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Teacher who reported strip searches back at work, faces suspension

Updated April 25, 2022 - 10:18 am

The Garside Junior High School teacher who was put on paid administrative leave after reporting alleged student strip searches is back to work.

But school administrators are recommending a five-day suspension for Shushan Sadjadi for several violations of school policy, including attempts to get two of her students to speak with reporters to corroborate the search claims, a disciplinary report obtained by the Review-Journal shows.

Sadjadi, who alleges school administrators are retaliating against her, said she resumed her teaching duties on Thursday and plans to appeal the suspension without pay under the collective bargaining agreement with the teachers union.

The math teacher was sent home March 25 while school administrators investigated her conduct. She has faced at least 24 policy violations since raising concerns about the alleged strip searches in February.

“I’m just shocked,” she said Saturday. “The longer this goes on, the more horrified I am that the searches happened. I told the principal that she could have just said thank you so much for bringing this to me and we’ll take it from here. But instead, she chose to make me the target of her investigations.”

Sadjadi said school administrators have been taking away students’ valuable instruction time by questioning them about her.

“They’re taking that time to see if they can find anything on me to find a fireable offense,” she said.

Her lawyer Brian Berman added: “I would be absolutely delighted if they spent the same amount of time and energy investigating the strip-search allegations as they have investigating Ms. Sadjadi.”

Clark County School District spokesman Tod Story said that because of personnel matters, he could not comment on Sadjadi’s return to the classroom and the latest administrative action.

In the April 19 report recommending the suspension, Garside Principal Marbella Alfonzo said the internal investigation found that Sadjadi interviewed students and conducted searches in her classroom beyond the scope of her authority when trying to find “missing AirPods.”

Sadjadi also had “unprofessional conversations” with students about some of her colleagues and about “personal employee matters,” the report states. She allegedly told students that some of the school’s teachers were “creepy.”

Students reported during the administrative investigation that Sadjadi also made disparaging comments about Alfonzo and told them the principal was trying to fire her.

Teacher disputes allegations

Sadjadi said the accusations against her are not true.

“A lot of the latest stuff, I have no idea what they’re talking about,” she said. “A lot of the things they accuse me of were not substantiated.”

Garside administrators, school district police and Clark County Child Protective Services say they have not been able to substantiate the strip-search claims.

Sadjadi was put on administrative leave one day after the Review-Journal published a story in which she first accused Garside administrators of retaliating against her.

She said last month that both male and female students voluntarily told her about uncomfortable searches by administrators and staff members who were suspicious of marijuana use at the school.

Sadjadi said she reported the search concerns to Garside administrators the morning of Feb. 11, but Alfonzo and Vice Principal Matthew Spurk were initially slow to respond to her concerns.

School district regulations say strip searches can only be conducted in “extraordinary circumstances when necessary to avoid an immediate threat or danger to safety, welfare or health and less intrusive means are not practical.”

Two other Garside teachers have said that students told them they experienced “uncomfortable” searches. One reported an incident to authorities. The other informed the Review-Journal but did not report it out of fear of retribution from school administrators.

Sadjadi and her lawyer have said that she had no teaching violations prior to reporting her concerns.

Previously, she was accused of being late for work, giving out her personal phone number to students and not following proper policies with her student entrepreneur club’s banking funds, according to documents.

The earlier alleged misconduct included interviewing students about the strip-search allegations before talking to Garside administrators and not providing the names to administrators of the students claiming they had knowledge of the strip searches.

Sadjadi also was accused of interfering with the business of the school’s Scholar Success Office, the student disciplinary unit where students were allegedly strip-searched.

Garside officials had previously cited her for refusing to take down cameras she had installed in her classroom. But that alleged violation was withdrawn after she agreed to remove the cameras last month.

Since then, the school district announced new protocols and safety measures in response to a violent attack on a teacher at Eldorado High School on April 7 and additional district-wide incidents.

The district is planning to update camera systems and classroom communications with alerts, similar to a panic button, where teachers and staff could contact administrators and first responders from their location.

CCSD, the fifth-largest school district in the country, has seen 5,700 calls for service regarding fights, batteries or assaults and 1,300 combined incidents where arrests and citations had been issued on school campuses since the beginning of the school year.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter. German is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing.

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