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Westwood Heights teacher placed on leave; district starts new investigation

The Superintendent’s wife is also now on leave, as teacher and support staff hired an attorney to protect them.
Published: Mar. 5, 2021 at 6:15 PM EST
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MT. MORRIS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WJRT) - (3/5/2021) - ABC12 has learned a Westwood Heights teacher, accused of making transphobic and racist remarks, has been placed on paid administrative leave.

Her husband, Superintendent Peter Toal, is on leave, too.

The Board’s decision comes after several teachers anonymously spoke up, saying the couple’s inappropriate behavior has been a concern for three years.

The teachers and support staff hired an attorney to represent them. They say the Academy West English teacher and Superintendent tried to intimidate them when they went to report the couple. The group also claims the person leading the investigation was hostile and standoff-ish.

Their attorney, Trachelle Young, got the school board to scratch that investigation and open a new one.

“The teachers had a perception after being allowed an opportunity to make their statement that they were actually being investigated or they were the ones being accused of something wrong,” she explained.

Young said many teachers feared retaliation or losing their jobs so they didn’t speak up, making the initial investigation unfair.

Now, she’s waiting to learn who will head this new investigation.

“We hope that the investigator that they appoint is neutral, not from the same law firm, you know, and only answers to the board, not to one of the principals who actually reports to the Superintendent,” Young said

In a letter to the School Board, she provides a detailed list of concerns from her clients -- allegations not just against the English teacher, but the Superintendent, too.

“It’s alleged that her husband, during Black History Month, you know, he took the knee during a black national anthem. Because he said if people can take a knee during their anthem, then he can take a knee during the African American anthem,” Young shared.

And it’s not just insensitive behavior. Teachers are accusing Superintendent Toal of racially-stereotyping some students.

“I can tell you that there were insinuations that, you know, minority students were late because they were high or, you know, they wore their Afros so high, so they can hide their weed in their hair,” Young explained.

Plus, she said some teachers have proof the Superintendent misused COVID-19 relief money the district received. The list she put together goes on and on.

“We believe the evidence will establish a pattern of conduct, and that it will result in the termination of the employment of the superintendent and his wife, the teacher,” Young said.

Her email to the School Board also details specific policies she believes the couple violated. Young said she and the teachers she represents agree the students deserve better.

We did reach out again to the Westwood Heights School District. The acting superintendent has no comment on the investigation at this time.

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