Two years after he was first targeted by Chico Unified School District leadership, demoted principal Jeff Sloan has slapped back with a civil-rights lawsuit.
CUSD Attorney Greg Einhorn had no comment on the suit, which was filed March 7 in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, saying only, “We received it last week and are still in the process of reviewing it.”
Sloan, claiming substantial emotional distress and economic loss, demands a jury trial and reinstatement to his former position at Marsh Junior High School. He has already been the subject of a largely vindicating report by last year’s Butte County Grand Jury.
Named as defendants are the CUSD, Trustees Rick Anderson, Rick Rees and Anthony Watts, former Trustee Steve O’Bryan and former Superintendent Scott Brown.
The suit seeks punitive damages against Brown.
In March 2004, CUSD trustees—spurred, Sloan and his supporters say, by a vendetta by Brown—began meeting about demoting the popular principal.
Voting 4-1 two months later to demote Sloan, the trustees ultimately agreed with staff and auditors’ reports that said Sloan used funds raised by students for purposes other than what was allowed by law. While all the money went toward school-related purposes, the CUSD reports claimed Sloan benefited personally because allocating the money made him and Marsh look good to the detriment of other campuses. Sloan, formerly principal of Chico Junior High School, had been tapped to staff, outfit and open newly constructed Marsh in 1999.
Sloan fought the demotion, opting to have the board’s discussion made public. The meetings reached a fever pitch as dozens upon dozens of parents, teachers and other members of the community came forward to speak on Sloan’s behalf.
With the help of an expensive, out-of-town attorney, CUSD staff compiled a thick report detailing how Sloan allegedly misused funds. The lawsuit also shed some light on another report that the district was about to present in April 2004 before it pulled back shortly before a trustees’ meeting.
In that report, Sloan was accused of having “sexually explicit and/or vulgar photographs” on the hard drive of the school computer assigned to him, the suit recounts. The suit calls all of the accusations “false and defamatory” moves orchestrated by Brown and alludes to possible hidden motives to his ouster that were never brought up publicly.
“Plaintiff was not given an opportunity to be heard regarding the actual reasons for his removal,” the suit states. “They were of a nature as to seriously damage plaintiff’s standing and associations in the community and to impose upon him a stigma that foreclosed his freedom to take advantage of other employment opportunities.
Sloan was removed from his Marsh post at the end of the 2003-04 school year and sent, without a pay cut, to the Center for Alternative Learning (CAL), an alternative junior high school, for a job he did not relish. The following year, Sloan was assigned to a classroom teaching job, and his pay was cut.
Currently, Sloan is on leave from the district by his own choosing.
Sloan’s law firm in the case is Minasian, Spurance, Meith, Soares & Sexton of Oroville, with M. Anthony Soares as lead attorney.
Escaping the suit is Scott Huber, the sole trustee who sought to keep Sloan in his position at Marsh.