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Set for July 17
It was February 2010 when then Stowers Principal Mrs. Eileen Bladgen reported a threat on the lives of two of her teachers by a third teacher to the sheriff. Under the law Mrs. Bladgen is obligated to report any such incident to law enforcement. Her superiors and AFT President Laura Rico told her they would take care of the matter and she didn’t have to do anything more about the incident. The District then reacted to her sheriff’s report by placing her on administrative leave for the rest of the school year, demoting her to a teaching position, and worst of all using false evidence of her incompetence to justify its action.
Last month Superior Court Judge Joanne O’Donnell in Los Angeles ruled the evidence used against Mrs. Blagden to demote her was fabricated. The case now goes to a Settlement Conference on July 17.
The events leading up to Blagden’s leave of absence and subsequent demotion occurred when a teacher, Kevin Kirby, arrived at Stowers on Jan. 25, 2010 at approximately 9 am with bloodstains on his clothes and told a secretary he had been in an accident on the freeway while riding his motorcycle. Blagden told Kirby he should not report to his classroom due to his appearance and possible injuries. Kirby told her he refused medical treatment at the scene of the accident and didn’t need a doctor.
According to the sheriff’s incident report Kirby became very agitated that he was not able to go to his classroom and stated, “Nobody likes me here. Nobody loves me here. I have no friends. Maybe my acci-dent happened this morning for a purpose. I wish I was dead.” He subsequently told Blagden he was hav-ing trouble with two other Kindergarten teachers and he hated both of them, adding, “I wish something bad would happen to them! I want to hire a hit man to kill them.”
At this point the principal contacted the District office and told them what was going on. She repeated she needed help at the school and Kirby appeared suicidal and distraught and should be taken out of serv-ice,” She was told to get his union representative to her office. Short time later personnel from the District office, including Union President Laura Rico arrived along with paramedics and escorted Kirby to a medical facility. She was told by Assistant Superintendent Carol Hansen that Kirby would not be allowed to return to work without a doctor’s note
Rico later informed ABC that Kirby would not be returning to work immediately and would be of work for an extended time period. Mrs. Blagden was told not to say anything else that the District would handle it from there. However, Blagden, concerned about the safety of her teachers and students, later filed a report with the sheriff. On Feb 3, Blagden was put on “indefinite” leave for disobeying orders not to say any-thing to anybody about the incident
Blagden’s attorney Ron Wilson said former Superintendent Gary Smuts stated the day before the “Kirby incident” that he had decided to demote her and made that announcement at a cabinet meeting. Unfortunately there is no documentation of the meeting. According to Dr. Smuts the accusation was not true. Wilson said the District hired a coach for Mrs. Blagden to improve her standing. According to the coach her biggest job was to determine why she was there or what Mrs. Blagden’s deficiencies were. “No one ever told me,” she testified under oath. “No one ever talked to her.” Wilson said.
In her deposition then Deputy Superintendent Dr. Mary Sieu testified that Stowers was a great school. She said she didn’t know if it was a good thing that Mrs. Blagden reported the death threats to the Los Angles County Sheriff Department. She confirmed Assistant Superintendent Carol Hansen had told Mrs. Blagden to do nothing about the death threats. Dr Sieu also described Mrs. Blagden as an honest person. She said she was told by Dr.Smuts that Mrs. Blagden was placed on administrative leave because of the death threat incident. She also said Carol Hanson told her the same thing.
Dr. Sieu testified one of the reasons Mrs. Blagden was disciplined and demoted was for divulging con-fidential information. Asked what the information was, she replied the reporting the death threat made by teacher Kevin Kirby against two other teachers to law enforcement officials. Another issue used against Mrs. Blagden was she refused to support an illegal, school sponsored non-profit foundation, which was not properly set up in accordance with California law.
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