April 6th, 2009

Bully Principal Costs Fortune

Do the math to see how much the bullying principal, two assistant district superintendents (including the HR person) and compliance director cost the district.

$119,957 — 2004 arbitration won by Northcutt
$225,000 — 2005 settlement won by Northcutt
$60,475 (est.) 10 years district contribution to her retirement
$35,200 (est.) 10 years health and welfare benefits for Northcutt
$104,956 — district legal expenses, all designed to enable bullying without consequences

$545,588 the total expense for ONE bully principal and 3 supportive district personnel !!!

How much harm and expense does a bully have to inflict before the wise employer decides to end the bullying? It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do. There are likely other cases just like this in the District. The Vallejo School Board should demand accountability for these losses or lose their elected seats themselves.

While some state laws require schools to curb bullying among students, all states currently allow unscrupulous bullying administrators to attack teachers with impunity. Stopping student bullying stands no chance until the work environment in which student learning ostensibly takes place is purged of abusers.

There are ways to correct and prevent expensive bullies. See the Work Doctor Blueprint for a Bullying-Free Workplace. Teachers deserve a safe and healthy workplace, too. Bullied Teacher Wins $225,000
Bully Principal and District Supporters Costs Employer Over $545,000 Total!

Teacher Settles Lawsuit with VCUSD for $225,000
By Sarah Rohrs and Kenneth Brooks
Vallejo (CA) Times-Herald
Feb. 13, 2006

A Vallejo (CA) High School teacher who sued State Administrator Richard Damelio and other district officials for alleged harassment, discrimination and retaliation has agreed to an out-of-court settlement.

In a court document signed Dec. 2, the Vallejo City Unified School District agreed to pay veteran teacher Vernetta Northcutt $225,000 stemming from emotional distress damages associated with the civil lawsuit.

The settlement was obtained through a written request to the school district.

The district also agreed to pay her regular salary through June 30, and pay on her behalf 10 years and six months of service to the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. A 20-year teacher earns a base salary of $66,757, and a 23-year teacher, $68,528. The district pays 8.825 percent of her salary annually for retirement.

Further, the district agreed to pay Northcutt’s health and welfare benefits for 10 years. Under the new health benefit cap that went into effect for employee groups this year, the district pays 80 percent of costs, which comes to $4,400 for a teacher with single coverage.

For her part, Northcutt agreed to be placed on paid administrative leave Dec. 17, and resign from her job. Under the settlement terms, she cannot seek employment in the school district. A confidentiality agreement prevents Northcutt and district officials from talking about the settlement. The confidentiality portion of the agreement allows the district to seek fines of $15,000 against Northcutt should she breach the clause. The agreement also restricts district officials from what they can say about why Northcutt left her position.

The settlement brings to an end a 3 1/2-year legal battle which has cost the school district $104,956 in legal fees, according to district records. Those legal fees are in addition to the December $225,000 settlement, plus $119,197 Northcutt received as a result of a 2004 arbitration award.

In her October civil lawsuit, Northcutt alleged district officials failed to honor a previous arbitration award and punished her for complaining.

She was seeking compensation for emotional distress and back wages denied when her sick leave was cut off, as well as punitive damages, civil penalties, and injunctions against harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

In February 2004, an arbitrator found that Vallejo High School Principal Phil Saroyan racially discriminated against Northcutt when he transferred her to another classroom. She received $70,000 for emotional distress, $41,322 in attorneys’ fees and $7,875 in back pay. She was also reinstated to her previous teaching assignment.

The district appealed the award to the Solano County Superior Court where judges sided with Northcutt. An appeal of that ruling was pending in the state Court of Appeal when the settlement was signed.

Besides Damelio and Saroyan, the recent suit also named Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Rose Peppin, and Director of Compliance and Community Services Karen Hansen. In 2004, when the arbitrator originally ruled in Northcutt’s favor, Assistant Superintendent Kevin Hanks told the Times-Herald that the arbitrator “overstepped her bounds,” and that claims of racial discrimination by Saroyan were “unfounded.”

In June 2002, Saroyan reassigned Northcutt, a 20-year district veteran with tenure, from 12th grade government and English to 10th grade world history, a grade and subject she had never taught before. The move violated the district’s collective bargaining agreement. Northcutt alleged it was racially motivated.

In a 2004 interview with the Times-Herald, Northcutt said Saroyan gave her reasons for the original reassignment, including a high student failure rate. However, the arbitrator found her class had the second lowest failure rate in her department.

In the 2004 interview, Hanks acknowledged “there were concerns regarding complaints and the number of transfers in and out of her classroom.” He added that Northcutt wasn’t the only Vallejo High teacher reassigned that year.

Rather than uphold the arbitrator’s award, Northcutt alleged that the district tried to demote her to a substitute teacher, and singled her out for her pursuit of discrimination claims.


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This entry was posted on Monday, April 6th, 2009 at 2:45 pm and is filed under Rulings by Courts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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  1. Sue Castle says:

    I, too, have experienced bullying from my superiors. In my 15th year of employment as a Special Education teacher (Intervention Specialist), I know the difference between trust and distrust. My building principal began making overly routine visits to my classroom during the 2008 – 2009 school year and continued these mysterious walk-throughs during the 2009 – 2010 school year. He’d walk up to each and every student asking “What are you working on?” and then would approach me with the same question.

    At one point my supervisor came into my classroom stating she needed to speak to me. I obliged. She began with, “I need to address what you almost said in the parent meeting this morning. Well, it’s not what you said specifically but it’s what you said generally…you said to the mother that you’d be working with her daughter in the area of phonics. You went on to say that you work with other of your student in phonics. WE CAN’T have you making mention of these kinds of things. This is a small community and people may make a connection between what you say and what students are working on.” WHAT? Who cares? Phonics!!!

    That supervisor could not bully me out of my position so she was moved to another position. Her replacement was relentless with accusations and as my students called it, “being called on the carpet” excessively.

    The supervisor during 2009-2010 also overly made visits to my room. I was told by her that I wasn’t moving through the math curriculum fast enough. (LD and CD students) She always reprimanded me verbally; never in writing, although I ask her to several times. She claimed that my students and parents did not like me and all of my parents had called her with complaints, wanting to pull their student from my class. Absolutely not the truth.
    She “called me on the carpet” many times for things students “reported” to her. Turns out she was polling for info about me from students. She brought the county superintendent into my classroom on 12/3/09 to talk to me about things he was hearing about me … that I was using “caustic and aggressive behaviors towards others: teaching staff.” He informed me I had to go around and apologize to each/every teacher. Then he requested I write a Plan of Action as to how I could mend broken bridges between administrative staff, teaching staff, parents, and students due to me caustic and aggressive ways. NONE TRUE. What he neglected to know was that I rarely left my room nor did I mingle much for fear of being dragged into gossip and rumor mills.
    On May 10th, 2010, with the school year end nearing, my supervisor walked in and declared she would begin observing me. WHAT? She had all school year!
    I left school that day after informing the necessary people that “I was ill”. Having nearly 160 sick days due to I was always there, I went home crying and haven’t returned since…even for this school year (2010 – 2011). My daughter dragged me to the doctor back in May who prescribed me medication for “Major Depression”. Then I was informed by the doctor to take FMLA…superiors declined, stating “You don’t request FMLA until you’ve used all of your sick leave.”

    I’ve had several phone calls from the Superintendent stating he needed to meet with me to discuss all “your absences”.

    Never, never can I stop hearing the building principal yell, “I’ve read through your personnel file and from what I’ve read leads me to mistrust you. I don’t trust you, I don’t trust you, I don’t trust you! You don’t give me any reason to trust you.”

    I have no clue as to what he’d be talking about. I’ve never been written up, and my evaluations were always positive and solid.

    I was told I was not to call parents from my house nor was I to receive parent phone calls. I’ve been told I could not tutor or counsel from my home, to leave that to professionals. I’ve never done this so this must be rumor based.

    Is there anything I can/should do?

    • Erin Taul says:

      I too have been bullied by my AP. I also teach SDC classes. They don’t seem to understand the struggle we go through just to keep them in order, much less teach to the standards, pacing guide, State tests etc.

    • elle says:

      Your story sounds like what I am going through now. Mandated and directed to do illegal things, claims by the principal that she knows the laws and regulations. If you don’t do what you are directed to. you’re insubordinate and if you do, you’re breaking the law.

      Working endless hours (to prep for 5 different classes), sometimes no sleep for days, constant observations and told it was a U because the Do Now wasn’t written on the board.

      If you file grievances you become the target of a ‘search and destroy’. Union wants documentation so they can pursue, spend hour and hours gathering it, and the ‘don’t worry, we’ll protect you’. No return phone calls just lectured and told to go to assistance program.

      Colleagues remain mute because they want to keep their job and know what will happen when open your mouth. They certainly see what’s happening to me but comply.

      The most outrageous, horrific, and career-ending false accusations have be made. Students are coaxed into writing false statements. Everything you have worked for is gone. Even when proved all is false, it never leaves your record. You’ll always be “that’s the teacher who did…”

      When you ask the principal to put it in writing and they refuse, something wrong.
      When you spend more hours documenting things to protect yourself then preparing lessons, something is wrong.
      When you use all your sick time because you’re so physically and emotionally exhausted and then get written up for excessive absences, something is wrong.
      When the supervisor of these administrators condones and protects these principals, something is wrong.
      When you think of your principal as your ‘pen pal’ because you keep getting those “may result in disciplinary action” letters delivered in front of other staff and students in the middle of teaching, something is wrong.
      When you’re hired for your qualifications and then have to become ‘sheep’ because your principal is insecure and certainly not self-actualized, something is wrong.
      When you try to explain things and are told “just do…”, if it was “just do…” I would have “just done”, something is wrong.
      When you’re told you need to learn time-management skills when given a crushing schedule and paperwork load, something is wrong.
      It just keeps going on and on.
      But when the day comes that you have so much paperwork and reports and data to do that you think to yourself “when will these kids go so I can do my job”, something is REALLY wrong.

      I’m tired of hearing about ‘bad teachers’ and hesitant to tell answer the ‘what is your job’ because of this manifested reputation that shadows us. You can’t be a bad teacher under a good principal.

      I’m REALLY tired of spending all my time trying to please the principal instead of doing what I love, teaching.

      Everyone in education knows what’s going on, but won’t do anything to change it. You are left helpless. It’s all about THE NUMBERS.
      The real losers are the kids.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I too have been hounded by a “bully principal”. The current administration has confused intimidation with leadership. I am a veteran special educator with an exemplary history…excellent observations and evaluations. I was recently observed without any notice (not that I normally care but…) and was torn apart! This administrator had been through my room regularly and never once made any negative comments about my teaching. I now have been placed on “a plan” and must have everything I do looked at “through a microscope”. My students are SPH and I love them dearly. My parents are pleased with my work with their children but I must endure this horrible work environment and may even lose my job should this principal decide to do so. I cannot believe that after almost 30 years of living and loving special education, I have been so unfairly disrespected by this brand new administrator and have no where to turn. My union can only do so much. I pray each night that I will still have my job and pension. I don’t know how I can keep myself from getting an ulcer.

    • Dr. Gary Namie says:

      The best advice we have for dealing with stress is the book by Robert Sapolsky — Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. Understand the underlying biology and ensure that you are surrounded by loving others.

  3. outside says:

    Why is the act of bullying always reduced to its monetary value ?

    Money is relative, by changing the primary focus of being bullied to its monetary value, denies the target, and the act as secondary.

    • Dr. Gary Namie says:

      I agree, but everyone wants to make “the business case” to employers who act like they care about costs. The fact is they don’t give a damn. Bully Bob and the relationship with him trumps bottom line every time.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    So, my harassment continues. I was observed teaching a lesson plan that the principal pre-approved. Three weeks after my observation my conference was held. The principal once again gave me a poor rating and tore apart the lesson plan that she had originally approved! She accused me of not using before, during and after reading strategies! I was stunned….I did indeed use all of the techniques a teacher would use to teach a content reading lesson. I am writing another addendum to be attached to my observation form including a copy from a text book describing the strategies that I had employed during my lesson. Tell me, when does this type of treatment become a harassment case?

    • Elizabeth says:

      Has anyone ever brought about a harassment lawsuit regarding the issues that were raised in my above comments?

    • JD says:

      My advice is to video or audio record everything! You can use it to your advantage. Most smart phones have it built-in. Wish I would have recorded the last meeting with my bully principal.

  5. ed says:

    I was in a schooling meeting today listening to a principal yell at a room full of teacher. He was telling them that they didn’t care about the students. Administrators have fail to facilitate the work of teachers in the district and now that the school is failing they are using the teachers as scapegoats and yelling to them that it is the teachers that are the cause of the schools failure.

  6. I have just completed my first novel titled, “Fawn Forest ISD.” The story is about principal who bullies the wrong employee, Jaylyn Rose. Jaylyn becomes the underdog who seeks justice against a wicked boss.

    “Fawn Forest ISD” will be available by ebook and soft cover July, 2011 at Amazon.com,

    A good read for any teacher or anyone who has worked for a boss who is a bully!

  7. karl says:


    What do you know? Here’s the very bully I just referred to, talking about assisting students who are being bullied.

  8. Lulu says:

    Even though I live on the other side of the world, and worked for a very different education system to what you have in the US, the blog entry and the replies indicate that there is something in common we teachers all face, and that is the endemic nature of workplace bullying in schools.

    My own research of comparable “western” countries indicates that the education sector has one of the highest rates of workplace bullying. Hence, these education systems are carrying the huge costs of workplace bullying at a time when many countries are cutting their education budgets. Without even considering the personal costs to the individuals concerned, surely this money could be better spent!

    I worked for 27 years as a teacher employed by a state government education department in Australia. I had a very rewarding career until a new principal (first appointment at that level) came to my school. As this blog is about the monetary costs one bully can bring about, I won’t go into the nature of the bullying and the course it took, only to say that I ended up with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and on long term workers compensation benefits.

    This year I agreed to an out of court settlement after being on benefits for 6 years at 80% of my salary. When I compare the costs involved in my case with those outlined in the original post, I think mine even exceed those!!! Here is an estimate:

    $390,000 – 6 years of workers comp. benefits
    $360,000 – replacement teacher for 6 years
    $xxx,xxx – confidential settlement amount
    $100,000 – legal costs borne by defendant
    $ 60,000 – medical costs (ongoing)
    $ 48,000 – 7 months sick leave on full pay

    This list is by no means exhaustive and already amounts to well over a million dollars. This is Australian dollars, but the Australian dollar has approx parity with the US dollar.

    Add to this the money it costs government organizations responsible for ensuring workplace safety to investigate and compile reports.

    Also, I have had to retire due to ill health well before retirement age, and my superannuation scheme will be required to pay me a pension for the rest of my life with no further contributions from me.

    Hence the cost is not only borne by the education department itself, but by other government instrumentalities, insurance companies (they pay settlement money and medical costs) and superannauation/pension schemes – and of course, me!

    The settlement is very nice but it does not fully compensate for loss of earnings.

    The truly frustrating thing about all of this is that nothing has changed and the relevant education department remains unaccountable for both the actions of the principal, and the enormous amount of money her actions have cost so many. An out of court settlement means that the problem and its outcomes remain hidden with no adverse publicity, and bureaucrats can heave a sigh a relief for not being held accountable for not acting.

    So what did happen to the said principal? She stayed on at the school creating further havoc for other staff members. Staff turnover was very high due to early retirements, transfer requests and even resignations. Morale was very low. Then the principal announced that she had obtained a position in another school. The reason soon became clear. She had blown the school’s budget and was abandoning ship before she could be held accountable by the school community for her actions.

    Today she remains at her new school, and I have no idea as to whether she is behaving true to form in her new environment. The real question is how such an incompetent person, who has cost so much in terms of teachers’ health, foreshortened careers and an enormous amount of money for so many organizations is allowed to continue on and NOT ONE PERSON HAS BEEN HELD ACCOUNTABLE?

    Anyway, it is no longer my problem. I have to move on with my life as it is the only one I have, and I am not going to allow the bully to have any more power over me.

    Thanks for reading.

  9. In Memory of Gary Elder says:

    Here is another case…BRING EXPOSURE for the Family

  10. Donna says:

    Every state needs to pass the Healthy Workplace Law. My school and other schools in the district had extremely abusive principals. The union did nothing. This has to be publicized NOW!

  11. Eric Gonchar says:

    Eric Gonchar

    Bully Principal Costs Fortune | Workplace Bullying Institute

  12. Saleh Stevens

    Bully Principal Costs Fortune | Workplace Bullying Institute

  13. Leo Wong says:

    Hello Dr. Gary Namie. My former employer hired a consultant psychologist who assessed me “covertly” and then only told my employer that I was suffering from a Paranoid Disorder. For the next 11 years on the job, I was unaware that I was mentally disordered and of course I was not medically treated (no medications and no psychotherapy). I was bullied merciless until I had to leave the workplace. Later, I learned that the consultant psychologist had advised my employer to issue only letters of warning to me and not suspend me. My employer issued me 12 letters of warning to me and they finally suspended me 2 weeks without pay. I suffered an incapacitating mental breakdown at work and I have not worked since 2007.

    Who is liability for my mental injuries, my former employer who followed his advice up to a point or my employer’s consultant psychologist for offering bad advice, i.e. I should have been told of my diagnosis so I could seek medical treatment? At the very least, he should have not allowed me to go back to work medically untreated.

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