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Brainteaser

Readers of tomorrow, welcome to Scholastic Bowl, the program that showcases student ingenuity. Our gracious sponsor today is the Miami-Dade County Public Schools from South Florida, the fourth largest school district in the nation. Special thanks to Superintendent Roger C. Cuevas and school board chairman Solomon Stinson for providing us with the material for this installment of Scholastic Bowl.

Before we begin, we must ask for your cooperation: Please do not read this issue's cover story by staff writer Ted B. Kissell -- at least not until we've completed the competition. Reading it first would give you an unfair advantage and disqualify you and your teammates.

And now, are you ready for the first question? Here we go:
1. The Miami-Dade school board recently voted to spend more than one million dollars to settle two sexual-harassment lawsuits brought against a school principal, William Clarke III, and the school board itself.

Your Scholastic Bowl challenge: Describe the thrust of the debate that preceded this important vote.

Buzz!
Oh my, a trick question. What a way to start! The correct answer: There was no debate. Chairman Solomon Stinson gaveled through the measure without so much as a peep from his fellow board members or the audience.

2. In March 1996, an administrator at Miami Northwestern Senior High School wrote a lengthy letter to then-Superintendent Octavio Visiedo. The administrator, Jeffrey Dean Swain, said he was writing to inform the superintendent of "the sexual misconduct, professional misconduct, and programmatic mismanagement of William E. Clarke III, principal of Miami Northwestern Senior High." Swain reported that a female colleague "repeatedly approached" him to complain she was being tormented by Clarke's brazen and unwanted sexual advances, and that in addition, the principal was conducting himself "in an unprofessional manner" with a female member of Swain's own staff. The letter concluded: "Mr. Clarke lacks professionalism and is a detriment to Miami Northwestern.... His sexual conduct has created an atmosphere of contention and volatility." Superintendent Visiedo forwarded this letter to a top district administrator for action.

Here is your Scholastic Bowl challenge: Name the first three people who were interviewed as part of the ensuing investigation and generally describe the scope of that investigation.

Buzz!
Not again! Another trick question. The administrator who wrote the response to Swain's letter was none other than Solomon Stinson, who describes his twenty-year friendship with Clarke as "supportive" and "mentoring." Not one single person was interviewed because Stinson did not contact the school district's Equal Educational and Employment Opportunity division (EEEO), which investigates such complaints. And so no investigation was initiated. Sorry!

3. In March 1997, Miami Northwestern Senior High School student activities director Jacqueline Hazel filed a federal lawsuit against Clarke, alleging numerous incidents of sexual harassment. Your Scholastic Bowl challenge is to identify which of the following were included in her lawsuit:

A) Clarke "repeatedly propositioned [her] to have sexual intercourse [and] admonished her that she would 'regret waiting so long.'"

B) Clarke frequently made lewd comments such as: "'Oh, you look so good today,' or 'You have pretty legs,' or 'When are you going to give me a chance?'"

C) Clarke crudely propositioned her: "[He] had offered me hundreds of dollars -- he had a wad of hundred-dollar bills. He said to me, 'Is this enough money for you?' I told him he didn't have enough money to buy me. And then another staff member, [assistant principal Sam Johnson], said, 'He don't want to buy you. He wants to borrow you.'" To which Clarke responded by laughing and complimenting Johnson's quick wit.

D) When Hazel protested, Clarke taunted her: "Mr. Clarke actually said to me, 'So, what are you going to do, press sexual-harassment charges against me?' I said, 'Mr. Clarke, don't play.' He said, 'Oh, it would be my word against yours.'"

E) After Hazel complained about these incidents to school administrators, Clarke demoted her from her position as student activities director.

Buzz!
Oh, what a disappointment. Believe it or not, the correct answer is "All of the above."

4. In January 1997, Sonja Renee Miller, secretary to Clarke at Miami Northwestern Senior High, filed a complaint with the school district's EEEO alleging that Clarke had sexually harassed her. Specifically she said he had told her of his "sick dreams/fantasies of me and him in bed"; that he used abusive and profane language; that he touched her hair, hands, arms, and shoulders; and commented on "how delicious my legs appeared, and telling me once I have had sex with him, I would never go back to my husband." Miller said Clarke once again flashed a wad of hundred-dollar bills. She also said he chased her around a conference room table while she was two months pregnant, but retreated when she began screaming. During a subsequent investigation, at least eight school district employees said they'd witnessed Clarke behaving rudely toward Miller or had heard from Miller about Clarke's alleged abusive conduct and sexual harassment.

Your Scholastic Bowl challenge: The disciplinary action taken against Clarke following the investigation included A) suspension without pay, B) suspension with pay, C) demotion, or D) termination.

Buzz!
Fooled you again! The correct answer is "None of the above." School district investigators concluded there was "insufficient evidence" to substantiate Miller's complaint. Clarke was not subjected to any disciplinary action whatsoever!

5. Before we get to our final question, we'd again like to thank the Miami-Dade County Public Schools for their sponsorship and for so wonderfully exemplifying the Scholastic Bowl motto: "Tomorrow's leaders are shaped by today's adults."

And now, on to the closing question. Prior to the school board agreeing to pay more than a million dollars to settle the sexual-harassment lawsuits against Clarke, a federal jury had found him and the school board liable in the case brought by Jacqueline Hazel. So outraged were jurors by Clarke's conduct that they ordered him personally to pay $100,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages.

Your final Scholastic Bowl challenge: Explain how Clarke, fired from his job by the school board, left without a source of income, and disgraced in the community, was able to pay $200,000 in damages and not declare bankruptcy.

Buzz!
Congratulations! You got it! That's right, Clarke was not fired by the school board. He continues to make his principal's salary as a district administrator. And he didn't have to pay one cent of the $200,000 because the board's settlement agreement superseded the judgment against him. He ended up a winner -- just like you!

jim_mullin@miaminewtimes.com


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