A Sun Valley teacher is fighting to regain his job and his reputation. He claims someone created a fake Facebook account and posted inappropriate messages using his name. >>> Read more
Former John Francis Polytechnic High School teacher Jason Duchan says Nov. 6, 2014 was the day his life turned into a Kafkaesque nightmare when he was suspended from his job in connection with a lewd Facebook page created by a student to frame him.
But despite the fact that a student from the school was arrested by police in connection with creating the page, LA Unified says the case is still under investigation, and Duchan says officials are refusing to clear his name. As a result of the stress, he says he can’t sleep, is suffering panic attacks and is now considering filing a lawsuit.
“The district is trying to intimidate me, and trying to create environments and situations trying to get me to quit,” Duchan said in an email to LA School Report.
No one with the district ever asked him about the Facebook page before he was suspended, Duchan said, but if they had asked him the whole matter could have been cleared up in one afternoon.
“They should have called me in and showed me the Facebook page,” Duchan said in a phone interview.
Instead, he was suspended, and the district sent out a letter informing all of the parents of students at the school that he was under investigation.
“It didn’t warrant a 72-hour letter. I was not a danger to anybody at school,” he said.
Detective Lisette Fuentes of the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed that a male juvenile student from the school was arrested on March 2 and charged with with a misdemeanor for false impersonation in connection with the Facebook page. Jose Cantu, head of the district’s Student Safety Investigative Team, said that an active investigation of Duchan by the district is still underway, although he wouldn’t comment on the details.
The bureaucratic web that Duchan finds himself in all traces back to the aftermath of the Miramonte Elementary abuse scandal when LA Unified created new procedures to deal with sexual misconduct allegations against district employees.
Among the changes was a policy of sending out a letter to all the school’s parents within 72 hours of when an employee has been removed due to accusations of sexual misconduct. Another was the creation of the Student Safety Investigative Team, which is dedicated specifically to investigating claims of sexual misconduct by district employees.
The Facebook page in question, which apparently was being circulated online by students in the days leading up to Duchan’s suspension, is no longer active but had been active for at least a year and a half before anyone at Sun Valley High noticed it. (Duchan provided LA School Report with a screenshot of the Facebook page to confirm its existence.)
The page had a total of three posts, all sexually inappropriate, along with Duchan’s name and picture. But the page also only had one friend, which would raise immediate questions about its legitimacy. Duchan said he had his own active Facebook page at the time, which had 67 friends.
Duchan said he found out through a union rep why he was suspended, and the moment he saw the Facebook page he said he knew who created it. Two of the posts made reference to a student being accused of drawing genitals on a desk, and Duchan said the date the page was created corresponds exactly to the time he reported a student to the assistant principal for drawing genitals on a desk.
Duchan said after being suspended for two weeks he was told by the district he could return to his classroom, but he had to sign a paper that acknowledged he was still under investigation and could not talk about the case. He said he refused to go back to the Sun Valley High campus because he had heard many students thought he was guilty so he didn’t feel safe returning.
“They were putting me into a hostile environment. They had already sent letters home, and wouldn’t parents be upset to find out a teacher under investigation was back in the classroom?” he said.
Duchan, who teaches media art classes, said he went on medial leave and returned to the district on Feb. 2 as a full-time substitute teacher at a different school. He said the district will only offer him is his old job and no other full-time work. Duchan said he feels his name and reputation have been ruined at the campus.
“I’m trying not to cry when I talk about it,” he said. “I’m going through very severe PTSD, panic attacks, and I have acute insomnia.”