What to Know
- Kim was fired from her publicist job for legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons.
- Kim's journalism students covered topics such as censorship, threats, bullying, abuse of power and transparency.
- Kim was subsequently put on administrative leave and banned from coming onto campus without escort.
A student media adviser and former publicist for the Alhambra Unified School District reached a settlement of her lawsuit in which she alleged she was retaliated against for the work of her journalism students and for being outspoken on other issues.
Jennifer Kim, who was hired to teach at San Gabriel High School in February 2008, filed the lawsuit in December 2016 in Los Angeles Superior Court. Her other allegations included violations of the state's Labor and Education Codes.
Thomas Madruga, an attorney for Alhambra Unified, filed a notice of settlement with Judge Randolph Hammock on Wednesday. No terms were divulged.
In his court papers, Madruga said Kim was fired from her publicist job for legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons. He stated the district had the right to terminate the sixth-period publicist position at any time and that the
AUSD had also wanted to change the focus of articles to an online format in other areas, including educational services and student/employee welfare.
Kim received numerous awards personally in addition to many for her students, according to her lawsuit. She became the district's publicist in January 2012 and was named student adviser to the school newspaper, The Matador, and yearbook in August of that year, the suit stated.
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For three months in 2015, Kim's journalism students, motivated by the dismissal of a popular teacher, produced work highly critical of the AUSD, covering such topics as censorship, threats, bullying, abuse of power and transparency, according to the lawsuit.
In June 2015, Kim began experiencing a difficult work environment because of her support for her students, the suit states. Her planning of two field trips was heavily scrutinized by an assistant principal with a barrage of
emails in which Kim was admonished for alleged mistakes, the suit stated.
The perusal was "unwarranted and baseless and the only purpose was to harass Ms. Kim for the work of her students," the suit alleged.
Kim complained to an assistant superintendent, who told the plaintiff she did not believe the assistant principal was "trying to be difficult," the suit stated.
In July 2015, the ACLU sent a letter to the district stating that it was monitoring the situation and advised the AUSD to not interfere with the journalism students' work, the suit states. However, the AUSD disregarded the
letter and in September 2015 shut down the students' news website and deleted its archives, the suit stated.
That summer, Kim also "blew the whistle regarding two co-workers misappropriating" state Department of Education funds, the suit states. Kim was a former coordinator of the program in question and "had facts and evidence to prove her allegations," according to her lawsuit.
Kim was subsequently put on administrative leave and banned from coming onto campus without escort, the suit stated. She also was not allowed to speak to her students, according to her complaint.
Kim was fired as the district's publicist in August 2015, causing her to lose about $18,000 from her annual salary of more than $113,000, the suit stated.