Former principal at Frank Wright sued for alleged sex harrassment

March 17, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

IMPERIAL — After being reassigned in December and receiving a notice of unprofessional conduct from the Imperial Unified School District Board of Trustees, former Frank Wright Intermediate School Principal John Marshall is the defendant in a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Frank Wright teacher Sheri Pexton alleges in the suit that Marshall sexually harassed her repeatedly since 1997.

"During the course of her employment, plaintiff (Pexton) was repeatedly subjected to sexual harassment and specifically verbal and physical conduct and communications of a sexual nature by the co-defendant, John Marshall," the complaint reads.

In the complaint, Pexton and her husband, Kelly Pexton, claim Marshall "expressly and impliedly threatened he'd cause her severe economic hardship by telling superintendent he'd received complaints regarding her unless she agreed to the unwelcome sexual requests and demands by him."

The suit also names the Imperial Unified School District as co-defendant.

"Defendant (IUSD), knew or should have known of its agents' representations, its employees conduct and conversations, and should have timely and appropriately taken action since prior complaint had been made regarding Mr. Marshall to the school district," the complaint reads.


Pexton made a complaint to the district in October of last year under the district's sexual harassment policy.

She and her husband submitted two claims, one an amendment of the other, in November and December last year of injuries, losses and damages incurred by the couple by reason of the conduct of Marshall.

The first was rejected by the district due to insufficiency of details such as dates of alleged incidents. The amended second claim, which included dates, was rejected on the basis it was untimely because the alleged events occurred over six months before the first claim was made.

An investigation performed by the district into the matter, however, resulted in a notice of unprofessional conduct being sent to Marshall and his reassignment from his position as principal at Frank Wright to a teaching position at Imperial High School.

"We have just received the lawsuit and it is under careful review," said IUSD Superintendent Barbara Layaye, adding the district's attorney is also reviewing the suit.

"I respectfully decline further comment," Layaye said.

When reached for comment, Marshall responded that he'd been advised to direct all questions to his attorney.

The district and Marshall's El Cajon-based attorney, C. Anne Hudson said, "We're reviewing (the suit) to determine the best course of action."

The Pexton's attorney is John Breeze of El Centro.

Sheri Pexton is living with relatives in Utah while on leave of absence from teaching at Frank Wright, Breeze said.

It is not certain if Pexton will return to Frank Wright, Breeze said.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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