A chorus of hot-for-teacher jokes kicked into overdrive in May, when a Palm Beach County charter school principal was busted by police in a car that stank of marijuana, with a male student, in a state of alleged hanky-panky.
The incident landed Krista Morton, principal of Mavericks High in Palm Springs since 2012, and an 18-year-old male student with drug-possession charges. Morton also lost her job as head of the tuition-free public charter school, part of a South Florida chain that has a troubled track record of meeting state standards for student success.
A recent lawsuit filed in Palm Beach County added another crinkle to the tale. A former secretary from the school claims she knew about Morton’s weed habit and inappropriate tendencies with students, was fired for that knowledge, and raised a red flag to Mavericks staff five months before Morton’s arrest.
According to the civil court filing, Jackelin Cruz was hired as a receptionist/secretary at the Palm Springs Mavericks campus in October 2013. In November 2014, she was in a school restroom when she discovered Morton’s purse on the floor. Cruz noticed the purse smelled like bud, looked inside, and found “a bag of marijuana and a thick-looking cigarette.”
Cruz claims she took the drugs to a Palm Springs Police officer working at the campus. An investigation was begun, but no charges were brought, the complaint says.
But on December 1, Cruz was called into a meeting with Morton. The principal allegedly told Cruz she could either resign of be fired. Cruz “was not given any reason for the meeting and subsequent option,” and when she refused to quit, Morton signed her termination notice, effective immediately.
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Cruz alleges that on December 11, she sent an email to Mavericks staff “and several of their officers explaining what happened as well as other allegations of misdeeds by Ms. Morton. The email contained several screenshots of social networking websites. The screenshots show that Morton was interacting with students inappropriately, including references to drug use and relationships with students.”
Cruz alleges that the school ignored her evidence, choosing “not to investigate Morton further” despite the “visual proof confirming inappropriate conduct.”
Six months later, Morton was busted by police in the car with the 18-year-old Mavericks student.
Cruz is now suing the school chain, claiming her firing was a retaliatory personnel action in violation of the Whistleblower Act. Her attorney, Edward Rosenberg, declined to comment on the legal action. A message for Mavericks' CEO was not returned by presstime. We'll update with comments if the school gets in touch.