The Scranton School Board is not legally bound to release the results of an investigation into harassment complaints made by the district superintendent, but directors have a moral obligation to tell taxpayers, families and students what — if anything — they learned.
As Staff Writer Sarah Hofius Hall reports today, the board huddled behind closed doors for a verbal report from Jarrett Ferentino. The Kingston attorney was hired in executive session for an unknown amount of taxpayer money, a violation of the state’s Sunshine Act.
Ferentino was secretly hired without a public vote in response to a June letter to the board from Alexis Kirijan, Ed.D., who alleged that school directors sexually harass her, create a hostile work environment and discriminate based on her gender and ethnicity. She threatened to sue if the harassment continued.
Kirijan’s letter may never have seen sunlight if the newspaper hadn’t obtained the document and shared it with the public. The board still hasn’t publicly voted to hire Ferentino or divulged what he will be paid. Now it is using the threat of litigation and personnel privacy protections as a justification for keeping the public in the dark.
“We can’t divulge it due to further potential lawsuits,” board Vice President Robert Casey said. “I don’t want to put the district into any further liability.”
Indeed, the board is wise to take the threat of lawsuits into account, but the public has a right to know whether Ferentino found any evidence to back Kirijan’s claims. If so, what action was taken? Are any of those she accused still employed by the district or on the school board?
The superintendent of the Scranton School District has claimed sexual and ethnic harassment by people entrusted with the education and well-being of the city’s children. The public has an absolute right to know whether the alleged adults in charge deserve that trust.
Kirijan said Wednesday she had not yet been briefed on Ferentino’s findings. She should be briefed today. Kirijan and the board should then jointly come clean on what happened, the consequences and what’s being done to ensure it never happens again.