Former LCE Principal Asks to Dismiss Suit Against District

Christine Castillo
Christine Castillo

A former La Cañada Elementary School principal who had filed a lawsuit against the school district for alleged sexual discrimination and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional stress has requested a dismissal of the case.
A clerk in Los Angeles County Superior Court said that the request for dismissal in effect ends the civil case.
Christine Castillo filed the request on Dec. 12 with the dismissal entered into record two days later, according to case information listed on the Superior Court website.
Phone and email messages left for Castillo had not been returned by The Outlook’s press deadline. Dana McCune, the attorney representing the La Cañada Unified School District, declined to speak on the record about the case.
A hearing regarding dismissal or the setting of a trial date convened on Dec. 5 in Los Angeles, but nobody representing Castillo made an appearance.
That day, Judge Randolph Hammock told LCUSD attorney Joshua Kuns that Castillo would have to give reasons at a future hearing why the matter should not be dismissed or why financial sanctions should not be issued against her for failing to appear. After listening to Castillo, the court would then listen to the district’s motion for sanctions against her and her former attorney, Hammock said. The motion was also for a case dismissal. If the court were to deny the sanctions, a trial-setting conference would be scheduled.
After the hearing, Kuns said the motion was based on a claim by Castillo’s then-attorney Ben Meiselas of the Los Angeles-based Geragos & Geragos law firm that she she was terminated in 2017.
Kuns said during discovery (a pretrial procedure in which evidence is obtained from the other party), Castillo said she was not terminated and was on a list for employment.
“The Geragos firm knew there was no termination,” Kuns said. In theory, Kuns said, the judge could dismiss the case for attorney’s fees.
He added, at the time, the district wanted a trial date.
Castillo filed on Oct. 22 for Meiselas to be removed as her lawyer and the court accepted, according to the court’s website.
A notice of settlement was previously filed on Sept. 7 with the Superior Court of Los Angeles County on behalf of her attorney, according to case information listed on the court website. The school district filed a document objecting to the settlement on Sept. 10. Both sides had continued making motions in court since.
Castillo’s initial pleading was filed on Dec. 28, 2016. She alleged that Superintendent Wendy Sinnette reacted negatively to her pregnancy when told on August 2012, just a month after she had moved from Seattle to Los Angeles to accept the position.
The board, Sinnette is alleged to have said, was “disappointed” because Castillo “waited” to tell the superintendent about her pregnancy. Later in August of the same year, the superintendent met with Castillo at La Cañada High School and allegedly told the principal she would have liked knowing about the pregnancy sooner.
In January 2017, when The Outlook first wrote about the case, Governing Board members released a statement that said “we stand firmly alongside our superintendent, Wendy Sinnette, and will not tolerate any misrepresentation of her character or her behavior.”
Castillo, as a new LCUSD employee, was entitled to only 10 sick days, but through her research she discovered she missed the deadline to file for disability leave, according to the suit. Before giving birth, the suit stated, Castillo “worked as much as 12 hours a day to complete the extra tasks she had been given” from Sinnette and another official to be paid beyond a two-week maternity leave. She kept working until Dec. 18, 2012, the day before her daughter Alissa McFeat was born, according to the suit, and stress from working resulted in birthing difficulties that led to her undergoing a cesarean section.
The principal returned from her maternity leave in April 2013 and was “subjected” to an LCUSD staff survey in which district employees are evaluated by their staff, according to the suit.
She was later reassigned in June 2015 to a position as a 1st-grade teacher after having been a principal since August 2012. Castillo alleged she was being retaliated against because of her pregnancy. At the time, her then-attorney, Meiselas, said Castillo informed officials she was pregnant one month after she started work at LCE and was within her rights to do so.
The district conducted an internal investigation on April 5, 2015, that indicated Castillo was reassigned after “concerns about staff morale and an increasingly negative climate at LCE” that included a “group complaint from a majority of teachers at LCE.”
In November 2015, Castillo was placed on indefinite leave.
In March 2017, the former principal’s lawsuit was amended to include wrongful termination. Castillo alleged she had requested employment information from the district for tax purposes and in response she received a document that indicated she had been terminated from employment.
In the complaint, Castillo alleged Sinnette discriminated, demoted and put her on indefinite leave.
The reason for the discrimination, Castillo alleged, was because she told Sinnette she had gotten pregnant a month after accepting the principal position in July 2012. She was seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.
The LCUSD board denied the charges.
Castillo joined the district after moving from Seattle to join her now-husband — and LCHS then Principal — Ian McFeat.
Separately, it was recently announced that McFeat was promoted from principal to executive director of student services for LCUSD on Dec. 10. Sinnette said at the time he had expressed a long-term interest in a district-level position.

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