April 26, 2005
The Tempe Union High School District has disciplined a former Desert Vista High School football coach following allegations of unprofessional conduct from female students.
But the district will not tell the students’ parents what type of discipline physical education teacher Jim Rattay has received.
"The employee was disciplined, they just don’t get to hear all the details of it," Superintendent Shirley Miles said. "Disciplinary actions regarding any personnel are not shared with the public."
A three -month Tempe Union investigation that the victims’ parents released to the public on Monday concludes that Rattay subjected one freshman to "heinous, humiliating and degrading" comments in front of her classmates and belittled another freshman on several occasions.
The investigation prepared by Tempe Union human resources director Janet Seegren did not include criminal allegations, and no police reports have been filed.
Seegren’s report says Rattay called a 14-year-old female student to the front of the class on Oct. 20 and asked her to read aloud passages from a pamphlet about teen pregnancy and sexually trans- mitted diseases. As the girl walked to the front of the class, the report also says Rattay told the class he had seen the girl’s name in the boys’ bathroom.
Seegren writes that Rattay told her: "We all kind of laughed, including myself. It was just like an ice breaker."
The girl said that after she read a passage from the pamphlet about herpes, Rattay falsely told the class she had white marks on her lips or chin.
"He said his intent was to try to use an example of herpes," Seegren’s report says. "Students interpreted the comment to mean that (the girl) either engaged in oral sex or had herpes." The girl writes in a statement included in Seegren’s report that Rattay made another false comment about how she was promiscuous as she sat down.
"But at that moment I was so embarrassed and infuriated, I wasn’t concentrating on his words," the girl writes.
Rattay coached at Desert Vista in Ahwatukee Foothills from 1996 to 2001 and now coaches at Phoenix Christian High School. He has continued teaching at Desert Vista and was recently renewed as physical education department chairman for the 2005-06 school year.
Rattay did not return calls Monday for comment, but former Desert Vista assistant principal Jane Jones spoke in his defense.
"He’s a Christian man, and there’s no way he said anything inappropriate," said Jones, who filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the district in 2003.
She said that Desert Vista principal Joe McDonald, who fired Rattay as football coach after the 2001 season, is out to get Rattay.
She also said that Seegren is untrustworthy and did not include the names of students she interviewed in her report. In her wrongful termination lawsuit, Jones has accused Seegren of lying to prospective employers in a manner that prevented Jones from finding work after the governing board fired her in 2002.
Seegren’s investigation of Rattay found insufficient evidence to support allegations of sexual harassment against the well-known coach who won state football championships at Mesa High School, Desert Vista and Phoenix Christian.
The state Department of Education’s teacher certification unit received notification of the complaints against Rattay in November and is now awaiting additional information from the Tempe district before it considers action.
The girl and her parents complained to McDonald about the incident on Oct. 21, and the matter was handed over to Seegren for investigation.
The girl’s mother said Monday she had no prior knowledge of any feud between Rattay and McDonald, and her motivation for filing the complaint was the safety of her daughter. She said her motivation in releasing the report to the public was to put pressure on the district to disclose what type of discipline Rattay has received.
"We gave Tempe Union every opportunity to do the right thing here, and it’s not happening," the woman said.
Chris Thomas, legal counsel for the Arizona School Boards Association, said parents likely have a right to inspect teacher discipline records under the Arizona Public Records Law.
"Teacher evaluations, by statute, are confidential," Thomas said. "But if a teacher has been disciplined outside the normal evaluation process, that would be public record." In a separate complaint filed against Rattay at about the same time as the other, a female student accuses Rattay of calling her ugly and making other comments about her appearance.