. While Ms. Suarez testified that she filled In a portlon of Muehl's referral,
the time of Suarez' input is not evident; nor, was Ms. Suarez able to testify as to any time at
which she added her input. Thus, there is an unaccounted gap between the initial disciplinary
referrals of 8:45 am and Respondent's injury at 10:00 am which does not make the alleged EMR
incident with A an impossibility.
9

01-15-'181'1 :00

FROI~-

15812727310

PakltTightlnc

T-023 P0009/0011 F-157

In light of the above, as to charge 1, Specification 1.1, I find by a preponderance of the


credible record eVidence that on October 29, 2013 Ms. Suarez placed a disabled male student
( A ) in a windowless, closet-like room in the LeMoyne Elementary School marked as the
Elevator Machine Room for the purposes of subjecting the student to a "time out". This
constituted conduct unbecoming a principal, misconduct and neglect of duty.
Insofar as Charge 1, Specification 2, I do not find proof In the record that there was any
REDACTED

I find that Ms. Suarez is guilty of Charge 1, Specification 3 by a preponderance of the

credible record evidence. A review of A s IEP and SIP does not show that placement of A in
the EMR was in any way authorized. This constitutes conduct unbecoming a principal,
misconduct and neglect of duty.
REDACTED

Charge 2. Ms. Suarez directed District employee Cheryl McDonald to place disabled
male student A in the EMR, as described (0.16, p.2). There is little reason to believe that Ms.
McDonald did so on her own. Ms. McDonald testified that she acted upon the advice and
direction of Ms. Suarez. There is little doubt that she placed A in the EMR approximately four
times. Ms. Suarez was well aware of what Ms. McDonald was doing and at one point in her
testimony, relating a conversation with Ms. McDonald in June, 2014 where McDonald was
telling her about putting A in the EMR (while the District was investigating the allegations
conceming student A ), she told Ms. McDonald not to say any more to her about the matter.
(Respondent's conduct regarding Ms. McDonald and Suarez' attempt to limit possible
investigation of the instant matter is consistent with Nurse Dooley's account of a conversation
with Ms. Suarez in June, 2014 when she was told by Respondent that her nurse's notes were
incorrect and that Ms. Suarez would just tell District investigators that Dooley had
misunderstood Suarez' directive to Dooley.) (See Charge 4, infra.)
Thus, I find Ms. Suarez guilty of Charge 2, by a preponderance of the credible record
evidence insofar as her conduct in directing Ms. McDonald to place A in a windowless, closetlike room in the Schoof, marked the EMR, for purposes of subjecting student A to a "time out"
REDACTED
was conduct unbecoming a principal, misconduct and neglect of duty.
I further find that the
EMR was not authorized for "time out" purposes in either A s IE? or BIP.
I also find that Ms. Suarez falsely represented to Ms. McDonald that use of the EMR was
authorized by A 's REDACTED This finding is based on the preponderance of the credible
record evidence. (See, e.g., T. 675-676-McDonald: T.1838-1839-Suarez; 0.16, p.2.)

10

OH 5-' 18 11 :01

FRO~I-

Pak ItT i ght Inc

158127273'10

T-023 P0010/0011 F-157

charge 3. In regard to Charge 3, Specification 3.1, I find that Ms. McDonald testified
credibly that she was told by Ms. Suarez in June, 2014 to make false statements to District
personnel investigating the placement of a disabled student ( A ) in the EMR (D.16, p.2). In
effect, Ms. Suarez requested Ms. McDonald, in June, 2014 to reveal only one incident out of
three or four incidents Ms. McDonald knew of concerning placement of a disabled student ( A )
in the EMR for a "time out" (0.16, p.2) (Charge 3.1 (a).) She told Ms. McDonald to stick to her
account previously given to District investigators denying or minimizing A 's placement In the
EMR for "time out" purposes (D.16, 1'.2) (Charge 3.1(b).) I do not find Ms. Suarez rebuttal and
alternative account to that of Ms. McDonald to be credible. Bya preponderance of the credible
record evidence, I find that the aforesaid action by Ms. Suarez in requesting Ms. McDonald to
make false statements constitutes conduct unbecoming a principal, misconduct and neglect of
REDACTED
duty.

Charge 4. Given prior findings relating to Ms. Suarez' credibility, I credit Ms. Dooley's
account of the incident of June 11, 2014 regarding her conversation with Ms. Suarez. I find that
Ms. Dooley's testimony is believable regarding Ms. Suarez request to Dooley to make false
statements to District personnel regarding placement of a disabled male student ( A ) in the
LeMoyne EMR (0.15, p.2) (Charge 4. Specification 4.1). I have already found that Nurse
Dooley's notes and testimony were dispositive on the issue of A s placement in the EMR for a
"time out" on October 29, 2013 by Ms. Suarez with the requested assistance of Nurse Dooley. I
find, as credible, that Ms. Suarez requested, in sum and substance, that Nurse Dooley tell
District investigators that she had misunderstood a directive she received from Suarez on or
about October 29, 2013 directing Dooley to place A in the EMR for purposes of subjecting the
student to a time out. Ms. McDonald also witnessed the aforesaid conversation and verified
Nurse Dooley's account (0.16, p.3).This is proof by a preponderance of the credible record
evidence that Ms. Suarez is guilty of conduct unbecoming a principal, misconduct and neglect
REDACTED
of duty.

Charge 5. On or about June 12, 16 and/or 17, I find by a preponderance of the credible
record evidence that Ms. Suarez failed to truthfullY answer questions by District personnel
about placement of a disabled male student in the EMR (Charge 5, Specification 5.1). As an
example, Ms. Suarez claimed to District personnel that A ran into the EMR on his own, when,
in fact, a lock preVenting this had been placed on the exterior door to the EMR by Head
Custodian Rob Francis in January, 2013 (D.18, 20). In particular, a preponderance ofthe credible
record proof shows that not only did Ms. Suarez place a disabled male student A In the EMR,
but she also directed District employee McDonald to do so as well (Charge 5, Specification 5.2).
The notes kept by Ms. Wade as well as her testimony and the statement of Ms. McDonald
(0.16), Nurse Dooley (0.15), Ms. Warren (0.62, p.3) and others reveal the discrepancies in Ms.
Suarez account and are credible. Thus, I find that Ms. Suarez is guilty of conduct unbecoming a
REDACTED
principal, misconduct, neglect of duty.

11

1561272731 0

01-15-' 16 11:02 FROM- Pak ltT ightl nc

T-023 P0011/0011 F-1 57

Charge 6. REDACTED
Is dIsmissed as moot.

Penalty
Having found Ms. Suarez guilty by a preponderance of the credible record evidence of
conduct unbecoming a principal, misconduct and neglect of duty as set forth In partIcular In my
findings regarding Charges 1-S and their specifications, I find that the District has just cause to
Impose the penalty of discharge. The record shows that Ms. Suarez placed or caused to be
placed a disabled male student ( A ) in a windowless, bare room in violation of his IEP and SIP
and wrongfully relied on her positIon as a building principal to Influence others to falsely testify
to District personnel entrusted with discovering the truth of a complaint made by a parent or
guardian ( C ). She then tried to cover up her actions by giving false accounts to District
personnel. As a result of her action, the District can no longer trust an elementary school
principal and key school administrator's veracity or judgment, nor rely on her with regard to
being a leader and role model to the District's students or staff. While I give due credit to Ms.
Suarez past accomplishments and the testimony of character witnesses testIfying on her behalf,
they do not change the facts or the unfortunate outcome of this case.

Dated: January 15, 2016

12