When former eighth-grade English teacher Traci Eccles returned to Cascade Middle School on June 9 after a medical leave, Principal Bruce Holoway asked her to leave school grounds immediately.
Human resources director John Vencill said Eccles' presence on campus had become a disruption for students because she had been "in and out" so much during the school year.
But having recently filed a complaint with Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, Eccles believes the district did not want her talking about a sexual harassment investigation in February she claims was biased and unfair.
The district has agreed to mediate the complaint with the EEOC, she said, but she does not know when mediation will begin.
Eccles said she went to the commission three months after the close of the sexual harassment investigation because it had become clear she had not been treated fairly.
She originally agreed with a resolution prepared by Vencill at the close of the investigation in February because she thought her co-worker, Chuck Woodard, had been found in violation of the district's sexual harassment policy when he admitted to showing her inappropriate tapes in his home during a school-related meeting in October of 2006.
However, no such conclusion was ever reached and Woodard was later named the school's teacher of the year.
Woodard, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Cascade, admitted to showing the tapes but said he meant it as a joke, not a sexual advance. He said Eccles had led him to believe she was OK with this type of joking.
After the investigation, Woodard was required to watch the district's sexual harassment training video, reports of the investigation indicate.
Though she loves teaching eighth grade, Eccles said she asked for to transfer to another school because she had no support at Cascade. She accepted a position at Mark Morris High School for next school year.
But after looking at the investigative report in May, Eccles believes she was treated poorly, her complaints not taken seriously or misrepresented and she was retaliated against for filing the complaint.
Eccles said she came to the conclusion Cascade Principal Bruce Holoway, who she believes is good friends with Woodard, simply wanted her out.
Holoway declined to comment to The Daily News.
"Something did have to happen about her," Woodard said, adding that many of the school staff had become aware of Eccles' distracted, frazzled behavior.
Eccles said she didn't come forward with a complaint about Woodard until 15 months after the incident in his home because she was having problems at school with him, according to notes from her investigation interview.
Woodard, however, said Eccles "wanted to get even with Bruce," because the principal was raising questions about her performance.
Vencill's summary of the investigation also includes comments from Holoway that state Eccles was being affected by a challenging and fragile family situation.
Eccles said Holoway had no knowledge of her personal life and would have had to rely on rumors to say such things.
Vencill said Eccles did not have a very credible case against Woodard, and that Holoway gave him a pretty good idea about what was going on with Eccles.
Holoway was the only third-party interview for the investigation because he is the supervisor and there were no witnesses to the alleged sexual harassment, Vencill said.
Vencill also questioned why Eccles waited so long to come forward with her complaint against Woodard and why she did so at a time when her teaching performance was being called into question.
Superintendent Suzanne Cusick, who started with the district in June, said she has reviewed the investigation and concluded Vencill followed all of the proper procedures.
Eccles was hired to teach eighth grade English in Longview in 2003 after teaching in the Stevenson-Carson School District for 14 years.
She knew Woodard before she came to the district and they became close friends when she started teaching, she said.
In the fall of 2006 Eccles and Woodard became team teachers and opened up a curtained wall between their classrooms.
One evening in October of 2006, Eccles went to Woodard's house to do lesson planning. She said it was not the first time she'd gone to his home for a planning meeting but it was the first time Woodard's wife was not present. He showed her inappropriate images on his computer and TV, she said.
Woodard later acknowledged this incident but their stories vary on how she reacted. Eccles said she was angry and left immediately. Woodard said she laughed and stayed longer.
Woodard said their realationship continued to be friendly afterward. Eccles said Woodard was angry when she rejected continued advances and she felt uncomfortable around him.
Woodard said he eventually distanced himself from Eccles and he denies her claims he made efforts to damage her reputation and discredit her job performance.
In January of 2008, Holoway held a series of meetings with Eccles to discuss her job performance. It was then that Eccles told him about her problems with Woodard, saying Woodard was trying to sabotage her.
Vencill said the timing of it all "doesn't make a very strong claim for a sexual harassment case."
Eccles filed a formal complaint with the district on Feb. 1, asking that it be reviewed by district administration because of the close relationship she perceived between Holoway and Woodard.
When presented with the district's resolution she said she signed it because she was told by Vencill that Woodard was found to be in violation of the district's sexual harassment policy.
When asked if he told Eccles that Woodard violated the policy Vencill said, "I never went down that road. The road I went down was 'Traci what's the resolution you want?' and we did it."
Nowhere in the resolution does it say Woodard was in violation of the policy.
Eccles said she believed she would return to an improved working situation in February, but she claims it got worse.
In the months following the investigation, Eccles said she felt further isolated from co-workers and was unable to explain anything that had happened with Woodard under an agreement of confidentiality with the district.
Woodard, on the other hand, was honored with a teacher of the year award from the Parent Teacher Student Association after being nominated for the award by Holoway, she said.
Eccles said Vencill misrepresented her interview in the investigation report, claiming it contained missing and wrong information.
Vencill said he cleaned up the notes based on what he understood to be said in the interviews.
Cusick said she reviewed both the original transcript and Vencill's copy of the notes and didn't notice any major discrepancies.
After seeing the report of the investigation in May, Eccles asked for administrative leave for the rest of the school year.
"If she didn't want to work at Cascade I would give her a different job," Vencill said. "Her wanting to get paid to go home for the rest of the year wasn't logical or financially sound."
But Eccles said she didn't think having to start her new job at Mark Morris High "under a shroud of secrecy" was fair. Instead, she was granted medical leave with a note from her doctor saying she had "work-related stress."
Vencill said he thought she would be out the rest of the year but Eccles' leave was only until June 9, a few days before the end of school.
The two times she came back to Cascade, once during and once after her leave, she was asked to leave, she said. She said it seemed the tables had turned to make her the guilty party rather than the victim.
She said she wants an apology from Holoway and for Woodard to retire.
Vencill and Cusick both say the investigation was fair.
"That doesn't always feel like the right thing for the person who feels he or she is the victim," Cusick said
Eccles said she is also pursuing legal action against the district but knows she may not have a strong case.
"The critical errors are that I signed (the resolution) and that I agreed to transfer," she said. "I really kept my mind open. I thought I was getting help."