Local government, Schools

Albisu files federal lawsuit alleging discrimination by Ontario board members

The long-running battle over discrimination claims between the Ontario School District and Superintendent Nikki Albisu has now moved to federal court.

Albisu is suing her employer in U.S. District Court for gender discrimination, detailing in her complaint instances involving select Ontario School Board members dating back four years.

The civil suit is the latest effort by Albisu to address what she has described repeatedly as abusive and discriminatory behavior by some school board members. She accuses the Ontario district of unlawful employment practices and civil rights violations.

Her complaint leaves it to a jury to decide whether she is entitled to any money and how much.

“My client was victimized by gender discrimination and harassment. There needs to be responsibility and accountability for this,” said Dan Snyder, Portland attorney representing Albisu.

Craig Geddes, Ontario School Board chair, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment on the lawsuit.

Albisu was named interim superintendent in 2012 and was appointed to the job permanently a year later.

She currently has a three-year contract that started July 1. Her pay was adjusted to $145,300, a $7,000 increase.

Albisu’s complaint details a history of district investigations, performance evaluations and her dealings with the board on her employment contract.

In 2018, her complaint said, she started receiving emails from Derrick Draper, then a board member, that were “unprofessional in tone.”

She recounts text and email messages and meetings with Draper in the ensuing years and also named Eric Evans, another board member, in describing confrontational episodes.

Albisu took medical leave from the district in February 2021, citing the board confrontations.

In April 2021, Draper resigned after the board moved to censure him and Evans.

“Superintendent Albisu has been harassed, intimidated, evaluated more harshly and retaliated against because she refused to conform to their dominant male gender roles and personal agendas and demands,” Snyder wrote in a submission earlier this year to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries as it considered a separate complaint from Albisu.

That agency’s Civil Rights Division concluded its investigation in June, dismissing the superintendent’s claims.

Albisu “was not able to provide substantial evidence that she was discriminated or retaliated against due to a protected class, or for engaging in protected whistle-blowing activities or use of protected leave,” the agency said in a June 9 summary.

EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM – Available for $7.50 a month. Subscribe to the digital service of the Enterprise and get the very best in local journalism. We report with care, attention to accuracy, and an unwavering devotion to fairness. Get the kind of news you’ve been looking for – day in and day out from the Enterprise.