U.S. secretary of education Arne Duncan and principal Robert Bleisch at Castle Park Middle School
Robert Bleisch, a former principal at Castle Park Middle School, is suing his former employee, Sweetwater Union High School District. Bleisch claims he was discriminated against and subjected to retaliation for blowing the whistle on a politically connected colleague; Bleisch’s support of then-superintendent Ed Brand’s controversial programs, such as the district's partnership with for-profit college Alliant University, also worked against him, according to the lawsuit.
Bleisch, who has since moved to Texas, filed the lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court on September 8.
After three years on the job, Bleisch states that he was demoted from his post as principal at Castle Park Middle in February 2014 as a result of filing a complaint one year earlier against a counselor at the school
Bleisch then alleges that Cristina Barcelo’s friend and trustee for Sweetwater Unified School District, Bertha Lopez (who had recently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for allegedly misappropriating school funds), turned the tables, launching her own investigation into claims that it was Bleisch who had misused funds. And, according to the complaint, when the investigation hit a dead end, Lopez neglected to notify her fellow board members of the findings.
Not only did Lopez decide not to inform her colleagues on the board, she turned to her friends in the media to report on the investigation against Bleisch.
According to the complaint that friend was former Reader contributor Susan Luzarro.
"...Lopez continued further by disseminating false information, which Lopez knew was false by her own illegal investigations, by having her good friend and political ally, Susan Luzzaro, write several articles about Plaintiff in the San Diego Reader for the purpose to circulate these articles to teachers, staff, and board in Sweetwater for misinformation."
The district launched additional investigations into Bleisch.
"At the commencement of the investigation [Sweetwater Union] knew there was an adherence to a pro-Hispanic/anti-Caucasian method of operation of school district business. [Bleisch] is one-half Caucasian and one-half Mexican and did not fit in with their pro-Hispanic profile.... [Bleisch] did not fit in with their pro-Hispanic profile and, as a result, the handling of the investigation and the acts of the superintendent in reassignment and demotion, and allowing intolerable work conditions and environment and racial tensions and conditions to be so onerous and to exist over a long period of time were contrary to defendant Sweetwater's own rules, policies, practices, customs, due process rights of teachers, and procedures and were racially motivated against [Bleisch].”
Emotional Emails :)
But throughout it all, as reported by Luzarro in the Reader, Bleisch did not sit idly by.
On September 4, 2013 Luzarro wrote an article on Bleisch spending, according to Luzarro, approximately $40,000 to spruce up Castle Park Middle in preparation for U.S. secretary of education Arne Duncan's visit to the school.
In the days following the article, according to emails obtained by Luzarro in a public records request, Bleisch countered, trying to dig up support for Duncan's visit and to rally against the negative press.
This from a February 2014 Reader article:
After the article, it appears Bleisch spearheaded a counterattack.
At 6:00 on September 4, Bleisch wrote to Kevin Bieser about “Sec. Duncan Story in SD Reader.” Beiser is a teacher at Castle Park Middle and also a trustee on the San Diego Unified School District board.
Bleisch asks Beiser: “Please help set the record straight.”
At 6:04 he wrote to Richard Grove, a teacher at Castle Park Middle — again with “Subject: Fwd: Sec. Duncan Story in SD Reader.”
Bleisch tells Grove, “Enough is enough!! Time to punch back!! Please get as many people as possible set [sic] the Record straight.”
Whether or not these two responded to Bleisch’s appeal for help is unknown; however, there are a number of supportive comments under the story.
On September 5, Bleisch wrote from his district email to Granger teacher Maria Galleher. (Bleisch transferred to Castle Park from Granger.)
“FYI-could use a little support right now :)”
Galleher responds from her private email at 7:05. “Who is this Susan luzzaro bitch?!”
Bleisch texts back: “SD Reader, friend of the white elite negative extremists in CV.”
In July 2014, after being transferred and then demoted, Bleisch handed in his resignation.
Reads the lawsuit, "Ultimately, in the end on July 30, 2014, but only after defendant Sweetwater created the work and employment and racial environment and conditions so intolerable, abusive, and insufferable forcing Plaintiff to leave, the investigation revealed no wrong-doing whatsoever by Plaintiff, and the district took no further disciplinary or other action against Plaintiff."
Bleisch is asking that a jury award him punitive, special, statutory damages as well as attorney's fees.