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Blagden Speaks Out at School Board Meeting On Wife's Demotion as Stowers Elementary Principal

With just three months left before going to trial, the ABC School District is faced with backlash by Richard Blagden, the husband of former Stower's Elementary principal, Eileen Blagden, regarding her demotion in the district.

On July 17 attendees sat in silence as Richard Blagden exhausted his 3-minute limit during the ABC School Board meeting, speaking on behalf of his wife, former  principal, Eileen Blagden.

In 2010, Blagden filed a police report that kindergarten teacher Kevin Michael Kirby, who had recently been reassigned to Stowers Elementary, had made suicide and death threats. Kirby had been recently been accused of lewd and lascivious behavior and indecent exposure and convicted of trespassing in the city of Long Beach.

Former Teacher Allegedly Made Suicide and Death Threats

According to Blagden, Kirby said he wanted to kill two teachers at the school and end his own life. When she reported this to a district representative, Blagden said she was told not to say anything.

"She said to me, 'if you report this, you'll be sorry'," Blagden told CBS2 in a sit-down interview. "She made it very clear it was a directive to say nothing."

But after learning the teacher also had a criminal history, she became worried about the safety of the other teachers and her students, prompting her to tell the two teachers whom he allegedly threatened they didn't have to come to work. Blagden then filed a police report.

After reporting the threats, Blagden was put on a three-month administrative leave, but was demoted back to teacher status. With the help of attorney Ron Wilson, she filed a lawsuit against the alleging retaliation for whistle-blowing.

During a taped deposition, recently retired district Superintendent Gary Smuts said Blagden was demoted because she refused to follow a district directive to allow the district representive to verify the information Blagden had given her with regards to the threat.

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Settlement Talks Fizzle, Case Set for Trial on Oct. 31

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joanne O'Donnell denied the school district's motion for a summary judgment. The parties were also unable to come to a settlement agreement on July 17 and a jury trial has been set for Oct. 31.

Mr. Blagden: "You're dragging ABC, getting negative publicity."

Dragging a cart filled with binders containing what Blagden's husband claimed as evidence received by the court, he mentioned incidents of flip-flopping and document fabrication regarding the parties involved in his wife's case. To add, Mr. Blagden cited specific ABC employees as problems to the district.

“You're dragging ABC, getting negative publicity,” he said at the school board meeting earlier this week. “The problem is at the top. It's Mary Sieu, the superintendent, it's Carol Hansen, the assistant superintendent/human resources, it's Cheryl Bodger, who is the director of schools, and lucky for .”

The School District's Response

Sieu, when ask for comments regarding Mr. Blagden's comments, could only offer what was written in the district's official statement:

We cannot comment on the reasons why Mrs. Blagden was reassigned, as this matter is still in litigation and she has not authorized us to discuss this matter in public. It is not our practice to litigate matters in the press. However, the decision had absolutely nothing to do with her reporting any threatening behavior to the authorities, as this District takes the safety of its students and employees very seriously. It is unfortunate that Mrs. Blagden has decided to take this matter to the public with her perception of the facts and not allow the District to present its side of the story but since this a personnel matter, absent a release from her, the District is not allowed to discuss the details in public until the trial, which we feel is the proper forum to discuss this matter in public. We look forward to the trial of this matter when the real facts come out about the reasons the District took the actions it did against Mrs. Blagden and we are confident that a jury will find that all of her claims lack merit and that the public will agree that the actions taken against her were more than justified.

Local Television Media Denied Access to School Board Meeting

Following Mr. Blagden's comments, members of KCAL 9/CBS 2 were denied entrance to the school board meeting. Outside the district building, meeting attendee and 2010 candidate for 29th Congressional District, Larry Andre, offered comments regarding press being restricted from the meeting.

“This ought not to be a police state, but these individuals in this school district are so interested in protecting their butts,” Andre said. “They don't care about the students. They don't care about the teachers. They don't care about anybody but themselves.”

During the meeting, board president Olympia Chen reminded the audience that issues regarding district personnel should not be discussed during an open meeting.

“Since it's in litigation, we are not to talk about this case,” Chen said.

In a statement issued by a representative for the former Stowers Elementary principal, Blagden said that all she wants is for the truth to come out.

“This is about protecting our children and the staff on the campuses of our schools,” she said. “I did the right thing in reporting the threats to the police. The children come first—not the union, and not the school district’s reputation.”

"It has been the worst nightmare," Blagden told CBS2. "They knew it was wrong, and they covered it up."

Mary July 20, 2012 at 09:45 PM
I think Ms Blagden did the right thing. If i was the teacher who had been threatened i would want to know my life was in jeopardy. If my child was in the teacher's class who made the threat i would want to know. What were they waiting for, a tragedy like the teacher at Lausd who did terrible things to the kids. I applaud the principal, i think the district again is trying to cover things up. Why not let the media in at the meeting, the public needs to know.
Dennis July 21, 2012 at 04:23 AM
Before I retired I was classified as a "mandatory reporter" along with school teachers and school officials. We were required by law to report incidents of abuse, threats and other behaviors. Reporting was the duty of the individual who was aware of the facts and the police or social services were responsible for investigating - not supervisory personnel. Has this been change? I certainly hope not. I have always though very highly of our school district. That stops now.
Eve August 30, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Mrs. Blagden did do the right thing. It is very disappointing that the district officials demoted this Principal for doing what was right. There was immediate danger and she wanted to protect her teachers and students. The ABCUSD officials are looking pretty bad these days. They have created a culture in where they say to school site administrators and teachers that they better not speak up. Many are afraid to speak up and do the right thing, but Mrs. Blagden was not. There are a lot of problems with the school administrators working in the district office....lots. They should not be there. I wonder can they really live with themselves knowing what they do to administrators, teachers and students. These types of people are there for show and do not really care about the kids. They are not very friendly, only hire their friends and family even if they are not qualified. If you are a Black or Hispanic, you can forget about getting hired as a teacher in ABCUSD. They just assume you are not qualified. It is disgusting what is going on. Things are slowly going to come out.....I can only imagine how many other cases there are that were swept under the table. ABCUSD is good at that. You have to do the right thing because if you do not, then it will catch up. I am sure Dr. Smuts retired because he knew this was coming out...but he still plays a part. Dr. Sieu you have to do what is right. Admit the truth...don't cover up because you are losing parent support .

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