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Home / Neighborhood / San Gabriel Valley / Gay former West Covina Unified principal tentatively settles suit

Gay former West Covina Unified principal tentatively settles suit

by City News Service
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A gay former West Covina Unified School District principal has tentatively settled her lawsuit against the district in which she alleged she was forced to resign in 2022 because of sexual orientation and gender discrimination as well as harassment.

Candace Leuthold’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit also alleged she was paid less than a male colleague with equal responsibilities. On Tuesday, her attorney filed court papers with Judge Christopher K. Lui notifying him of a “conditional” settlement of the case and that a request for dismissal will be filed by Dec. 31. No terms were divulged.

In their earlier court papers, WCUSD attorneys denied Leuthold’s allegations and said her claims were barred by the statute of limitations.

Leuthold, now 49, was hired in September 2017 and served as principal of Mt. SAC Early College Academy, the suit stated. In 2018, Assistant Superintendent of Education Services Denise Knutsen told Leuthold that she needed to wear a suit or a skirt, even though men holding the same positions were not required to wear suits, according to the complaint.

Knutsen also told Leuthold to work with Lisa Maggiore, a woman that the plaintiff supervised and who was gay like Leuthold, to change her appearance because Knutsen “couldn’t tell if she was a custodian or an assistant principal based on her attire,” the suit stated.

However, Leuthold’s supervision of Maggiore was ended when the plaintiff disclosed to Knutsen and another administrator that she and Maggiore were living together, according to the suit.

A male co-worker performing the same duties as Knutsen was paid more than her, but then-Superintendent Charles Hinman did not explain the disparity when the plaintiff asked why, the suit stated.

When Leuthold proposed two classes for the spring 2022 semester, Introduction to Sex and Gender Roles and Introduction to LGBTQ Studies, Knutsen rejected both ideas and “insinuated that plaintiff had an agenda because of her sexual orientation,” the suit stated.

In December 2021, Leuthold was notified that she was being reassigned to the district office in the wake of an investigation regarding an anonymous complaint involving her relationship with her same-sex co-worker and its alleged impact on her leadership of Mt. SAC Early College Academy, the suit stated.

“Additionally, the finding contained allegations that Leuthold was not qualified to lead MECA and that she had retaliated against individuals who complained about MECA administration, effectively silencing the staff,” the suit stated.

In April 2022, Leuthold was directed not to speak to Maggiore during the school day under threat of discipline, and two months later, she was reassigned to an elementary school as a physical education teacher, even though she had never before taught at an elementary school or instructed on physical education, according to the suit. Her pay also was cut by 30%, the suit stated.

Leuthold resigned from the WCUSD in July 2022 due to the alleged discrimination, harassment and retaliation she experienced, according to the suit. which additionally stated that she has suffered financially and also experienced “profound pain and emotional distress.”

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