Records show what a school board hid: sexual harassment complaint against departing superintendent

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Superintendent

Superintendent Stetson Roane left the Seguin school district in March 2017 the way many top school administrators do in Texas: with a hefty pay packet and a school board-approved agreement that no word of any alleged failings or misdeeds would follow him to his next job.

Roane got a $99,500 severance payment and a promise from school board members that they would not report to the state any allegations regarding his conduct during his 18 months with the district.

Now, recently released court records show Roane left the district, northeast of San Antonio, over an accusation that he had made sexual overtures in an Austin hotel room to Halcy Martin-Dean, the district’s director of special education, at a conference in January 2017.

Martin-Dean later filed suit against Roane, alleging that she had been traumatized by the incident and its aftermath and seeking damages of between $200,000 and $1 million.

According to the lawsuit, Roane insisted on accompanying Martin-Dean to her hotel room following a dinner with several district staffers.

“Roane then insisted on entering Halcy’s room, at which point, he began to disrobe,” the complaint said. “Defendant Roane discussed his ‘stress level’ and his need for ‘release.’ He discussed how attractive Halcy was and how he needed someone like her to ‘work with him.’ He talked about how they could do great things together and ‘be powerful.’… Defendant began to boast about his sexual abilities with women, and he began to describe how he could pleasure Halcy sexually in many ways.”

Martin-Dean said she refused and Roane left the room.

“An immediate, very uncomfortable and disturbing work environment was created for plaintiff,” the complaint said. “She was very afraid that her having turned down his private, personal request for a sexual relationship, and his private, after-hours demand to perform sexual acts on her would have a significant impact on her job.”

Martin-Dean said she suffered from trauma following the incident, even after she filed a sexual harassment complaint with the district and Roane was placed on administrative leave. Roane’s wife, Denise, was Martin-Dean’s supervisor, increasing her stress, the complaint said.

Denise Roane, who had been hired as an administrator at the same time Stetson took office, remained as Martin-Dean’s supervisor for a time after the incident. She was given a severance of around $40,000 when her husband stepped down.

In court documents, Stetson Roane denies the allegations, saying he quit for “personal reasons.”

After Martin-Dean filed the sexual harassment complaint with the district in February 2017, the district hired an outside lawyer to conduct an investigation.

“The district investigated and they did not make a finding against him,” Tony Conners, who represents Roane in another case, told the Harlingen newspaper.

The results of that probe have not been released. Roane has filed a motion to seal the documents in Martin-Dean’s lawsuit.

Martin-Dean opposes the motion.

“Court records are presumed open to the public,” said attorney Walt Taylor, who is representing Martin-Dean. “There is a high burden to get them sealed and I don’t believe that’s appropriate in this case.”

Roane’s contract included a clause, common to most school superintendent agreements, acknowledging that he could be dismissed for cause, which would allow the district to release him without severance pay.  But the district opted to pay him.

Several members of the Seguin school board, including Board President Cinde Thomas-Jimenez, did not respond to calls or emails seeking an interview for this story.

Attorney Christopher Schulz, who represents the district, said releasing a teacher or administrator is often done with consideration of the cost to the district. Disciplinary hearings, court reporters and other legal costs are paid for by the district in a disputed case.

“It’s not always as straightforward as just getting rid of an educator,” Schulz said. He declined to speak specifically about the Roane case.

The release agreement for Roane also said he would be provided with a neutral job reference.

Three months after he resigned from the Seguin job, Roane was hired as superintendent of a smaller district near Brownsville. The Raymondville school board voted 5-2 to hire him at a salary of $147,000.

Attorney Tiger Hanner, who represented Martin-Dean for a time in 2017, said the Raymondville trustees knew about Roane’s background.

“There were media outlets chasing the story,” Hanner said. “They were in full knowledge of the situation when they hired him in Raymondville.” He said that to his knowledge, the internal investigation in Seguin did not exonerate Roane.

Board members from Raymondville also spoke with Seguin board members while considering Roane, said Schulz, the Seguin district’s lawyer.

In August, the Raymondville school board voted 6-0 to give Roane a 19 percent pay raise, from $147,000 to $175,000.

Raymondville School Board President John Solis, who voted against Roane’s hiring, did not return a call seeking an interview.

Several media outlets filed public information requests for records related to the incident at the Austin conference. When the state attorney general’s office ruled many of the records were public, Roane sued the state, saying the records were not of “legitimate public concern.” He lost in district court and has appealed to the state 14th Court of Appeals.

Neither Roane nor his current lawyer, Jennifer Powell, responded to calls from The Texas Monitor.

Steve Miller can be reached at [email protected].

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