Former Santa Fe Public School Administrator Awarded $800,000 in Whistleblower Suit

Former Santa Fe High School assistant principal Kelly Rinaldi was awarded nearly $800,000 in a whistleblower lawsuit against the school district. Rinaldi alerted colleagues of allegations of sexual misconduct against high school student athletes in 2017.

Case background

In 2017, Rinaldi spoke up about the sexual misconduct allegations and asked the district to investigate the allegations. Members of the Santa Fe High basketball team had been accused of engaging in sexual activities with a teen girl. They also took photos and videos of the incident. Rinaldi went on to work at the Early College Opportunities High School, where she raised additional concerns about a former principal at the school.

The jury found that Rinaldi had engaged in protected activities. They also found that the school district had retaliated against her. They created a hostile work environment and wrongfully denied her contract for the 2019-20 school year.

According to The New Mexican, police had investigated the sex crime allegations, which involved a 14-year-old girl and several male Santa Fe High students. The boys had filmed and livestreamed consensual sex acts, without the girl’s consent to film. The girl spoke to Rinaldi, who alerted the then-principal, who said no action needed to be taken. Rinaldi continued to insist on an investigation and consequences. Two basketball players were suspended from the team for the rest of the season. No charges were filed, and Rinaldi was ostracized by other school district members. She was also denied a promotion after alerting the district that the Early College Opportunities principal was drinking on the job, disregarding student rights and mishandling student funds.

The jury awarded Rinaldi $784,867: $528,666 for twice Rinaldi's back pay, plus interest from the time of her contract's nonrenewal until June 30, $168,699 for lost future earnings, $5,000 for contract-related emotional distress and $82,500 for emotional distress associated with a hostile work environment.

If you have a potential whistleblower claim, contact the experienced whistleblower attorneys at Kardell Law Group today.