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East Valley School District settles with former employees who sued district over response to workplace harassment, intimidation

Jan. 11, 2023 Updated Wed., Jan. 11, 2023 at 5:57 p.m.

The East Valley School District settled a lawsuit last month brought by two former employees who alleged that they received little support after reporting a former principal harassed and intimidated them.

The district will pay $400,000, according to settlement documents obtained through a public records request.

Tonette Lazanis, a former East Valley Middle School vice principal, and Kendra Smith, a former school counselor, filed the lawsuit against the district in 2019.

They and six other women who filed declarations in the suit say former East Valley Middle School Principal Doug Kaplicky screamed at them, excluded them from meetings, made sexual jokes and even drugged one of the women while at a conference.

Kaplicky was escorted from the school in 2017 after the women filed grievances against him, according to court documents. He later resigned and is currently the principal at Adams Elementary School in Yakima.

In a statement, Kaplicky denied the allegations.

“I left the district (‘17) to pursue a consulting opportunity nearly two years before this lawsuit was filed (‘19). I learned about it and the unfounded accusations contained within it second-hand,” Kaplicky wrote. “I was never given the opportunity, nor asked to respond to questions that provided key documentation.”

The work environment didn’t get better after Kaplicky left, the women allege, saying their colleagues retaliated against them for speaking out against Kaplicky, who was well-liked by much of the staff.

“Let me be clear: these allegations are false and slanderous,” Kaplicky wrote. “In my 20-plus years in education, I have prided myself on promoting a positive work culture, in which our building teams have been recognized for creating an amazing learning environment for students, and partnering with parents and the community.”

Kaplicky declined to comment on the settlement itself.

Smith and Lazanis will each receive $200,0000. The East Valley School District already implemented policy changes before the settlement, which both women were satisfied with, said their attorney, Brad Crockett .

The women filed a complaint with the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction as well, Crockett said. There was no admission of liability by the school district as part of the settlement, which is standard practice, Crockett said.

The school district’s attorney, Jerry Moburg, confirmed the case had been settled after mediation but declined further comment.

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