Lopez Island School District under fire for discrimination and sexually hostile work environment | Guest column

Submitted by Cedar Law PLLC

Cedar Law PLLC, a Seattle-based education firm, has filed Human Rights Commission complaints and a tort claim (a required precursor to a lawsuit) on behalf of eight islanders connected to Lopez Island School District. These claimants have experienced ongoing persistent, severe, and pervasive discrimination and a sexually hostile work environment at the hands of David Sather. Mr. Sather was previously the island’s secondary principal for the last several school years and is slated to be a teach social students and history at the secondary school for the 2019-2020 school year.

Mr. Sather is accused of propositioning female staff, making sexual gestures, making sexual comments, sending electronic communications that were sexual in nature, engaging in stalking behavior, rifling through individuals’ personal effects, and taking actions that prevented the claimants from being able to do their job or advancing in their employment. He is also accused of intentionally and negligently inflicting emotional distress and discriminating against the claimants based on their sex and marital status.

The Lopez Island School District has failed to protect these eight claimants from Mr. Sather’s unwanted sexual advances and sexually hostile work environment. Specifically, Superintendent Brian Auckland, has not acted when Mr. Sather’s inappropriate behavior has been reported to him. The Lopez Island School District School Board is also aware of these concerns and most recently its President choose to defend Mr. Sather at a Board Meeting, a meeting held while Mr. Sather was on administrative leave because of allegations against him.

Notably, the Lopez Island School District hired Mr. Sather even though he had been let go under circumstances where the Moiser, Oregon, Superintendent stated that his leaving was “was doing what is best for Mosier School.” As a result, the claimants allege that Lopez Island School District and its current and former Superintendents is responsible for negligently maintaining a sexually hostile work environment, negligently inflicting emotional distress, and the negligent hiring and supervision of David Sather.

As the local community may recall, Mr. Sather was previously investigated by the Lopez Island School District regarding claims of sexual harassment. Please see the attached letter dated September 3, 2017. Despite this earlier investigation and findings against him, it appears Mr. Sather has continued his longstanding pattern of creating discriminatory and sexually hostile work and school environments.

Our clients hope the number of complaints regarding Mr. Sather’s inappropriate behavior reflect that the discrimination and harassment they have faced is well-founded in fact, and hope that as a result of these complaints, the days of the Superintendent and the Lopez Island School Board blindly protecting “Dick Pic Dave” are done.

Inquiries regarding these claims can be directed to the claimants’ counsel, Lara Hruska and Shannon McMinimee at Cedar Law PLLC: (206) 607-8277 or shannon@cedarlawpllc.com.