It’s actually not unheard of for a schools superintendent to seek a restraining order against a school board member. Last April a school superintendent in Susquehanna Township in rural Northeastern Pennsylvania accused school board members of physical intimidation, verbal abuse, sabotage of district image and administration performance, discrimination and micromanagement.
But it’s hitting a low bar when the Silicon Valley home of Intel and the San Francisco 49ers spawns that kind of National Enquirer-type sensation.
On Oct. 16, Santa Clara Unified Superintendent Stanley Rose asked for a restraining order against SCUSD Trustee Christopher Stampolis. Judge Thomas Kuhnle didn’t grant the request for a temporary restraining order, saying there was no evidence that Rose was in physical danger between now and the Nov. 4 hearing.
Rose’s written statement paints a picture of Stampolis’ behavior that is astonishing and chilling.
On Sept. 15, Stampolis came to Rose’s office for a scheduled meeting that Rose thought concerned Stampolis’ complaints against Peterson Principal Susan Harris.
“He plugged in his phone and sat down,” Rose wrote in his statement. “Dr. Ina Bendis, also a Board Member, followed him in, stating that she would like to facilitate the meeting.”
This is not the first time Bendis attended a meeting concerning Stampolis without others being aware that she was invited. She also showed up at a Sept. 4 meeting with Rose, Stampolis and Harris concerning the investigation of Stampolis’ complaints against Harris. Bendis’ role at that meeting was unclear, according to Harris, and seemed like a conflict of interest.
Stampolis started the conversation by asking Rose if he’d listened to Stampolis’ voicemail from the previous Sunday. “I replied in the negative. He stated that I should listen to it. I replied that perhaps he would just like to tell me its content. He restated that I should listen to it. I then listened to a message that stated that he [Stampolis] was going to sue me for defamation.”
The reason was Stampolis’ “mistaken impression” that Rose had told Bendis there was a restraining order against Stampolis. After saying that he had never been charged with a crime and had never had a restraining order against him, Stampolis “stated that I could avoid being sued if I wanted to settle with him financially right there and then.” Rose wrote he was “dumbfounded and afraid.”
Rose told Stampolis that not only didn’t he didn’t tell Bendis about any restraining orders, he had asked Bendis “if she knew if such had occurred.” Bendis replied “that the way I asked made her think that I knew it as a fact.” Rose explained he was asking because he didn’t know. “I then stated that if we are in a litigious situation, that the meeting was over.”
Stampolis then became frighteningly belligerent, according to Rose’s account.
“Mr. Stampolis was very angry and visibly shaking. He got up and packed up his phone, stating that he was going to find out when my wife was available and would make sure to serve her with the suit.
“The inclusion of my wife was very alarming to me as she had nothing to do with my professional relationship with Mr. Stampolis,” Rose wrote. “I asked why he would want to serve my wife. He stated that he wanted to inflict as much pain as possible on my wife and me.”
When Rose asked Stampolis why he would want to do such a thing, “He replied that he thought it would be ‘fun’ to inflict as much pain on my family and me as possible.” Stampolis and Bendis then left.
“This statement scared me,” Rose wrote, “Given the anger with which it was said, the threat seemed much more than a threat to sue me. It seemed that Mr. Stampolis could physically hurt both my wife and me. It has caused stress to both my wife and me since that time.” Rose’s stress was very evident in his face and manner when he testified on Harris’ behalf on Oct. 16.
Rose subsequently sent Stampolis a memo “asking that he reconsider what he had threatened. Mr. Stampolis denied the threat. That he was now denying his statement made me feel even more threatened. I believe that if he is able to make such a statement and then deny the statement, I am left to wonder what else he may do or say.”
Since then, uniformed police officers have attended SCUSD board meetings at the request of staff and other board members. Rose’s case is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, Nov. 4 – Election Day – at 9 a.m. at the Santa Clara Superior Court, Dept. 4, in downtown San Jose. The case number is 114CH005933.