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Adams County schools facing 2 discrimination lawsuits from former employees

Former employees allege racial discrimination
Posted: 3:22 PM, Aug 17, 2016
Updated: 2016-08-17 22:44:59-04

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. -- Two former administrators are suing the Adams County School District 14 claiming wrongful termination and discrimination based on their race.

The two former school employees say it was their job to help right the problems exposed by a federal Department of Education investigation into claims of systematic racial discrimination against parents, teachers and students in the district. But now both women claim the same system of discrimination left them unemployed.

Marisol Enriquez, a former human resources director for the school district, filed a lawsuit against the district Tuesday.

Her lawsuit came about one month after a similar lawsuit filed by Dr. Robyn Mondragon, the former Chief Academic and Equity Officer for the district.

A spokesperson for the Adams 14 school district said, “These cases are a part of ongoing litigation and therefore we can’t comment on them. However, what we can tell you, is that the district has always complied with all laws applicable to our work and we will vigorously defend the district and our board of education.”

Mondragon says the district pursued her in the months after the federal Office of Civil Rights report laid out numerous recommendations to improve its relationships with Latino staff, students and families.

“The parents felt like they were not welcome in the building. There was a separate lunch table that was assigned just for Spanish-speaking parents,” Mondragon told Denver7 Investigates. “I was pursued by the top executives … to come into Adams 14 and to support the district and really resolve the agreements to resolve. To bring some closure, to start the healing process and really move forward.”

Mondragon’s job involved investigating complaints of discrimination from staff and families. She said during that process she quickly learned the problems were deeper than she imagined.

“Once I'd start digging and asking questions absolutely every one of [the complaints] were valid,” Mondragon said. “It was incredibly alarming, it was like nothing I had ever seen.”

Mondragon claims the district’s now-former superintendent, Patrick Sanchez, encouraged her to change the findings of one of her investigations to make the administration look better.

“I said no, absolutely not,” she told Denver7 Investigates. “His interference is not okay. That's why you have a compliance officer.”

LAWSUIT | Click here to read the first complaint. 

In her lawsuit, Mondragon claims her refusal to edit her investigations sparked a campaign by administrators to dig into her personal life and remove her from her job.

“Really all along it was just finding more and more reasons to get me out of there and muted,” Mondragon told Denver7. “We're talking about K-12 education. The politics shouldn't be that difficult when we're talking about kindergarten through fifth grade.”

Mondragon said the district terminated her before the end of her contract in her first year, and in her lawsuit she claims district officials have damaged her reputation and directly prevented her from getting new jobs. She is also suing Cherry Creek schools, claiming the district turned her down for a job opportunity based on information provided by Adams 14 leaders.

Enriquez claims in her lawsuit, in part, that district administrators retaliated against her for her close friendship with Mondragon.

Mondragon told Denver7 she fears the larger implications of her termination for families and staff members in the Adams 14 district.

LAWSUIT | Click here to see the second complaint. 

“People were coming to me. People were feeling safe to make these complaints. They felt like they could have someone listen,” Mondragon said. “I still don't know if those families had an opportunity to be heard. I still don't know if those moms had an opportunity to be respected in what happened to them. So if this opens up that opportunity, then it's worth it.”

The district has yet to file a response in court to Mondragon’s allegations. Patrick Sanchez left the district earlier this summer to take over the Newark Unified School District in California.

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