Mount Morris Twp., MI— A letter addressed to the Westwood Heights Board of Education from an attorney representing teachers in the district describes numerous alleged violations of district policy and the law by Superintendent Peter Toal and his wife, Janette Toal, an English teacher at Academy West. 

The letter was submitted March 3, 2021, by Flint-based Attorney Trachelle Young on behalf of a group of Westwood Heights teachers. It calls for a “new, independent” investigation into the allegations against the superintendent and his wife. 

According to the letter, teachers have “experienced an uncomfortable work environment made that way because of hostile or disrespectful treatment by the superintendent based on their gender, age, race, and/or disability.”

Teachers have also been forced to “endure disrespectful and condescending remarks by their co-worker, who happens to be the wife of the superintendent,” and many have “suffered in silence” for fear of retaliation, the letter stated. 

Allegations against Superintendent Peter Toal include: 

  • 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 teacher’s Personal Identification Codes  
  • HIPPA violations related to positive COVID tests
  • Micromanagement and rejection of staff in retaliation for filing grievances 

Allegations against Janette Toal include: 

  • 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 Kwanzaa 

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?”

Board of Education President Jessie Cloman said the district investigated the post and determined Janette Toal “did not make the comment while acting in [her] capacity as an employee and the comments were posted to a personal Facebook page.”

Cloman also wrote that Janette Toal’s comment did not reflect the board’s commitment to inclusion and diversity.

A second investigation was launched in late February after allegations that Janette Toal made racist and homophobic remarks on social media and on school grounds.  

The board held a closed session on Feb. 26 and voted to put Superintendent Peter Toal on paid, non-disciplinary administrative leave.

The district’s investigations were not satisfactory, according to the letter. 

“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,” it read. 

The letter cites a 2019 Detroit Free Press article that said Westwood Heights has the “highest racial disparity” in Michigan. According to the article, 84% of students are Black while only 11% of instructors are Black.  

“Maintaining an instructor in the alternative education program in the district with views that promote superiority and segregation is to subject these students to biased and unwarranted views that don’t belong in a public classroom,” the letter stated. 

Janette Toal was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, according to the letter. 

On March 11, the board voted to hire the Detroit-based Allen Law Group to serve as a “third-party, fact-finding investigator” on behalf of the board. 

Leslie Key, director of student and family affairs will serve as the interim superintendent during the investigation. 

Carmen Nesbitt

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...