Hampson VS Seattle School District No. 1

 I've now read both briefs for Director Chandra Hampson's lawsuit against the district to overturn the independent investigation finding that she used her positional authority to harass/bully/intimidate two senior Black staffers. I've uploaded both to Scribed; here's the link for her brief and here is the link for the district's reply. 

I'll just give a brief analysis of both and then go in-depth with both. I'll state the obvious in advance - I'm no lawyer. 

My take is that the Court will decline to offer relief to Director Hampson. I think this mainly because there isn't much there, there in her brief and I don't think any court really wants to get involved in the minutia of municipal oversight. 

What makes the briefs so different is the amount of verbiage used in timeline detail in Hampson's brief versus actual case law cited by the district. 

One key issue - that came up the night the Board took the vote to accept the findings of the investigation and sanctioning Hampson and DeWolf- is whether the HIB (harassment, bullying and intimidation) policy (Policy 5207) in question covers Board members. At the Board meeting it was stated that the wording of the policy said nothing about the Board. It is quite startling to find out that it didn't occur to anyone in the development of the policy to include the Board. (Of course, maybe I should go back and look at the development because perhaps it was considered but the Board didn't want themselves in there. Convenient to write policies about other people's behavior within the district but not your own.)

Will the Court see this and say, if the Board members are not mentioned in said policy, then that negates the vote by the Board. Maybe but does that clear Hampson? Of course not.

 The findings are the findings whether Board members are included in that policy. It's ridiculous to say that everything that Hampson and former Board director Zachary DeWolf did to staffers Dr. Keisha Scarlett and Manal Al-ansi didn't happen. They did. Or that they didn't matter. Or weren't that bad. You can indeed measure those actions against the policy but policy or not, the directors clearly wanted to control the work of the two staffers and clearly "orchestrated" actions against the two women. 

Good luck erasing that from voters' minds. I'm sure this also won't easily be erased from minds at JSCEE. 

Hampson Brief

 If you have heard Hampson speak, you very clearly hear her voice in this. She's not a lawyer but I suspect she got her lawyers to allow her to write some of this. 

First, as usual, she does some self-promotion to set the stage.  I assume this is to have the Court think well of her. One key line from the Introduction:

After a crucial Board Executive Committee meeting in which these staff members' preferences were sidelined, the staff members lodged a formal complaint against Director Hampson. An investigation ensued.

What is odd here is that 1) the complaint was against both Hampson and DeWolf and 2) "an investigation ensued" because Hampson and DeWolf demanded it. The staffers didn't.

The ending statement of the Introduction is also her version of why this policy should not be used against Board members (and not because they are not in the policy):

She now appeals because an HIB policy is a serious matter for addressing real concerns in the workplace, not for the District to use as a lever to rebalance power over policy-making in favor of District staff instead of the voters' chosen representatives.

The District wasn't trying to do that at all. Again, the investigation was not what the District wanted and you see this in a comment from the interview for the investigation from former superintendent Denise Juneau. 

The Board makes policy, absolutely. But when they ask district staff for help and then try to oversee them, that is a step too far. Board members do NOT direct staff and this is where Hampson is very wrong. 

In the Statement of the Case, there is a history of the situation provided. We are told Hampson, then SCPTSA president, was working with then-director Jill Geary on this "anti-racism" policy. It is noted that Dr. Keisha Scarlett (Doe in the briefs)was to be the lead staff member to move this work through the adoption process and that "Doe understood Director's Geary's expectation."

Except nowhere in this brief is that expectation explained.

We see Hampson expressing impatience over the slowness of Policy 0040 moving forward. She says the policy "stalled" and for emphasis "ten months" after it had been given to Scarlett.  In the brief we see this statement:

In August 2020, Doe herself had stated in an email that "competing priorities" had pushed Policy 0040 back. 

Let's see from December 2019 to June 2020, was there anything big going starting up, going on? Like a pandemic?

Scarlett had delegated the community engagement work to Manal Al-ansi (here referenced as Tammy Roe). Hampson claims that Al-ansi didn't document her work so Hampson didn't believe she had done it.

Hampson pushed on for an August BAR (Board Action Report) in order to introduce it to the Board at one meeting and then take a vote at the next Board meeting. Scarlett pushed back, saying it could not be ready until September because of the need for further community engagement. Hampson says she was not "apprised" of these communications among staffers and "those staff members proposal to delay Policy 0040." She makes a judgement here that they were trying to delay it rather than making sure they had done due diligence on their side.

Hampson tries over and over to make it sound like she and only she had the ear of the Black community when, in fact, Scarlett is Black and is a known community member. Al-Ansi is a lawyer trained in community engagement. 

The timeline rendition goes on, with Hampson saying she will create the BAR herself. 

She describes the phone call on August 28, 2020 with DeWolf, Hampson, Scarlett, Al-Mansi and a staffer, Ellie Wilson-Jones, which has been termed by several as "terrible." 

Hampson makes it personal speaking of the two staffers, saying that "after not getting their way at this Board Executive meeting..." Again, Hampson does not disclose it was she and DeWolf that asked for the investigation but again says "The District hired an investigator...." 

At one point in the history, the vote of the Board on the investigation is brought up. I will note that neither Hampson or DeWolf said a word in their defense at that time nor did they say they did not believe the policy on HIB applied to them. They abstained from the vote as did Director Leslie Harris.

Under Argument, the claim is made that the district made a "quasi-judicial" decision.

Again, Board members do not have the authority to direct staff. That has been the standard for decades in the district and indeed, numerous Board have been called out for "micromanaging" staff which is EXACTLY what Hampson sought to do. Over and over.

I do agree with one statement that the Board can run their own committee meetings as they see fit. However, it also means that the district staff does not have to interact with the Board on just the Board's own terms. 

It's interesting that Hampson says that "The District has not provided Board members with their own staff..." This has been a cry from many a Board. However, the Board does vote on the budget. They could easily tell the Superintendent to reallocate money - from somewhere - for the Board to have at least a couple of staffers. To the best of my knowledge that has never happened. 

The brief also tries to align directors evaluating staff work with principals evaluating teachers. Apples and oranges.

One good point brought up is Hampson's "intent." The HIB policy bans actions that "are intended.." Well, you can read the investigation and see how, time after time, Hampson used a harsh tone especially on the phone call. 

At the end of the brief there is this statement:

There is no basis for concluding that Director Hampson's actions in taking greater responsibility somehow "substantially affected the workplace" within the meaning of HIB. 

Perhaps so but have you ever had a boss who made going to work everyday tie your stomach up in knots? That everything you did was being judged and challenged? TPerhaps that was what Scarlett and Al-Mansi were experiencing from their interactions with Hampson.

Hampson's brief devolves to the point of saying that even if Hampson yelled on the phone call, so did Scarlett. 

Hilariously, it also states that Hampson was critical of a host of many other people including the Superintendent. I'm not sure this helps her case. 

District's Reply

First off, the district's brief includes more than a page of state cases to back it up.

The district does make clear it was Directors Hampson and DeWolf who insisted on the investigation. 

The district is far more concise on the history of the policy but do make it clear that Scarlet and Al-ansi were trying to work with the two directors.

Also to note on the infamous phone call, the district explains that the staffer on the call was so shaken that she called both the superintendent and chief of staff to express her concern, saying the call was "abusive and disrespectful."

The district's brief also conveys that Hampson got a letter about the findings of the investigation and that it was up to the Board "to determine whether any corrective action should be taken to address the violation." So all the district did was convey the information. 

I am not privy to how the decision was made for the Board to vote to accept the investigative report AND vote to sanction Hampson and DeWolf. I note at the time that DeWolf was the Board president and Hampson the VP. 


"It is well-established that this Court's review of administrative decisions under RCW 28A.645.010 is limited to whether the challenged decision was arbitrary and capricious or contrary to law."

The district says that they did NOT make a "quasi-judicial determination" but rather "an administrative action." 

Tellingly, Director Hampson cites no authority in support of her claim that the district's action here was quasi-judicial, nor could she.

The district cites a decision, just two months old - Bawden vs Seattle Public Schools - as the standard to be used here.

Finally, Director Hampson does not argue (nor cite) the four factors established by the Supreme Court in Francisco v Bd of Directors of the Bellevue Public Schools that determine whether an agency action is administrative or quasi-judicial. Applying the Francisco factors, the district's issuance of the outcome letter adopting the MFR Report and the Board's subsequent action are clearly administrative. 

I recommend reading the full page 9 of the district's brief because it certainly is detailed on the issue being administrative. That's their point one.

Then they go on to discuss whether "The District's Decision Adopting the MFR Report Was Not Arbitrary and Capricious." 

They make the point that the Hampson brief does not say the investigation was not conducted properly or identify how the district ignored "material facts" or that the brief states "any unreasonable action by the district." Rather, Hampson argues that Reed should have reached a different conclusion. The district used the idea that two things can be correct at the same time, no matter how one party might want only one thing to be correct.

The district goes on to cite a decision that states "Where there is room for two opinions, an action taken after due consideration is not arbitrary and capricious even though a reviewing court may believe it to be erroneous."

Their next defense of "The District's Decision Adopting the MFR Report was not Contrary to Law."

Director Hampson identifies no laws implicated by the district's decision, let alone violated by it.

Director Hampson does not challenge the authority under which the Board promulgated its anti-harassment policy, she merely disagrees with its application to her own conduct.

Finally, Director Hampson overlooks the fact that as a Board member, she is empowered to propose changes to Policy 5207, to vote to repeal it, or to argue that it should not apply to Board members at all.

Director Hampson provides no argument or authority in support of the request (to vacate the Board's motion), nor explains why directing a board member to review and comply with well-established district policy is arbitrary and capricious or contrary to law.

I think the district put forth a very strong case.  


Anonymous said…
Wow, Hampson is something else. What kind of signal does this send to students to evade responsibility of your own actions, bullying and berating two black women who do equity work at the district? And what terrible optics is it to sue your district when you are the public servant, rather than apologize and move on. SPS had no choice but to investigate Hampson and DeWolf, because the policy provides protection against HIB in the workplace. The findings are the findings.

What is she thinking? I saw you tweeted on this and do hope some mainstream press picks it up. This person cannot continue to hold a leadership position in the school community, and the more transparency about who she is, the better.

Journalsits, Help
Anonymous said…
When talking to friends in San Francisco, one of the key reasons people supported the recall of Alison Collins from the school board there was that she too had sued her district after being cited for racist words and actions.

Chandra is a walking scandal factory who clearly is unfit to serve on the school board or in any elected office. The question now is whether her board colleagues will let her destroy the schools before she is voted out of office in 2023 or if they'll stand up to her. Four board seats are up for election next year, so we could have an entirely new board majority, especially if the incumbents continue to enable Chandra...

Sancti Francisci
BK said…
The main purpose for any school board is to focus on how to provide for the education of the students that they serve.Adult-focused lawsuits such as the one described here are a distraction from the goal of educating children and should be dismissed.How is the filling of this lawsuit helping the students in the Seattle School District? The answer is ... it is not.
OY said…
There is one constant: Hampson and DeWolf were found to bully staff.

Is anyone keeping track of costs? The Investigative report, as I recall, cost taxpayers around $120K. SPS legal costs must be astronomical.

Hampson will respond to the district in April and, then, there will be a hearing. Meanwhile, costs are mounting!

Thanks for reporting/
Anonymous said…
Self perpetuating drama feedback loop! Lawsuits and recalls swirling around this woman wherever she goes. Voters really got this wrong!


Anonymous said…
I voted for her and I truly regret it. I plan to do everything I can to ensure she doesn't get elected again when the time comes.
Anonymous said…
A lesson from the election for my district last November was that the most crucial work which could pre-determine the outcome was already done even before we could vote on it.
The fact that Brandon Hersey was the only candidate on the Ballot was deeply regrettable. We must monitor all things that would force us into a situation like that. Powerful special interest groups (such as WEA, SPS) are even more interested in our elections than we are.

Anonymous said…
Between her harassment/intimidation/bullying of two Black staffers, and her claims that Black parents speaking in favor of advanced learning are merely "tokens," is it time to conclude Chandra Hampson is an anti-Black racist?

Surely any other board member who had said and done such things would be described as anti-Black, and rightly so. Why is Chandra allowed to get away with it?

Justice Time
I do not think a recall would work and I again say - please ask anyone you know in District 3 - to consider running. Here's a map of where that is.


As I have said previously, I'm glad to talk to anyone who has questions, I can put possible candidates in touch with people who have run and I'm willing to put money towards campaigns.

Did you notice I said "campaigns"? That's because I would like to see more than one person run. Then it would be possible to primary Hampson out.

I KNOW there have to be some good people out there.

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