After months of silence, Cloverdale District releases information about principal’s suspension

For nearly six months, the Cloverdale School District has been silent on why a popular middle school principal was placed on indefinite paid leave.

For his part, the principal, Mark Lucchetti, also remained silent.

But now both sides – and others – are talking, at least to some extent.

Last week, the district released a letter from school board president Jacque Garrison saying Lucchetti was furloughed in late February following allegations that he failed to properly investigate female student accusations. . on the behavior of a male physical education teacher.

The board’s letter, sent to news outlets and posted on the district’s website, marked the first public explanation of what officials claim led to the disciplinary action against Lucchetti, a 27-year-old administrator and teacher whose departure sparked an outcry among parents and teachers. They have pressed the district to explain its actions since.

Last spring, students staged two walkouts in support of Lucchetti, and when a fight and ensuing discipline issue rocked campus, parents took to social media to say the trouble would never have happened. products if Lucchetti was still in charge.

According to the district’s letter last week, the controversy began when a counselor at Washington Middle School told Superintendent Betha MacClain in late February that Lucchetti had failed to thoroughly investigate student reports of abuse. ‘Inappropriate touching and staring’ by a male physical education teacher at school. .

Under California’s Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, educators are required to report this type of behavior. According to the district’s letter, MacClain found no evidence that Lucchetti filed such a report.

Two days after the counselor approached MacClain, the district “took appropriate corrective action pending an investigation,” according to the letter, and placed Lucchetti on paid administrative leave.

The letter also confirmed that a police investigation was underway into the matter, although it did not provide any details.

However, the mother of the girl who first reported the allegations told The Press Democrat on Monday that she believed Lucchetti had handled the situation appropriately.

On March 3, the mother emailed MacClain to follow up on a phone call they had two days prior.

In the email, the mother, whose name is withheld by The Press Democrat to protect her daughter’s privacy, said her daughter was in the girls’ locker room at the end of a seventh period bodybuilding on February 16. She had just finished changing clothes when a physical education teacher opened the door to let in several female students.

This made the daughter uncomfortable, “because if he had come a few minutes earlier he would have seen me changing,” according to the email provided to The Press Democrat by the mother.

About a week later, the girl met with a school counselor to discuss the incident, according to the email.

The mother said her daughter told the counselor that in future she wanted the teacher to give the female students the keys to the locker room instead of unlocking it himself, a practice used by another education teacher physical.

Following this meeting, the girl’s parents asked the school to change its changing room protocols to ensure the incident would not happen again. According to the mother’s email to MacClain, the school has made the requested changes.

“We were happy with the result and didn’t think (the PE teacher) had done anything with bad intentions,” the mother said in her email. “…we were very pleased with how Mr. Lucchetti handled the situation initially and how quickly he acted once informed.”

The mother told MacClain she believed the PE teacher’s behavior was ‘clearly an accident and no fault was intentional’. She confirmed to The Press Democrat on Monday that she still believes this to be true.

After being furloughed, Lucchetti filed a lawsuit against MacClain, for his handling of the episode.

The district in turn hired an “independent professional investigator to conduct a thorough investigation,” according to the district’s letter from last week.

According to the letter, the district’s investigation, which concluded in June, found nearly all of Lucchetti’s claims against MacClain to be without merit. The only allegation against MacClain that the investigation substantiated, according to the letter, was that it had failed to provide an annual appraisal review of its staff during the pandemic.

The investigation, led by a former police investigator, took place between March and May, and “all parties cooperated”, according to the district.