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Former teacher files lawsuit against Newport-Mesa School District

Debbra DeMarco alleges workplace harassment and age discrimination. Complaint shows she was accused of drinking alcohol during the school day and of making racial remarks, claims DeMarco denies.

September 28, 2013|By Hannah Fry

A former Killybrooke Elementary School teacher is suing the school district for alleged workplace harassment and age discrimination, court records show.

Debbra DeMarco filed a lawsuit Sept. 4 in Orange County Superior Court against the Newport-Mesa School District and Killybrooke Principal Lorie Hoggard.

DeMarco, who was 43 years old at the time of the alleged harassment, claims the district forced her to quit because of her advancing age and because she was more expensive to keep on staff than a younger teacher.

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She was paid $93,000 annually because of her 12-year tenure at the district and her advanced degree, said Joel W. Baruch, the attorney representing DeMarco.

"They can't legally discriminate against her because she's over the age of 40 and makes more money," he said.

The district declined to comment on the matter, according to a written statement by spokeswoman Laura Boss.

DeMarco, who has a doctorate degree in educational leadership from USC, began working at Killybrooke in August 2000 as a teacher in grades 3-5. She received tenure after working at Killybrooke for three months. She was a high performing and reliable employee, according to the complaint.

The alleged harassment began in 2011 when the district hired Hoggard as Killybrooke's principal. Soon after, DeMarco alleges that Hoggard began to harass, intimidate and discriminate against DeMarco, the complaint stated.

She accused DeMarco of drinking alcohol during the school day in October 2011 — an accusation DeMarco adamantly denied.

A month later, Hoggard asked her to submit her lesson plans for review on a regular basis and began coming into her class to observe her. From December 2011 through the end of January 2012, Hoggard would sit in DeMarco's class every day and observe, the complaint stated.

In January 2012, Killybrooke's school nurse, Marcia Marthaler, entered DeMarco's class in the middle of a lesson and smelled her breath. Marthaler allegedly reported to Hoggard that the teacher was under the influence of alcohol, according to the complaint.

That day, DeMarco received a letter from John Drake, director of certificated personnel, informing her that she was being put on paid administrative leave while the district conducted an investigation into allegations that she was drinking on the job. DeMarco was placed on leave for one day, according to the complaint.

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