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Westwood Heights schools bringing in new law firm to investigate teacher’s remarks

Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 6:23 PM EST
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MT. MORRIS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WJRT) - The Westwood Heights school board voted to bring in a new law firm Thursday to investigate an Academy West teacher’s remarks.

The situation started with two teachers who spoke anonymously to ABC12 News about concerns that their colleague had made racist and transphobic remarks in-person at school and online for years. The English teacher and her husband, Superintendent Peter Toal, both are on paid administrative leave while the investigation continues.

The school board agreed to hire someone new last week after an attorney representing the teachers and support staff asked for the previous one to be thrown out. The Board came out of closed session Thursday to announce their choice of Allen Law Group.

“We’re very pleased at this step,” said attorney Trachelle Young, who is representing teachers and support staff in Westwood Heights schools. “We know there are more people that want to come forward to make a statement, and we understand that they are willing to listen to anyone at the school right now that is willing to make a statement. And so, again, we believe that evidence will only lead to one result.”

That result is the Board firing the couple.

The teachers who spoke exclusively with ABC12 News asked to remain anonymous, fearful that they’ll lose their jobs. They say they’ve stayed silent for three years and the district’s students deserve better.

“This is not what you expect from staff,” the two anonymous teachers told ABC12 News. “Even our mission statement is we’re gonna have achievement and character. And that’s not even upholding our mission statement of our school -- having attacks on people’s sexuality their race, just discriminatory behavior towards towards our staff and students.”

When they went in to voice their concerns during the school’s first investigation two weeks ago, they said Toal and his wife stood outside the door and watched them walk in. That’s one of several reasons why Young said that investigation is tainted.

She also claims the attorney asking the teachers questions argued with what they said instead of listening.

The district previously investigated the English teacher and her coworkers say no action was taken. Young wrote to the school board highlighting these issues and they agreed to hire someone new and start over with a fresh investigation.

“More and more teachers, and former students have contacted me. And so, we believe a lot of this history and behavior dates back several years. And so, you know, they’re out to find the truth it’s there to be found,” Young added.

It’s not clear at this point how long the new investigation will take. Young said she and her clients will be patients as long as it’s conducted properly.

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