June 6, 2022 – Juan Rodriguez, a beloved principal at Venetia Valley School, has settled a discrimination and retaliation case that he brought against San Rafael City Schools (“SRCS”). SRCS has agreed to pay $725,000 to settle Mr. Rodriguez’s claims.
The lawsuit, filed in September 2020, alleged that the Superintendent and Board of San Rafael City Schools discriminated against Mr. Rodriguez based on his race and national origin, and because of his vocal advocacy on behalf of Latino students and his efforts to achieve racial equity within the San Rafael City Schools. The suit further alleged that as a result of Mr. Rodriguez’s complaints about unlawful discrimination, the District retaliated, defamed him and demoted him in March 2020, which led to his eventual departure from the District.
As Principal of Venetia Valley K-8 school since 2012, Mr. Rodriguez had consistently advocated for practices intended to minimize or eliminate racial and ethnic bias in the school system. The Venetia Valley School largely serves the Spanish-speaking students. During his tenure as principal, Mr. Rodriguez instituted changes that elevated the school from one of the lowest performing schools in Marin County to a California Gold Ribbon School. He received numerous accolades for his work in the district. Despite both subtle and overt opposition from the District, during his tenure, Mr. Rodriguez introduced programs intended to address issues which he reasonably believes were caused by racial bias. In response, the superintendent and its board repeatedly retaliated against Mr. Rodriguez and eventually demoted him from principal to teacher.
Juan Rodriguez shares his reflections,
I brought this lawsuit on the grounds that SRCS was engaging in discriminatory practices against socio-economically disadvantaged Latino students and because my advocacy on their behalf resulted in ongoing retaliation that included my removal from the role of principal. My hope is that as a result of this lawsuit, SRCS will take meaningful steps to address systemic racism, and create an atmosphere that supports and provides equal resources for students of color.
My work with the greater Latino community was inspired by my own journey through higher education, as a first-generation Latino student. I was fortunate enough to have mentors who validated my identity and who opened up the world to me, so that I could see beyond my barrio and imagine possibilities. My hope was to provide this same source of light and support for the students of SRCS for many years to come. Nevertheless, I remain a committed educator and advocate for educational equity.
Mr. Rodriguez was represented by Leslie Levy and Leticia Chavez of Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams, LLP, a boutique law firm in Oakland that represents individuals in workplace disputes. Ms. Levy commented on the lawsuit:
“It has been an honor to represent Mr. Rodriguez in this matter. While the settlement provides closure for our client, we remain seriously concerned about the incompetency and inappropriate conduct by the District’s Human Resources department. Furthermore, we are concerned that the District will not see this lawsuit as a wake up call to adequately address the needs and rights of students of color.”
For further information regarding the matter, visit www.levyvinick.com or call Leslie Levy at 510-318-7705.