Teacher Settles Suit Alleging Whistleblowing Retaliation

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TORRANCE (CNS) - A former teacher at a Catholic high school has tentatively settled his suit against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, in which he maintained he was wrongfully fired in part due to his objections to alleged administration requests that he raise some students' grades.

Attorneys for 66-year-old plaintiff Bernard Labat filed court papers Friday with Torrance Superior Court Judge Gary Y. Tanaka notifying him of a "conditional" settlement in the case and that a request for dismissal will be filed by July 15. No terms were revealed.

Labat's lawsuit allegations included wrongful termination and whistleblower retaliation. In their court papers filed before the settlement announcement, archdiocese attorneys said actions taken against Labat were done so for a "legitimate business reason" and that the case should be dismissed.

Labat was hired in August 2020 at St. Bernard High School in Playa del Rey. The administration told Labat often that Black students needed to be taught differently, the suit stated.

"Plaintiff was shocked and appalled that defendants would make such racially charged comments" and believed the administration "had a disdain for people of color," according to the suit.

Labat believed in holding all of his students equally accountable for completion of their work and grades and he gave several students Ds and Fs in October 2020 progress reports, the suit stated.

"Defendants told plaintiff that he had to change students' grades as it was unacceptable for them to receive such low grades," the suit stated while noting that the school's athletic department was nationally ranked.

Labat was "taken aback" that he was instructed to change grades and to grade leniently, believed that the instruction was unlawful and did not comply, the suit stated.

Labat alleges the school administration "did in fact change final grades" after he submitted his final grading, but asked him to sign off on the allegedly revised marks because they "needed a paper trail to show that plaintiff made a mistake and was the one changing them," according to the suit.

Labat, who believed that the request was illegal and refused, was fired a week before Christmas in 2020, the suit stated. Labat  maintained he lost his job in part for his whistleblowing about the alleged grade changes. He also contends the administration ignored his complaint of sexual harassment by the mother of a student who allegedly asked him to send her a video of himself.

Labat believed that the administration "wanted to rid themselves of someone making complaints of harassment," the suit stated.

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