(UPDATE) Attorney: Fired media clerk was harassed, faced false accusations

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt March 2, 2016
Susan Riley. Photo reused with permission of http://3ten.org/

Susan Riley. Photo reused with permission of http://3ten.org/

UPDATE, 3/3/16: The Decatur School Board has released a statement regarding the attorney’s allegations. To read it, click here

The attorney for a popular Decatur High media clerk says his client was fired based on false allegations and was harassed by her coworkers.

Attorney David Hughes issued a press release that for the first time provides Superintendent David Dude’s rationale for firing Susan Riley, a revered figure at the school. Her termination caused an uproar that inspired a rally on her behalf. After firing Riley last Friday, Dude backtracked and placed her on paid administrative leave pending a review. Those who know Riley say they cannot fathom what she did that would result in her termination.

According to Hughes, Riley is accused of:

1) Misappropriating school equipment by taking home an iPad that had been purchased  for her use and was checked out to her;

2) Failing to follow a new job plan given to her;

3) Inappropriately complaining to the administration about mistreatment of her by the media specialists with whom she worked; and

4) Failing to keep confidential a Human Resources’ investigation regarding her complaints.

Riley denies any wrongdoing, Hughes said.

Hughes and Riley met with Dude yesterday afternoon, March 1. Hughes said Dude, “Acknowledges that the information upon which he relied in terminating Riley is questionable and may have been false.”

Decaturish has reached out to Dude for a comment on the attorney’s press release, which was issued late Wednesday evening. The School Board provided a response on the afternoon of March 3. To read it, click here.

The press release goes on to allege that Riley faced harassment due to her age. She is 61.

“Prior to her termination, Riley had complained to her supervisors and the administration about age­ related harassment of her by the media specialists with whom she worked,” the press release says. “One of the media specialists had continually stated and otherwise implied that Riley, who is 61 years old, should figure out a way to retire as soon as she could. After Riley complained, the harassment continued and grew worse.”

Hughes said the media specialists criticized Riley in front of students.

“Riley was given a job plan that prohibited her from assisting faculty members with technical issues regarding media equipment, a function she had performed for years,” the press release says. “A job reclassification for Riley that had been approved under the prior administration (of Superintendent Phyllis Edwards), with increased responsibilities and greater pay, was summarily rejected by the current administration after Riley complained of the ongoing harassment. When Riley inquired of the current administration, she was told that no paperwork existed relating to the job reclassification. Riley attempted to demonstrate that the reclassification had, in fact, been approved; yet, her conversations on the matter are now apparently deemed a violation of an alleged Human Resources investigation.”

The press release concludes by saying, “The reason given yesterday by CSD for Riley’s initial termination is not credible. Instead, it is a mere pretext to cover for the harassment and discrimination inflicted upon her.”

Her attorney asks that Riley be allowed to return to work and that the administration gives her the job reclassification she was promised.

Here is the full press release:

Since Friday, February 26, 2016 when she was initially terminated from the City Schools of Decatur (CSD), Susan Riley and her counsel, David Hughes,have requested to know the grounds for her termination.  Their requests had been rebuffed until now.

Yesterday afternoon, Superintendent David Dude informed Riley, a media clerk at Decatur High School, that her initial termination was based on allegations that she: 1) misappropriated school equipment by taking home an iPad that had been purchased      for her use and was checked  out to her;

2) failed to follow a new job plan given to her; 3) inappropriately complained to the administration about mistreatment of her by the media specialists with whom she worked; and 4) failed to keep confidential a Human Resources’ investigation regarding her complaints. Riley denies that she did anything wrong regarding these matters that would warrant her dismissal.    Dude now acknowledges that the information upon which he relied in terminating Riley is questionable and may have been false.

Prior to her termination, Riley had complained to her supervisors and the administration about age­ related harassment of her by the media specialists with whom she worked. One of the media specialists had continually stated and otherwise implied that Riley, who is 61 years old, should figure out a way to retire as soon as she could. After Riley complained, the harassment continued and grew worse. The media specialists pointedly focused their scrutiny on Riley, criticizing her unjustifiably in front of students. Riley was given a job plan that prohibited her from assisting faculty members with technical issues regarding media equipment, a function she had performed for years. A job reclassification for Riley that had been approved under the prior administration, with increased responsibilities and greater pay, was summarily rejected by the current administration after Riley complained of the ongoing harassment. When Riley inquired of the current administration, she was told that no paperwork existed relating to the job reclassification. Riley attempted to demonstrate that the reclassification had, in fact, been approved; yet, her conversations on the matter are now apparently deemed a violation of an alleged Human Resources ‘ investigation.

The reason given yesterday by CSD for Riley’s initial termination is not credible. Instead, it is a mere pretext to cover for the harassment and discrimination inflicted upon her. Now that Dude has suspended the termination, Ms.Riley is hopeful that the administration will do the right thing and restore her to former job, with the reclassification she was promised.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

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