Whilst browsing through some federal court documents this morning, we stumbled across a case filed on Wednesday: Miguel Arango v. Dallas Independent School District et al. Certainly, any cases involving the DISD intrigue us, even one as seemingly routine as a wrongful termination suit -- the kind filed against city, state and county agencies all the time. But this one especially got us intrigued, as it involves a teacher who's a legal alien, allegations of sexual impropriety with a female student and threats of deportation. And the man who filed the suit in U.S. District Court is in Lew Sterrett Justice Center at this very moment -- "having done nothing wrong," says his attorney. "It's awful, just awful."
Arango says in his complaint that he's a citizen of Colombia in the United States on a H-1B visa, which allows specialists in various fields to stay in this country for up to six years. Arango says he's been teaching bilingual education in DISD since August 2003, and in June 2006 his contract was renewed to keep him on the payroll through the current school year. But in October, he says in court documents, his trouble with the district began after he "disciplined two female students for failing to follow instructions by having them stand at the wall of the classroom." He says later that day, one of his students at Julian T. Saldivar Elementary School near Love Field alleged Arango had "touched her inappropriately" in front of the other students. Arango denies the allegation -- "strenuously," according to the suit filed in U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer's court.
He also says he's taken, and passed, a lie detector test, and that he was "examined by a sexual predator expert commonly utilized by the District Attorney's office who has determined that [Arango] shows none of the tendencies of a sexual predator." He also insists the other students in the class say they saw no alleged inappropriate touching or other "inappropriate behavior." Nonetheless, says Arango, he was arrested on October 6, and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began questioning the status of his visa--the extension of which had been filed but not yet granted (it has since been extended, he says).
Arango says he was kept in the Dallas County jail for a week, then turned over to ICE officials, who refused to allow him to see his attorney. ICE claimed "there was insufficient room in the facility" for Arango to talk to his attorney. However, Dana Davis, an administrative investigator for the district who is also named in the lawsuit, was allowed to question Arango, who had no attorney present. Arango alleges that Davis claimed there was videotape of the incident and that the district "had DNA evidence that implicated" him. Arango says he was terrified that the district had "manufactured" evidence to implicate him.
Arango says Davis wanted him to resign immediately, lest she fire him on the spot--something she doesn't have the power to do. He says he was so scared he signed the resignation form Davis had brought with her. He says she also made him write on the form, "I am not under duress." He now says, in short: Of course I was.
Because his visa's dependent upon his employment, Arango is in jeopardy of being sent back to Colombia. He says he's tried to get a hearing with the DISD board of trustees, as per his contract, but has had no luck in getting them to listen to him plead his case. Arango wants his job back, so he can stay in the country. And he wants "actual and punitive damages" as well.
Julie Heath, Arango's attorney, has also filed on Arango's behalf a request for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction that would allow him to get out of jail and return to work, lest he be deported while awaiting the outcome of the case. She hopes she can get a hearing on the injunction within the next 10 days, preferably within the week.
"He's entitled to be reinstated, and I think it will happen eventually," Heath says. "I think we have all the elements of a need for immediate relief. He's in jail right now and being threatened with deportation. And one of the things that's so awful about this is the teachers who have heard about this are scared to death, because they see DISD not defending [Arango] or upholding his contract, and they're saying, 'This could happen to me.' It sure could. "
DISD spokesperson Ivette Cruz Weis says the district will not discuss the case, as it's "a personnel matter, and we don't comment on those." --Robert Wilonsky