A Real Class Act

What happens when four women accuse a high school principal of sexual harassment? So far, not much.

Vincent Lee said in a deposition that he confronted Clarke about the alleged affair, coming to Clarke's school office in late 1995 and using "almost every derogatory word that Webster has in his dictionary" to berate the principal. His sense of betrayal was deepened, he testified, because he and Clarke were both members of Alpha Phi Alpha and had known each other socially through the nationally prominent black fraternity.

After Hazel complained to her union about Clarke -- to no avail -- she spoke with George Koonce, then executive director of the district's division of athletics and activities, in November 1995. Hazel hoped that Koonce, as a friend and fellow member of Alpha Phi Alpha, would be able to influence Clarke to stop harassing her, says Hazel's attorney Thomasina Williams.

But Clarke's boorishness continued, Hazel alleges, so she wrote a brief letter to Koonce on February 14, 1996, noting that their conversation had concerned Clarke's harassment of her. This letter was copied to then-Superintendent Octavio Visiedo.

In his written reply to her, dated February 21, Koonce suggested that she talk with Clarke to "clear the air." He also noted that he had spoken to Clarke the day after their conversation. His response was copied to Clarke, to Visiedo, and to Solomon Stinson, then deputy superintendent for school operations.

But Stinson already knew about Hazel's letter because Koonce, Stinson's colleague and Alpha Phi Alpha brother, had called him about it. In a later deposition, Stinson stated that he didn't feel the need to refer the matter to the district's office that investigates such complaints, the Equal Educational and Employment Opportunity (EEEO) division. But, he added, "Had I known there had been a conversation between Mr. Clarke and Dr. Koonce regarding Ms. Hazel, I would probably have said, 'Report it to [EEEO]. Let them investigate it.'"

On March 11, Jeffrey Swain, coordinator of Northwestern's School-to-Work program, wrote a letter to Visiedo. Swain related that he had been "repeatedly approached" by Hazel with complaints about Clarke's alleged harassment. Swain also complained about the suspected affair between Clarke and Richelle Lee, who worked under Swain, reporting that he had seen Clarke "conducting himself in an unprofessional manner" with Lee. He wrote that school staffers had seen Clarke and Lee "leaving campus together under dubious circumstances during work hours."

On March 18, Hazel filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office in Miami. In her complaint, she expressed fear that her job as student activities director was in jeopardy. Investigators from the federal EEOC office contacted the school district's EEEO office on March 26, asking for a response to Hazel's allegations.

On March 29, Visiedo responded to Swain's letter, stating that "appropriate review has been initiated." Solomon Stinson, who drafted the letter for Visiedo's signature, later testified that if he or Visiedo had received word from Hazel herself that she was being harassed, he would have forwarded her complaint to the EEEO. "In my own mind, this [Swain's letter] is hearsay," Stinson said in a deposition taken as part of Hazel's lawsuit.

Sonja Miller alleges that Clarke's harassment of her continued. Her lawsuit notes that on May 17, 1996, "Clarke chased her around the conference room table when Miller was two months pregnant, causing her to scream in panic."

The district EEEO replied to the federal EEOC's request for information about Jacqueline Hazel's complaint on July 2. The district's assessment: "It is the position of the Dade County Public Schools that there is no basis to substantiate [Hazel's charges]."

On August 16, 1996, Clarke notified Hazel that he had given the $3000-a-year student activities director post to someone else, and had reassigned her to teach -- even though she had never taught in a classroom.

Miller, meanwhile, continued to rebuff Clarke's advances, she charges. By fall 1996, she asserts, he had begun to retaliate against her, complaining that she was getting "fat" as her pregnancy advanced, and criticizing her job performance.

On October 31, 1996, the EEEO received word from Jose Villa, a media specialist at Charles Drew Elementary School, that his sister, 48-year-old Northwestern teacher Isabel Montes de Oca, had complained to him about sexual harassment by Clarke. The EEEO sent a letter to Montes de Oca that same day, noting that Villa had relayed her complaint. There is no record that the EEEO pursued the complaint further.

On December 3, Sonja Miller left the school on maternity leave. Clarke chastised her in a December 9 memorandum for not returning her keys or school-issued beeper. Miller fired back with her own memo on December 13. After outlining how she had followed the rules regarding the return of the items, she blasted him for harassing her "sexually, verbally, and now mentally." She recounted the incident of him chasing her around a table, and another in which he allegedly flashed $100 bills at her (as Hazel claims he had done to her as well). "I dealt with this stress day in and day out," she wrote. "I refuse to accept continuation of this kind of harassment now."

The day before Miller wrote this memo, Vincent Lee's fury over his ex-wife's suspected affair with Clarke once again boiled over. On December 12, 1996, Lee found Clarke's 1992 Cadillac parked in front of his ex-wife's home. "I exploded," Lee said in a deposition. "I shot [the car] about three times [with a shotgun]."

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