Riverside Elementary School District 96 Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson has ruled against Robert and Susan Corrigan in their formal complaint against Ames School Principal Colleen Lieggi.
In their complaint, the Corrigans alleged that Lieggi reported allegations that they had sexually abused Lieggi’s children as an act of retaliation against them for vocally advocating for their two special-needs children.
Lamberson’s ruling followed the advice of the complaint manager, Julie Lewis, an attorney with the district’s law firm, Scariano, Himes and Petrarca. Lewis found that there was no evidence that Lieggi had acted in retaliation against the Corrigans.
The Corrigans have also filed a complaint against Lewis with the Office of Civil Rights of the United States Department of Education, alleging that Lewis suggested that she could affect the special education services the Corrigan children receive during an animated discussion in a hallway at Hauser Junior High School during the Sept. 18 District 96 Board of Education meeting.
Lewis says she did no such thing.
The Sept.18 school board meeting was the first District 96 meeting Lewis had ever attended. She had only begun working for Scariano, Himes and Petrarca eight days earlier.
On Oct. 29, Lamberson sent a letter to the Corrigans informing them of his ruling.
“The written report of findings concluded that the evidence was insufficient to establish that Ms. Lieggi violated your rights under either Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,” Lamberson wrote. “In fact, there was no evidence that the actions of Ms. Lieggi precluded you as parents from engaging in further protected activities or significantly disadvantaged either of your children. In reaching this determination, the complaint manager designate reviewed and analyzed relevant documents provided by you and the district. The complaint manager designate also conducted interviews with district personnel.”
Lewis told the Landmark that she interviewed two people in her investigation of the complaint, but declined to say who she interviewed.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to speak too much about the investigation, because it’s still pending and Mrs. Corrigan does still have an opportunity to appeal the decision to the school board,” Lewis said.
Lewis tried to interview the Corrigans as part of her investigation, but the Corrigans refused to meet with her, because Sue Corrigan was upset by her interaction with Lewis at the Sept. 18 meeting.
“I would really have loved an opportunity to have met with Mrs. Corrigan,” Lewis said.
But Corrigan didn’t want to see Lewis again.
“Her behavior was very rude and aggressive and insulting,” Sue Corrigan said.
Corrigan sent an email to the district, saying that she would respond to written questions from Lewis.
In her four-page report, Lewis found that Lieggi made her report to Riverside police years after the Corrigans’ most vocal period of advocacy for the children, which began in 2007. She also found that Lieggi was not acting in her official capacity when she went to the police.
“Ms. Lieggi filed the police report because an investigator at the DuPage County States Attorney’s Office instructed her to do so and because her own child reported to her that she had been physically and sexually abused,” Lewis wrote.
The Corrigans have appealed the ruling to the District 96 Board of Education. The school board has 30 days from the appeal to issue a final ruling.
The federal Office of Civil Rights said that it could not investigate the Corrigans’ claim that Lieggi’s filing of the police report violated their civil rights, because their complaint was not filed within 180 days of the filing of the police report.
The Office of Civil Rights, however, has opened an investigation into the Corrigans’ other claim – that Lewis suggested that she could impact the services the Corrigans’ children receive.
Lewis said that she did not act in a threatening or intimidating way at the meeting.
“I certainly don’t think that I was, and it was not my intention to be, threatening in any way to Mrs. Corrigan or do anything to make her feel threatened or to make her feel like she could not advocate on behalf of her children,” Lewis said. “Quite the opposite is true.”
Lewis said that she is confident that the Office of Civil Rights’ investigation will show that she did not make any threats.
“I don’t think that they are going to find out that this is what occurred that day,” Lewis said.