The Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) has responded after employee Dominic Caserta filed a lawsuit against the district. District Assistant Superintendent Andrew Lucia says as of this morning the district has not been served with the lawsuit and so it has not seen the content of the suit. He expects that will happen within the next 30 days.
“With all pending litigation, we are not able to disclose information about the case,” said Lucia via email. “When served, the district will be referring the lawsuit to the South Bay Area Schools Insurance Authority (SBASIA), a public joint powers agency that provides the district with liability insurance coverage.”
As of May 2, Caserta remains on the district payroll.
“Dominic Caserta continues to be on paid administrative leave while the [SCUSD] investigation continues regarding sexual harassment claims made by former students,” said Lucia. “His paid leave will end when the investigation ends. The investigation will end when all fact gathering has concluded.”
Caserta was placed on paid administrative leave last year. He is suing the district for a number of things including breach of contract, public disclosure of private facts, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He has also named two district employees, Nora Dipko and Gina Perez, in the lawsuit.
According to Assistant Superintendent Lucia, Dipko and Perez are still employed with the district today.
Caserta’s lawsuit claims that on May 7, 2018, Dipko, an administrative assistant in the district’s human resources office, sent 17 unredacted pages of Caserta’s personnel file to the district’s legal counsel for review. Dipko allegedly cc’ed “All staff of the district” which includes the district’s 1,600-plus employees.
The file included details on two previous claims of sexual harassment made against Caserta by students at Santa Clara High School. It outlines a 2002 investigation by the school’s principal. The principal talked to students who said Caserta played favorites and made personal comments. One parent told the principal that Caserta was “flirtatious in class”.
The district issued a “warning letter” following the investigation and told Caserta “…to refrain from any behavior in the future which would violate [district] policy,” according to the lawsuit.
Caserta maintains that the release of this file has done “devastating” damage to him both personally and professionally.
“The unprofessional handling of my confidential files was devastating,” said Caserta in a news release. “Devastating to my reputation, to my livelihood, to my political career (in particular my campaign for County Supervisor), and to my well-being…Before my confidential file was released I was a celebrated and distinguished teacher at the high school, community college, and university levels (winning teacher of the year multiple times at Santa Clara High School), as well as a long-time community leader. After what the school district did, my life will never be the same again.”
Caserta has always maintained his innocence and voluntarily took a polygraph test earlier this year to prove that.
Caserta says that the release of his personnel file led to his paid leave from Santa Clara High School, where he had been a teacher since 1998. He says he also lost his part-time teaching position at Foothill/De Anza College and he was forced to resign from the Santa Clara City Council. He also ended his candidacy for a seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors last spring.