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Mount Morris Twp., MI — An independent investigation into claims of racist, homophobic, and hostile behavior by a Westwood Heights English teacher concluded she violated one board policy concerning acceptable use of district-issued technology.
The Board of Education hired Detroit-based Allen Law Group to perform the investigation after receiving a letter from Flint Attorney Trachelle Young on behalf of a group of teachers in March 2021.
The letter called for investigations into both the Academy West High School teacher, Janette Toal, and her husband, Westwood Heights Superintendent Peter Toal, for numerous alleged violations of district policy and the law.
“It is the Investigator’s conclusion, by a preponderance of the evidence, and this Board concurs, that Mrs. Toal violated Board Policy 7540.04 (Staff Education Technology Acceptable Use and Safety). Consequently, the Board will be following up with Mrs. Toal concerning this matter at a later date,” Board President Jessie Cloman said in a letter to Young.
According to the letter, investigators interviewed 13 district employees, including Janette Toal. It did not mention the status of Peter Toal’s investigation or specify the board’s next actions.
Young said she and her clients are “very dissatisfied” with the investigation.
“We just feel like there’s lack of transparency, there’s a lack of communication, and most of all a lack of action,” Young said, adding that there has been no information provided on the superintendent.
This is the third investigation this year into Janette Toal and Peter Toal by the Westwood Heights district.
On Feb.1, Janette Toal posted a politically charged Facebook status that circulated among community members.
“Here is an idea for peace: All the blue states form their own country. All the red states form their own country. Let’s see which is better off in 5 years. Blue states can have Microsoft and Twitter and Facebook and BLM and Antifa and big government. We will have manufacturing and farming and free enterprise and small government. What is your prediction for the outcome?” she wrote.
After several complaints, the district launched an investigation and concluded Janette Toal “did not make the comment while acting in their capacity as an employee and the comments were posted to a personal Facebook page,” Cloman said in a statement to Flint Beat.
ABC12 later reported that Janette Toal was also being accused of making racist and homophobic remarks on school grounds.
According to ABC12, Janette Toal called the African holiday “Kwanzaa” a “made-up” holiday, and made remarks about the LGBTQ community, writing, “This whole non-binary stuff is a sickness.”
Meanwhile, on Feb. 26, the board voted to put the superintendent on non-disciplinary administrative leave and launched a second investigation into claims about Janette Toal’s behavior at school. She was also put on leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
However, Young and her clients said the second investigation was not satisfactory an called for a “new, independent” investigation.
“While my clients are glad an investigation has finally been initiated, we have serious concerns on how it has been handled thus far. These concerns include the attorney being argumentative with the interviewees, telling interviewees not to use certain terminology, telling interviewees that if they pursue their claims it could cost the district $100,000.00, telling the interviewees their statement would be confidential but holding the interviews next door to the superintendent’s office and conducting the interviews with both the superintendent and his wife watching exactly who was entering and leaving the investigation room,” Young wrote in her letter to the board in March.
Young’s letter also detailed the teachers’ claims:
Allegations against Superintendent Peter Toal included:
- Writing student passes with inappropriate comments and negative racial connotations
- Homophobic comments
- Making untrue allegations of teachers engaging in sexual acts in the classroom
- COVID hours misrepresentations/potential fraud
- Improper use of teachers’ Personal Identification Codes
- HIPPA violations related to positive COVID tests
- Micromanagement and rejection of staff in retaliation for filing grievances
Allegations against Janette Toal included:
- Disparaging posts on social media attacking co-workers
- Negative transphobic remarks that disrupt harmony among co-workers
- Abusive or personally defamatory comments about co-workers
- Racist remarks
- Engaging in bullying tactics and intimidation while protected by her husband
- Refusing to comply with the facial mask policy and flaunting it around co- workers
- Expressing strong views against (Colin) Kaepernick’s peaceful protest and removing a student from her classroom solely for wearing a Nike shirt because the brand supported and endorsed Kaepernick
- Publicly belittling a well-known African American holiday of Kwanza
Young said it is not clear whether Janette Toal will return to her position, but her contract ended June 30.
She also said not knowing how the board will proceed has caused her clients’ “anxiety to go back up,” for fear of returning to a negative work environment.
“We just don’t know what’s going on and not knowing is no longer a viable option for us, because we’ve been more than patient to allow them to do what they feel needed to be done,” Young said, adding that they will consider legal action if necessary.
Young said she plans to address the board during the July 14 board meeting and hopes to see action and clear communication going forward.
The Allen Law Group and Westwood Heights attorney Timothy Gardner did not respond to requests for comment by press time.