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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | Countywide

Fired Teacher's Suit Reinstated on Appeal

June 12, 1998|NICK GREEN

A former teacher who claimed he was wrongfully terminated for complaining about understaffing at a county-run school for incarcerated teenagers has had his lawsuit reinstated.

Robert LeVine sued the Ventura County superintendent of schools office in 1996 after he was fired for allegedly failing to show up for work. The previous year he had raised concerns about staffing levels at the McBride School at Ventura County Juvenile Hall.

The lawsuit was dismissed in Ventura County Superior Court last year. But the 2nd District Court of Appeals said the lower court erred.

The appeals court held that the events leading up to LeVine's termination could be viewed as "retaliatory."

"The question remains whether the evidence shows as a matter of law that LeVine's employment was not terminated in retaliation for his threats to inform the state about inadequate staffing," the appeals court said.

The schools office suspended LeVine and later ordered him back to work by a certain date, but didn't give him sufficient time to comply, the appeals court said.

Charles Weis, county superintendent of schools, described the court's ruling as "very confusing."

"We're happy to try it, except it wastes taxpayers' money," Weis said.

Investigations by the state and district attorney's office found LeVine's allegations inaccurate, he said. However, a member of the county Board of Education told the The Times in 1996 that the superintendent's office "did make some improvements in different areas of the program" after LeVine complained.

LeVine did not return calls seeking comment.

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