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Education

Poway Unified School District superintendent sued by a student and her family

A senior at Del Norte High School and her family have filed a lawsuit against the Poway Unified School District and its superintendent, Marian Phelps, accusing Phelps of retaliating against the student for a perceived slight against Phelps’ daughter at a softball awards banquet earlier this year.

The court document says Phelps was “seemingly disgruntled” because she felt her daughter “did not receive loud enough applause compared to other players accepting awards. She apparently felt others were obligated to clap more enthusiastically for her daughter.”

The student plaintiff is only identified as Jane Doe. In the lawsuit, she said problems started later in the evening of the banquet, with texts from Phelps late that night, asking if the two could talk. The court filing includes screenshots of the reported texts, and also of a call lasting more than half an hour.

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Though Doe subsequently apologized, the lawsuit says Phelps ordered school personnel to investigate the incident as a case of bullying. The lawsuit says Doe and her family were told they needed to sign a statement acknowledging the attempt to bully Phelps’ daughter. They didn’t and that’s when they said the investigation began.

The lawsuit says after that, Phelps intimidated Doe and other softball players. It says she retaliated by harassing and threatening Doe. It says Phelps’ ultimate goal was to prevent Doe from competing against her daughter to be a pitcher on the team.

“This has been very traumatic for my client for the last six months. It’s a daily emotional toll on her," said Justin Reden, the plaintiff's attorney.

The exterior of the Poway Unified School Board is shown in this undated photo.
KGTV
The exterior of the Poway Unified School Board is shown in this undated photo.

“We just came out of a really brutal summer for her," Reden said, referring to Doe.

Brutal, Reden said, because Doe was punished as a result of the investigation.

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“She was excluded from all extracurricular activities, when the school season started, she was not allowed to go to dances, she was not allowed to go to football games," Reden said.

Everything blew up at the Nov. 9 meeting of the Poway School Board.

“She used her power and influence to bully our students at Del Norte ... I think it’s finally time we ask ourselves, who’s the real bully in this situation?" Del Norte senior Miranda Mosqueda told the board.

Del Norte senior Miranda Mosqueda is shown testifying before the Poway Unified School Board on Nov. 9, 2023.
Poway Unified School Board
Del Norte senior Miranda Mosqueda is shown testifying before the Poway Unified School Board on Nov. 9, 2023.
Del Norte softball coach Alan Stockton is shown testifying before the Poway Unified School Board on Nov. 9, 2023.
Poway Unified School Board
Del Norte softball coach Alan Stockton is shown testifying before the Poway Unified School Board on Nov. 9, 2023.

“I and four other coaches were at the softball banquet where this vendetta started, were never contacted about the so-called incident ... If I or any of my fellow coaches were to violate this code of conduct of ethics, we would’ve been dismissed immediately from our coaching positions," said Del Norte softball coach Alan Stockton.

Reden said Marian Phelps should resign or the board should fire her. But she recently told our media partner ABC 10 News that she did nothing wrong.

“Can you say if you did or didn’t reach out to (Jane Doe) at midnight or around midnight with claims of bullying?" asked a Channel 10 reporter. "I did not." she answered.

Poway Unified School District Superintendent Marian Phelps is shown at the board's November 9, 2023 meeting.
KGTV
Poway Unified School District Superintendent Marian Phelps is shown at the board's November 9, 2023 meeting.

We reached out to Phelps and the district for a comment, but no one responded.

Attorney Reden wouldn’t say whether Doe and her family would drop the lawsuit if Phelps resigns or is pushed out. If the lawsuit goes to trial, Reden said they’ll decide on what they’ll ask for in monetary damages at that point.

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