Sunday, May 17, 2020

Jaeckle v. Flagler College, Inc. -- Second Amended Complaint in Federal Court re: Retaliation for Reporting Sexual Harassment of Students

As my mother once wrote an unenlightened South Jersey college president, "an educational institution must not be run as a dictatorship." Dr. Tina Jaeckle has filed an amended complaint in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Jacksonville, with a jury trial expected next year. Flagler College's retaliation and continuing maladroit nonresponse to sexual harassment allegations against former UnderSheriff JOEL BOLANTE is a stench in the nostrils of our Nation.   BOLANTE was allegedly promoted after sexual harassment allegations were made, without their ever being properly investigated. BOLANTE and other Flagler College officials did not respond to my e-mails and telephone messages.

(Photo credit: Flagler Live)

There's Sheriff DAVID SHOAR's then-UnderSheriff, JOEL BOLANTE, center, alleged tortfeasor, with 7th Circuit State's Attorney RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA, left, helping pick Dr. PREDRAG BULIC, M.D., (the 23rd District Medical Examiner who helped cover up the September 2, 2010 murder of Michelle O'Connell in the home of Sheriff's Deputy JEREMY BANKS, at the behest of Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, who legally changed his name from "HOAR" in 1994).

Taxpayers pay for Flagler College programs administered by BOLANTE, with lawmen and other government employees obtaining Public Administration degrees. The litigation requires thorough coverage by local and national news media:

COMES NOW, Plaintiff, TINA JAECKLE (“Plaintiff”), by and through the undersigned counsel, and files this Second Amended Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial against Defendant, FLAGLER COLLEGE, INC. (“Defendant”), and in support thereof states the following:
1. This is an action for breach of contract and retaliation under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., (“Title IX”) arising out of the unlawful termination of Plaintiff.
2. This Court has federal question jurisdiction over the 20 U.S.C. § 1681 claims and has supplemental jurisdiction over the Florida state law claims.
  1. This is an action for damages in excess of $15,000.00.
  2. Defendant receives federal financial assistance within the meaning of 20 U.S.C. §
1681(a) and is otherwise subject to Title IX.
  1. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
  2. At all times material to this Complaint, Plaintiff was a resident of St. Johns County,
Page 1 of 13
7. At all times material to this Complaint, Defendant was a Florida not for profit corporation headquartered and operating in St. Johns County, Florida.
  1. The actions alleged in this Complaint took place within St. Johns County, Florida.
  2. Venue is therefore proper in this Court.
  3. Plaintiff has retained the undersigned law firm and has agreed to pay same its
reasonable attorneys’ fees to represent her in this action.
  1. Plaintiff began her employment with Defendant in 2003 as an adjunct instructor.
  2. In 2006, Plaintiff became a full-time assistant professor with Defendant teaching
sociology and criminology courses.
13. During her tenure, Plaintiff also served as both the Chair of the College Disciplinary Committee and the Title IX Sexual Misconduct Hearing Panel at the specific request of Defendant’s Chancellor, William Proctor.
14. William Proctor requested Plaintiff to serve in her positions as Chairwoman due, in part, to her unique abilities to manage difficult cases within ethical guidelines.
15. Plaintiff established Defendant’s current criminology program and served as the Director of the Criminology Program until her termination.
16. Plaintiff consistently and successfully taught a more strenuous caseload than most other professors.
17. In fact, Plaintiff was notified in the Spring of 2018 by Dr. William Proctor that she was in the top ten of faculty in terms of productivity and student contact hours.
18. Defendant’s average full-time professor taught four classes a semester consisting of two sections of two courses while Plaintiff regularly taught six courses.
Page 2 of 13
19. In addition to teaching more material, more frequently than the average professor, Plaintiff managed student internships for the Criminology Program.
20. On February 15, 2016, Defendant, through department chair Emily Splane (“Splane”), conducted a performance review (the “Review”) of Plaintiff, a copy of which is attached hereto as Exhibit A.
21. The Review gave Plaintiff an overall score of “5” which indicates Plaintiff is “Extremely Effective” at her job.
22. The Review noted Plaintiff is “Extremely Effective” in (i) effectiveness as an instructor, (ii) providing high quality teaching instruction, and (iii) fostering student engagement with learning.
23. On April 20, 2017, Defendant provided Plaintiff with a contract (the “Agreement”) detailing the terms of her reappointment as a full-time associate professor for Defendant. The Agreement is attached hereto as Exhibit B.
24. Less than a year later, on or about February 2018, Plaintiff made an oral Title IX complaint (“Title IX Complaint”) regarding allegations of sexual misconduct of a certain faculty member, Joel Bolante (“Bolante”), to Defendant’s Title IX coordinator, Jessica Kobryn (“Kobryn”).
25. At the time of Plaintiff’s complaint, Bolante served as the Director of Title IX Investigations and was being considered for a position as the Director of the Public Administration Program.
26. Bolante was ultimately promoted to Director of the Public Administration Program for Defendant.
27. The Title IX Complaint notified Defendant that Bolante was alleged to maintain inappropriate sexual relationships with subordinates and potentially students which created a
Page 3 of 13
power imbalance between professor and student thereby creating a discriminatory and hostile education environment on the basis of sex.
28. The Title IX Complaint notified Defendant that Bolante was known to have, at a minimum, sexually harassed female subordinates at his prior employment and this behavior was likely occurring during Bolante’s employment with Defendant.
29. Plaintiff notified Defendant that Bolante should be suspended from his duties as Director of Title IX Investigations while the investigation took place to prevent even the appearance of a conflict.
30. Defendant was warned by multiple third parties regarding sexual misconduct allegations against Bolante.
  1. Defendant did not properly investigate Plaintiff’s Title IX Complaint.
  2. Defendant did not properly investigate the third-party complaints regarding
33. Defendant’s Faculty Handbook (the “Handbook”), attached hereto as Exhibit C, prohibits sexual contact between faculty members and students that may have an effect on the learning environment under its “Sexual Harassment and Hazing” section and reads in relevant part:
The college is committed to maintaining a learning and working environment free from harassment. Administrative Policy Statement 122 clearly states that sexual harassment and hazing, in any form, will not be condoned or tolerated. This prohibition applies equally to male and female staff, faculty, and students, and to all other persons on campus subject to College control . . . Sexual harassment consists of unwelcome and unsolicited advances toward members of the same or opposite sex, requests for sexual favors, sexually-motivated physical conduct, or other verbal or physical communication of a sexual nature. It occurs when a college employee causes a student or other member of the college community to believe that he or she must submit to unwelcome sexual conduct in order to be awarded a specific grade, participate in a school program or activity, receive a positive performance evaluation or promotion. In addition, it occurs when an employee or third party agent of the College causes a student or other member of the college community to believe that the employee will make an educational or job-related decision based on whether or not the student or member of the college community submits to unwelcome sexual conduct . . .
Page 4 of 13
Flagler Faculty Handbook Ch. 8 Section E (emphasis added).
34. The Handbook further outlines the responsibilities of faculty regarding reporting

known instances of sexual harassment:
In the event that any member of the College community has knowledge of unreported cases of sexual harassment, it is the responsibility of that individual to bring the matter to the attention of an appropriate administrative or academic officer in a timely manner . . . Any reported allegations of harassment or hazing will be investigated promptly. The investigation may include interviews with the individual making the complaint, with the alleged offender, and if necessary, with individuals who may have observed the alleged conduct or have relevant knowledge . . .
Flagler Faculty Handbook Ch. 8 Section E.
35. The Handbook explicitly states that the “committee will report its findings and

recommendation(s) to the Dean of Academic Affairs. . . The Dean shall notify the party who originated the complaint of the outcome.” Flagler Faculty Handbook Ch. 8 Section E.
36. Moreover, Title IX protects students from discriminatory and hostile education environment on the basis of sex such as that caused by a faculty member sexually harassing students and subordinates.
  1. Defendant had an obligation to investigate these allegations.
  2. Defendant’s duty to respond to and investigate the reported Title IX violations were
triggered on or about February 2018 when Plaintiff made her Title IX Complaint.
39. Failing to investigate the Title IX Complaint is in direct contravention to Defendant’s duties pursuant to Title IX and Defendant’s own policies as stated in the Handbook.
40. Instead of investigating the Title IX complaint made by Plaintiff, Defendant chose to open an investigation (the “Investigation”) into Plaintiff in March 2018, less than one month after Plaintiff made her Title IX Complaint.
Page 5 of 13
41. The Investigation was conducted by Chief Human Resources Officer Jim Springfield (“Springfield”) and alleged the following areas of concern:
  1. Poor attendance;
  2. Teaching at other institutions without prior approval;
  3. Speaking poorly of a fellow professor; and
  4. Classroom rigor below Defendant’s expectations.
42. Springfield then conducted a haphazard investigation that did not include interviewing Plaintiff and other relevant witnesses, some of whom volunteered to be interviewed on Plaintiff’s behalf.
43. On May 16, 2018, Springfield notified Plaintiff via email that he had not received any details regarding Plaintiff’s Title IX Complaint.
44. On May 21, 2018, Plaintiff wrote an email to Springfield outlining the same Title IX Complaint made to Kobryn.
45. Kobryn and Springfield are both, for Title IX purposes, appropriate persons of authority to take corrective action, given Flagler’s duty to investigate Title IX complaints.
46. To date, upon information and belief, Defendant has failed to open a Title IX investigation related to Plaintiff’s Title IX Complaint or to properly investigate the same.
  1. Defendant has not notified Plaintiff of the outcome of any Title IX investigation.
  2. Defendant has not interviewed Plaintiff regarding her Title IX complaint.
  3. On June 8, 2018, Plaintiff was terminated, and her compensation and benefits were
50. On June 9, 2018, less than 3 weeks after Plaintiff reiterated her Title IX Complaint

to Springfield, Defendant sent Plaintiff a termination letter. The letter is attached hereto as Exhibit D.
Page 6 of 13
51. Defendant proffered a false basis for terminating Plaintiff.
52. Plaintiff was, in fact, terminated in retaliation for her Title IX complaint in an attempt by Defendant to cover up the same.
53. Plaintiff’s termination was done with malice and reckless indifference towards her federally protected right to make a Title IX complaint to Defendant.
54. The only material change in the relationship between Plaintiff and Defendant prior to Defendant investigating Plaintiff was her Title IX Complaint.
55. Defendant has demonstrated and continues to demonstrate complete and deliberate indifference to potential violations under Title IX by ignoring multiple complaints from multiple sources concerning the same employee, Bolante.
56. Defendant has a history of similar Title IX violations and other inappropriate or scandalous matters and employed a willful and wanton scheme to hide Plaintiff’s Title IX complaint to prevent harm to its reputation in a malicious, oppressive, or reckless disregard for Plaintiff’s rights.
57. Defendant routinely makes the official decision not to remedy potential Title IX violations by deciding that witnesses are not credible without conducting thorough and proper investigations.
58. Upon information or belief, Defendant is ignoring or minimizing the legitimacy of Title IX complaints in an effort to minimize their mandatory reporting numbers relating to Title IX incidents and 20 U.S.C. § 1092, the Clery Act, which mandates reporting of certain incidents including, but not limited to, criminal activity on campus, sex offenses, emergencies, and the policies surrounding the institution’s response to such reports.
Page 7 of 13
59. Defendant has not only demonstrated complete and deliberate indifference to potential violations under Title IX in relation to Bolante, Defendant has ignored multiple complaints from multiple sources concerning other members of Defendant’s faculty.
60. Today, nearly two years after Plaintiff’s Title IX Complaint, Defendant is continuing its deliberate indifference to potential ongoing Title IX violations on its campus and by its faculty members.
61. In a continuing display of indifference towards allowing a power imbalance between professor and student, Defendant presently employs a faculty member who previously engaged in inappropriate conduct with a student which resulted in said faculty member’s termination from another institution of higher learning.
62. A restraining order was subsequently issued against said faculty member relating to the student victim.
63. Moreover, on or around November 2019, another employee of Defendant was subject to a traffic stop by a St. Johns County Sheriff’s Deputy while said employee was with a naked student.
64. Another former employee was terminated after making a Title IX complaint to the director of human resources related to said employee’s supervisor’s propensity to discuss his desire and attempts to pursue sexual relationships with students.
65. Defendant’s former Director of Safety and Security (“Former DSS”) was allowed to engage in sexual relationships with at least one student.
66. Defendant knew about the Former DSS’ behavior but did not take any corrective action against the same until the individual came to Defendant’s campus intoxicated and attempted to gain access to a female student’s dorm room.
Page 8 of 13
67. Defendant’s former Director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness (“Former DIR”) was also allowed to engage in a sexual relationship with at least one student.
  1. Upon information or belief, the Former DIR was ultimately allowed to resign.
  2. Defendant did not take any action to protect future students from sexual advances
from the Former DIR, as he is presently employed in the same capacity for another institution of higher learning.
70. Not only did Defendant fail to appropriately investigate its faculty and protect students from the inappropriate conduct of its faculty, Defendant willfully fails to investigate Title IX complaints relating to students harassing other students.
  1. One student was subject to sexual battery at the hands of a student athlete.
  2. This student reported the incident to Defendant and local law enforcement, where
evidence was obtained that is consistent with sexual battery.
  1. Defendant did not afford the student victim a hearing on the matter.
  2. Defendant’s attempt to resolve the issue resulted in Defendant merely attempting
to prevent the student victim and the student athlete from encountering each other on campus; notwithstanding Defendant’s alleged attempt to address the issue, the student victim encountered the student athlete at least eight more times prior to the student victim unenrolling from Defendant’s classes as a direct result of Defendant’s failure to properly address the matter.
75. In addition, Defendant has received multiple Title IX complaints regarding the same student (“Student Doe”) on campus.
76. The Title IX complaints against Student Doe resulted in at least one complainant unenrolling from Defendant’s education programs and forfeiting her scholarship due to Defendant’s failure to appropriately protect students from Title IX violations.
Page 9 of 13
77. The student who unenrolled after making a complaint about Student Doe did make a Title IX complaint to Defendant but felt threatened by Defendant’s faculty when she was interviewed for the same.
78. In fact, Defendant’s faculty felt it appropriate to “advise” this student that her Title IX complaint and actions surrounding the same (i.e., attending a women’s march on campus) could subject her to liability.
79. Defendant’s faculty members have discouraged students from pursuing Title IX complaints due to their participation in organizations whose aim is preventing sexual harassment on college campuses and promoting awareness of the same.
80. Defendant is committing egregious violations of Title IX because they are failing to ascertain the scope and validity of multiple potential violations, including Plaintiff’s Title IX Complaint.
  1. These willful, wanton, and egregious violations of Title IX are ongoing.
  2. Plaintiff reincorporates and realleges paragraphs 1-81.
  3. Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a binding contract for Plaintiff to remain
employed for a three-year term, which could only be terminated for specified conduct by Plaintiff. 84. Defendant breached that contract when it terminated Plaintiff’s employment on
June 8, 2018, in absence of the conduct specified under the parties’ agreement.
85. As a result of Defendant’s breach of the contract, Plaintiff has suffered damages.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff requests that this Court enter judgment in her favor, awarding
her damages and attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to Fla. Sta. § 448.08, interest, and any other relief this Court deems just and proper.
Page 10 of 13
  1. Plaintiff reincorporates and realleges paragraphs 1-81.
  2. Plaintiff was a successful professor for Defendant for fifteen years.
  3. Fourteen months after renewal of her Agreement, Plaintiff was abruptly terminated.
  4. The only material alteration in the relationship between Plaintiff and Defendant that
occurred between April 2017 and June 2018 was Plaintiff’s Title IX Complaint.
90. Defendant chose to investigate and terminate Plaintiff in retaliation for her Title IX complaint while providing a false basis for the same instead of fulfilling its duties to investigate

the Title IX Complaint made by Plaintiff.
91. Notwithstanding Defendant’s choice to terminate Plaintiff, Defendant maintains an

obligation to investigate Title IX complaints under Title IX.
92. Defendant failed to investigate legitimate Title IX complaints relating to multiple

faculty members in Defendant’s employ in a show of complete and deliberate indifference to the requirements of Title IX.
93. Defendant continues to ignore Title IX complaints and calls for investigations into multiple faculty members to this day, to the detriment of its students and faculty, in an effort to, in part, shield itself from negative public opinion.
94. Defendant uses retaliation and intimidation in furtherance of its schemes to ignore and bury legitimate Title IX complaints.
95. Defendant’s behavior has created an institutional culture of bad faith as it relates to compliance with the requirements of Title IX.
96. Plaintiff would still be employed by Defendant but for her Title IX Complaint. Page 11 of 13
97. As a direct and proximate result of Defendant’s unlawful retaliation, Plaintiff has suffered and continues to suffer damages.
98. Because Plaintiff was retaliated against for making a Title IX complaint, she seeks reinstatement to her position as a member of the faculty of Defendant.
99. The facts of this case are contentious and if the discord and antagonism between the parties is too great, Plaintiff seeks front pay as the alternative relief of reinstatement.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff requests that this Court enter judgment in her favor awarding her compensatory damages, back and front pay or alternatively reinstatement with backpay, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1988, interest, and any other relief this Court deems just and proper.
Plaintiff demands a jury to hear and decide all issues of fact so triable. COASTAL LAW GROUP
/s/ Ryan Williams
Ryan Williams, Esq.
Florida Bar No. 87453
105 Solana Road, Suite C
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082 Primary: Ph: (904) 930-4100
Co-Counsel for Plaintiff
/s/Shane M. Smith
Shane M. Smith, Esq.,
Florida Bar No. 107872
3845 W. Eau Gallie Blvd., Suite 104 Melbourne, FL 32934
Primary: Ph: 321-724-1919
Co-Counsel for Plaintiff
Page 12 of 13
I HEREBY CERTIFY that a true and correct copy of the foregoing has been electronically filed in the US District Court, Middle District of Florida, via CM/ECF, which will send a notice of electronic filing to all counsel of record on May 7, 2020:
/s/ Ryan Williams
Ryan Williams, Esq.
Page 13 of 13

No comments: