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  1. #1

    Default Defamation by Principal in Reference

    My question involves defamation in the state of: Washington

    I asked for a positive recommendation from my principal and another administrative staff at my school and was told that I would have one.

    I also asked the principal to write a letter of recommendation for me. He did and it contained nothing but positive statements.

    Applied for dozens of teaching positions within the district and was never contacted once by anyone.

    Was able to see what the principal and the other staff person had written about me on a district online form (that all schools are able to view when posting an open position at their school). They wrote that I was not a good teacher and could not work effectively with other staff, parents or the community. They also wrote that I was not a good fit for the district.

    Both of my reviews were stellar and I was never approached by either one about any concerns they had regarding my abilities to work with staff, parents or community. This includes email, phone or written communication or face to face conversation.

    I have been teaching for more than 7 years and have a Master's Degree. ALL references from my prior district are positive including their statements and ratings that share the same space with what the principal and the other staff wrote about me.
    This was my first year at this school and in this district. I was hired on a One-year contract (not because of merit but rather because of the reason for the vacancy I was filling--- a leave of absence). After working there for several months, I learned of the ongoing turmoil regarding the principal and staff at that school including the fact that only 7 staff of an original 40+ remained since the principal in question came to work at that school.
    The issues are too numerous to list.

    I feel as if I have been singled out and prevented from gaining employment within the district because of the very words written about me and the ratings they gave me ( almost all of the ratings were 'falls in the bottom 50% of skill level' or ideas to that effect) in this online recommendation.

    For those unfamiliar with the teaching world, a teacher is typically required to have a recommendation from your current/most recent principal or at minimum list them as a reference. Clearly I am out of luck in this department.

    At this point, I do not have a job for the fall. I applied for jobs within my district believing that I had positive references from all listed in my application. I did not apply outside the district because I had reason to believe I would be hired (again) by the district for another teaching position.
    At this point, there are virtually no positions available in any district in the area and most likely will not be until mid-August or later. Even then though, this malicious information about me remains for any potential principal of mine to see (at least within this district).

    Help. What recourse do I have?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Defamation by Principal in Reference

    Honestly, none.

    There is a myth that says a reference must either be positive or neutral. That is incorrect.

    All a reference must be is truth or the honest opinion of those that said and/or wrote it.

    If the recommendation satisfies that criteria, then you have no legal action. The truth is an affirmative defense.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Defamation by Principal in Reference

    IF you have a letter of recommendation from him, include that in your resume.

    Did you include such letter in your resume??

    It would almost take an idiot to write you a stellar personal reference then to counter it on a public veiwing site.

    I can see several options.

    1. IF you have a positive reference from him in a form letter, etc. then he is admitting to certain facts "in your employment favor". IF he rescinds them in a public viewing forum, then it is very assumptive to say his statements are false and posted with malice, which may have caused you to suffer employment damages.

    2. His actions were certainly a "breach of trust" IMO, and may or may not be actionable???

    You may consider consulting an attorney?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Defamation by Principal in Reference

    Quote Quoting BOR
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    IF you have a letter of recommendation from him, include that in your resume.

    Did you include such letter in your resume??

    It would almost take an idiot to write you a stellar personal reference then to counter it on a public veiwing site.

    I can see several options.

    1. IF you have a positive reference from him in a form letter, etc. then he is admitting to certain facts "in your employment favor". IF he rescinds them in a public viewing forum, then it is very assumptive to say his statements are false and posted with malice, which may have caused you to suffer employment damages.

    2. His actions were certainly a "breach of trust" IMO, and may or may not be actionable???

    You may consider consulting an attorney?
    Can you state the statute that prohibits providing a true but negative reference... even if a positive reference was made in the past?

    Further, I took from the OP's post that she had not read the letters... but assumed they would be positive.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Defamation by Principal in Reference

    Quote Quoting cyjeff
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    Can you state the statute that prohibits providing a true but negative reference... even if a positive reference was made in the past?
    Statute?? No! Common law would provide such pro or con for the Teacher.

    I said it may be "assumptive" to presume if one is negative and one is positive, it is possible some degree of malice is involved, especially when the negative reference is "publically viewable??


    Further, I took from the OP's post that she had not read the letters... but assumed they would be positive
    Here is what he said:

    "I also asked the principal to write a letter of recommendation for me. He did and it contained nothing but positive statements".

    I read that as to say it was written, read, offered and then accepted and by the teacher??

    Breach of trust is also a tort in some jurisdictions. IMO, such here was one, but that is for an attorney to decide, one, if such tort exists, and two, does the principal's actions rise to that level!!

    IF though such letter is NOT in the teacher's possession, then it may change my opinion.

    I will wait to see what the case is??

  6. #6

    Default Re: Defamation by Principal in Reference

    The principal and other staff person were listed on an online district application.
    They were sent an email link in which they were to fill out a form, including previously mentioned ratings and written comments. This information was not sent to me but rather posted on my online application for principals to see.
    I asked them both if I could list them as positive references, and they both said yes. This was in early March of this year. This information is in a database that all school principals have access to when reviewing applications. Comments and ratings are able to be viewed prior to any interview process. Since my contract doesn't technically expire until August 31st, I am still technically an employee. I have click a button identifying me as a new applicant or current employee. I assume that I am on a list of 'current employees'.


    I have a physical letter written by the principal that is nothing but positive on all accounts. This letter was written in June of this year.

    I am having a hard time reconciling this letter with what he wrote about me in the online form. Because I have these two drastically different views authored by him, coupled with the problems that previously existed at the school and my interactions with him, I can see that the negative things he wrote about me are in fact willfully with malice with intent to cause difficulty for me in getting another position. What other motivation does a principal have for writing such things, not opinion but rather statements that fly in the face of my reviews, parent letters, letters from other co-workers, and the three references from my prior district?

    If you had about ten days, I could fill you in on all of the issues and the dozen plus other people who have essentially fallen victim to this person.

    Prior to my discovering this, I spoke with the director of Elementary Education about my fears (negative things either written or said about me by my principal). He told me to list him in my applications with other districts if they inquired as to why I would not want them to contact my former employer.

    Well, turns out I was right.

    Doesn't my having this letter and the very much contradictory written statements in the online application mean a thing? Again, I was never spoken to once about any issues regarding my abilities to work with staff, parents, community. No emails, no phone calls, no written communications and no face to face conversation.

    I have yet to hear back from the union about this as I just left a message today.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Defamation by Principal in Reference

    Quote Quoting needadvice12
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    Doesn't my having this letter and the very much contradictory written statements in the online application mean a thing? Again, I was never spoken to once about any issues regarding my abilities to work with staff, parents, community. No emails, no phone calls, no written communications and no face to face conversation.

    I have yet to hear back from the union about this as I just left a message today.
    IF you are a member of a collective bargaining union, it should provide for any internal dispute resolution mechanism, see how they repsond first.

    IMO, I agree with you. If you have in your possession such a positive reference and then he is blackballing you online, as I said it only natural to assume he is doing it with malice??

    Your state employment reference law may not include public teachers?

    Ask your Union rep if he can direct you to this statute.

    Generally, the ones I have read from various states say IF such bad reference is given and it can be proven it was given "with malice" Immunity is thus POOF!!

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Defamation by Principal in Reference

    Washington state & references: No law giving employers protection when giving references. Also, no law requiring employers to give references except that on request of a discharged employee, an employer must furnish within 10 working days a signed statement setting forth reasons for such discharge.

    Washington blacklisting: Employers who willfully and maliciously notify a prospective employer of derogatory facts about a former employee conceivably could be subject to prosecution under the statute that makes blacklisting a misdemeanor, although no prosecutions under that statute have been recorded for over 80 years.

    Wash. admin. code 296-126-050(3); blacklisting Wash. Rev. Code 49.44.010 Covered employers - all employers

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Defamation by Principal in Reference

    Aside from the reference letter, did you have any evaluations done by the principle during your work under him? What do they say?
    Whether the principle knew or should have known that the statements he posted online were false and thus constituted slander would be a matter for a jury to decide. However, I have a feeling that what you really want is to get a job teaching...and NOW! So, YES get an attorney. You do not necessarily need to file a lawsuit or go to court to get the online statements removed. A few well written letters by a good attorney to the principle and the school district could produced rapid positive results. Should you wish to pursue legal action in court for damages after that you still could...even if the statements are removed and you return to work in the short term.

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