Despite her 21 years as an educator, Elizabeth Wong has spent the last seven months unable to find a job. The Schaumburg resident said she has filled out hundreds of applications, been on dozens of interviews, and been a finalist several times.
Yet, her March 2011 termination from Palatine Township Elementary District 15 has damaged her reputation and is apparently scuttling her chances of employment with another district, Wong said Friday in her attorney's Park Ridge office.
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Wong, a former assistant principal at Carl Sandburg Junior High School in Rolling Meadows, filed a federal lawsuit last week claiming she was fired for reporting to district authorities that her supervisor was drinking on the job, sexually harassing women at the school and generally not doing his job.
The lawsuit accuses District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson, the school board, and three other administrators of violating the Illinois Whistleblower Act.
Thompson said he could not comment on the specific allegations, but added that all complaints brought to the administration are investigated promptly.
"Due to Palatine District 15 policies regarding privacy and confidentiality, I am not able to comment on specific personnel matters or on pending litigation," Thompson said in a statement.
"However, I want to emphasize that Palatine District 15 is committed to maintaining a professional and respectful learning environment that prioritizes teaching and learning, while protecting the safety and well-being of all students and staff."
Wong claims she told authorities that her principal came to school intoxicated or would leave during the school day to go drinking. Other women at the school complained to her that he sexually harassed them, she said.
Wong said she is unaware if anyone else filed complaints against the principal. Thompson, meanwhile, reiterated he could not discuss personnel matters.
The Sandburg Junior High principal who was the subject of Wong's reports was reached by the Daily Herald but declined to comment for this story.
He retired from District 15 in June 2011 and is currently working part time as an assistant principal in a DuPage County school district.
Thompson said the principal was not forced out, and that he had given advance notice of his impending retirement 4½ years earlier.
Wong claims she was verbally and physically harassed during her time at Sandburg.
"I received repeated, frequent, ongoing calls after work hours on the cellphone from the principal," she said. "It was never business. It was always flirtatious and alcohol related."
Wong said she did not have a nonprofessional relationship with the principal.
Her lawsuit claims she had three separate meetings with district administrators starting in early 2010, as well as email and telephone conversations, but her complaints went ignored.
Instead, she said, district officials transferred her to Whiteley Elementary School in Hoffman Estates as assistant principal, which she considered a demotion, she said.
Wong said she was fired for performance-related issues that she disputes.
Wong's suit seeks more than $500,000 in damages for lost wages and benefits, and emotional distress. She is asking to be reinstated to her previous post at Sandburg, said her attorney, Margherita Albarello.
District 15 school board President Timothy Millar said Friday he had not seen the lawsuit and therefore could not comment.