Former LVCS teacher files whistleblower lawsuit

Former LVCS teacher files whistleblower lawsuit

From the Las Vegas Optic

A former Las Vegas City Schools teacher and volleyball coach filed a lawsuit last week alleging she was retaliated against and wrongfully terminated after she raised concerns of allegations of harassment of girls by the district’s male coaches.

In the lawsuit — filed under New Mexico’s Whistleblower Protection Act — former Robertson High School volleyball coach and physical education teacher Stacy Fulgenzi is seeking damages, reimbursement for lost wages, back pay and interest on back pay.

The suit was filed March 15 in District Court against Las Vegas City Schools, Superintendent L. Larryssa Archuleta and Athletic Director Juan Carlos Fulgenzi, who is also the brother of Stacy Fulgenzi’s ex-husband.

In the lawsuit, Stacy Fulgenzi said that in the spring of 2019, several girls on the district’s tennis team notified her that they were being bullied and harassed by male coaches. Fulgenzi said she brought the allegations to the attention of LVCS officials on April 10, 2019.

The district not only ignored her concerns, but retaliated against Fulgenzi for sounding the alarm, she said. About three weeks after notifying the district of the allegations, Fulgenzi was transferred from the high school to the middle school.

“Given Ms. Fulgenzi’s career trajectory, this constitutes both an adverse employment action and the first example of unlawful whistleblower retaliation aimed against Ms. Fulgenzi by (the) defendants,” the lawsuit stated.

Fulgenzi said LVCS further retaliated against her by restricting her access to district gyms and weight room facilities, and district officials refused to provide her an office in the gym, which made her the only varsity level coach to be denied office space.

On Oct. 8, 2019, in a fundraiser approved by LVCS, Fulgenzi and the district varsity girls volleyball team conducted a fundraising event to benefit a Las Vegas woman who’d been diagnosed with breast cancer.

On Nov. 22, 2019, the district told Fulgenzi she’d failed to comply with district fundraising policies and began proceedings to terminate her from her teaching and coaching positions for failing to deposit the funds collected into a district account within 24 hours of the event.

The district placed Fulgenzi on leave in October 2019. She was later terminated, which took effect March 16, 2020.

“At or around the time that Ms. Fulgenzi held the Oct. 8, 2019 fundraising event, another varsity level coach held a similar event. That coach did not turn in the funds raised to the district to be deposited into a district account for at least seven days after the event had taken place,” the suit stated. “Defendants either did not discipline other coaches that did not strictly comply with the district’s fundraising policy, or were disproportionately harsh with respect to disciplining Ms. Fulgenzi.”

Fulgenzi now works as a teacher for the West Las Vegas School District, and is the head coach of the West Las Vegas High School girls volleyball team.

Superintendent Archuleta responded to a request for comment by email on Tuesday.

“We ask that you please refer to the Arbitrator, Peter Wirth’s, explicit findings, that were provided to the Optic in reference to this specific case in question into your article for an honest representation of the district,” Archuleta wrote.

However, the Optic has never received documentation of the independent arbitration from the district, and Archuleta did not include any documentation of Wirth’s findings in her email.

The independent arbitration session referenced by Archuleta was held in September 2020 after Fulgenzi appealed the school board’s decision to uphold her firing. The arbitrator ruled in favor of the district.

Fulgenzi’s attorney, Jacob R. Candelaria, said the district is “comparing apples and oranges” by pointing to the arbitrator’s decision because the scope of the arbitration was too narrow to consider Fulgenzi’s whistleblower claims.

“The arbitration that my client was forced to participate in is limited to reviewing the internal termination process,” Candelaria said. “I am confident that when a jury hears the evidence they will conclude, as I have, that Ms. Fulgenzi was harassed and terminated because she was a woman coach who dared to challenge how the old boys club of male coaches treat female student athletes.”