- Associated Press - Monday, May 25, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A former Rio Rancho teacher says in a lawsuit that she was fired as a result of her involvement with a union and her outspoken criticism of school district officials.

The Albuquerque Journal reports (https://bit.ly/1HsgnrQ) that school officials countered that former Eagle Ridge Middle School teacher Lisa Christopherson acted in a disrespectful way toward her students that led to her firing in August 2012.

Christopherson’s lawsuit alleges school officials violated a federal law that protects employees who speak out against workplace fraud, abuse or waste from employer retaliation.

She claims after she publicly spoke out about large class sizes and a mold problem at her school that officials instructed her principal to solicit statements about a parent’s complaint that Christopherson had made an inappropriate statement to a student.

Two months later, Christopherson received a written notice of unsatisfactory performance based on the statements the district received from students, according to the lawsuit.

Rio Rancho officials deny Christopherson’s characterization of the district’s actions.

They said she was given a warning as a result of several complaints from parents and students because of her “demeaning and disrespectful attitude and interaction” with students in her class.

The district goes on to say that the following school year in February 2011, she was again reprimanded for “inappropriate use of demeaning language and rude behavior towards a student” in her class.

Christopherson began working for the district in 2005 and became the Rio Rancho School Employees Union representative on the Eagle Ridge campus in 2008.

She began to regularly attend school board meetings, often speaking about various concerns during the public comment period of the meeting.

Christopherson is seeking an injunction forcing the district to reinstate her as a teacher with the same seniority, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, https://www.abqjournal.com

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