Downey Teacher Sues District Claiming They Allowed Students To Harass Her On Twitter

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com)  —  A teacher with the Downey Unified School District is suing her employer alleging they did nothing to stop students from harassing her on Twitter.

Amy Sulkis said she had to leave her job because of the stress.

Sulkis filed the lawsuit Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The teacher also alleged that she was the victim of sexual harassment and failure to prevent sexual harassment. She also names as a defendant one of her former students, Andrew Mejia, who she alleges
posted an embarrassing image on Twitter in June 2014 that made reference to her in a sexual way.

Sulkis said the embarrassing tweet was seen by most of the 4,000 students at Warren High School in Downey. She is suing him for defamation.

The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Ashley Greaney, a DUSD public relations coordinator, said harassment is not tolerated in the district and that discipline is imposed when warranted. However, she said the district had not yet been notified of the lawsuit.

According to the suit Sulkis began teaching about 16 years ago and was employed by the DUSD at Warren High from 2012-14. She believed her positive relationships with students were one of the “hallmarks of her career” and she was voted most inspirational teacher by students many times, the suit states.

Sulkis says that she learned a phony Twitter account was created in her name in 2013, according to the lawsuit.

“The fake account tweeted disparaging and sexually suggestive statements toward plaintiff and responded to comments from those who gave a favorite rating to the account in a similarly sexually suggestive manner,” the suit states.

The same day she learned of the phony account, Sulkis alleges she sent an email to Warren High administrators and to Superintendent Wendy Doty alerting them.

A senior student later admitted to creating the account and was given a two-day suspension. The suit stated that the suspension was later negotiated by the administration to only a single day.

That same month, another student posted threats on Twitter against Sulkis and used an image of an AK-47 rifle after she reported the pupil’s poor work habits to a school counselor, the suit states.

“I got no tolerance for (epithet) like you,” the student wrote, according to the lawsuit.

Sulkis complained about the tweet to a Warren High vice principal, but allegedly was told that because the student was being transferred her only recourse was to get a restraining order, the suit states.

Sulkis and her lawyer wanted student seminars held advising young people how to properly use social media and what the consequences were if they ignored the rules, the suit states.

The suit alleged the assistant superintendent responded by saying that the district “had investigated and considered the rights of all involved and appropriate discipline had been implemented.”

The harassment, according to the lawsuit, continued and in April 2014 a former student tweeted an
image of Sulkis’ face with an offensive caption that linked readers to a pornographic Twitter page.

After a student tweeted that her class was “the definition of hell,” Sulkis again complained to the vice principal, who told her he investigated the incident and concluded the student “did not mean anything by it,” the suit states.

Sulkis initially took a few days off from work to cope with her emotional distress and later opted to take a leave of a year “in order to begin the healing process and because she did not and does not feel safe in her work environment,” the suit states.

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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