Superintendent Fired After Allegedly Threatening Students Who Didn’t Clap Enough for Daughter at Ceremony

California superintendent Marian Kim Phelps has denied any wrongdoing and said she "never threatened any student"

  • Marian Kim Phelps was fired as Poway Unified School District Superintendent after she allegedly harassed and bullied members of her daughter's high school softball team

  • According to a lawsuit filed against Phelps, she reportedly threatened the team's graduation privileges after she felt they didn't clap loudly enough for her daughter at an awards ceremony

  • Phelps has denied any wrongdoing, claiming in a statement that she "never threatened any student"

California superintendent Marian Kim Phelps was fired following an investigation into accusations that she bullied members of her daughter's high school softball team.

The Poway Unified School District board voted on April 30 to unanimously terminate Phelps "effective immediately" following an independent investigation into harassment claims made by players of the Del Norte High School softball team, board president Michelle O'Connor-Ratcliff said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

“The investigation brought to light previously unknown evidence from witnesses with direct first-hand knowledge, that contradicted Dr. Phelps’ statements and assertions to the board, district staff, and the public,” said O’Connor-Ratcliff.

“Based on her conduct, as revealed to the board through the investigation, the board has lost all confidence and trust in Dr. Phelps’ ability to continue to serve as superintendent, as well as in her ability to continue to work collaboratively with the board as part of Poway Unified’s governance team," O'Connor-Ratcliff added.

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Back in November, team members and parents first alleged that the superintendent bullied one of the players, claiming she was behind an effort not to cheer loudly enough for her daughter at a softball awards banquet, according to NBC affiliate KNSD.

A lawsuit filed in November, which identified the student only as Jane Doe, claimed that Phelps "constructed a narrative falsely suggesting" the student bullied her daughter.

Phelps also allegedly "made threats aimed at the entire senior softball group that either they admit that they orchestrated a conspiracy to not clap for J.P. at the softball banquet or...Phelps would ensure that none of the senior softball players would be allowed to walk at graduation," per the complaint.

In a statement to KNSD, Phelps denied any wrongdoing and said she "never threatened any student."

"I've never talked to any student about making threats about them not graduating," she said. "All those accusations are completely false and fabricated.”

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Per the complaint, Phelps' daughter alleged in a written statement that the "table full of senior softball players and [the] Plaintiff 'would cheer in a loud and overly exaggerated way for certain players and then not at all for me.' "

"In her statement, she accuses her teammates of feeling 'jealousy' and 'hate' towards her," the suit read.

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Following the banquet, Phelps allegedly made "unsolicited contact" with the Plaintiff, texting and then calling her, the suit alleged. During the call, she also allegedly used "disparaging" and "derogatory" language about the student.

As a result of the superintendent's "unfounded and false allegations," an internal investigation was launched, which resulted in the student being "barred from all extracurricular activities for a significant portion of the 2023-2024 academic year," including the softball team.

Neither Phelps nor the high school, which are all named in the lawsuit, responded to PEOPLE's requests for comment.

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In a statement obtained by PEOPLE on Thursday, a lawyer for the unnamed high school student from the complaint called Phelps' termination "a significant victory" for his client in addition to "all students, their families, and numerous employees whose lives have been affected by Ms. Phelps' actions."

"The district's flagrant disregard for the facts we presented to it, and its need to initiate an independent investigation reveal profound weaknesses in its leadership and internal oversight capabilities, particularly concerning senior officials and the Trustees," said Justin G. Reden. "This moment calls for the District to look within, and critically assess its leadership, personnel, and procedural deficiencies."

Following the ouster, the district said Greg Mizel will continue in his role as interim superintendent during this period of transition.

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