CKSD hit with sexual harassment lawsuit

A civil lawsuit filed Feb. 27 alleges that the Central Kitsap School District didn’t do enough to stop an employee with a reputation for sexual harassment.

Anne Whitman is suing the district on grounds that it fostered a hostile work environment due to sexual harassment; retaliated against Whitman after she complained about the harassment; and was negligent in retaining James Bogert, the co-worker who allegedly harassed Whitman.

Whitman worked for New Frontiers Alternative Junior High School as an instructional assistant. She alleges that she was sexually harassed by Bogert between October 1999 and May 2000.

Whitman, who has worked for the district since 1995, is seeking damages for emotional distress, back pay and reimbursement for attorney fees.

CKSD spokeswoman Jeanie Schulze said Thursday that the district had not yet been served papers, but “if were were served, we would not comment on pending litigation.”

In documents filed in Kitsap County Superior Court, Whitman contends that Bogert made unwelcome comments about her physical appearance, touched her inappropriately on her arms and shoulders and showed her sexually explicit e-mails under the pretense that he wanted her to review work-related materials.

“It is our contention that Bogert had propensity for sexually harassing women, and they did little to protect women in the Central Kitsap School District from his behavior,” said Beverly Grant, Whitman’s attorney.

One incident named in the suit took place in fall 1999, when Whitman’s husband was out of town. Bogert and Whitman were eating lunch when, according to court documents, “Bogert commented that since the plaintiff’s husband was out of town and his wife might as well be out of town because they don’t sleep in the same end of the house, plaintiff and he should get together.”

Whitman replied that her husband was built like a professional wrestler “and he would not like that a bit,” according to the lawsuit.

In April 2000, Whitman formally complained to Ken Wolfe, the district’s assistant director of secondary education. Shortly afterward, CKSD reduced Whitman’s work schedule from 35 hours per week to 28. The tort alleges the move was an act of retaliation against Whitman.

The negligence charge stems from the fact that Bogert was investigated for sexual harassment in 1997, when he was a counselor at Central Kitsap Junior High. Cathy Davidson, now the district superintendent, concluded that there was a pattern of harassment. Bogert received two days of unpaid leave and was transferred to New Frontiers.

“We are alleging that there was a continued pattern of harassment,” Grant said. “The district turned a deaf ear to the problems. In the industry when you pass a sexual harasser to another (school), it’s called passing the trash. We allege that he should never have been placed in New Frontiers Junior High.”

Whitman still works for the CKSD, but is on medical leave as a result of stress caused by the alleged harassment, Grant said.

It was not clear whether Bogert was fired after the complaint was filed or whether he was permitted to retire, Grant said, but she suspects the latter.

A court date has not been set, according to Grant.

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