Two former teachers at Heritage Elementary allege its two top administrators sexually harassed them repeatedly during the past year, creating a hostile environment that forced them to leave the Glendale charter school.

In a six-page demand letter to the school, the women say they are seeking the firing of Heritage Elementary Principal Justin Dye and Vice Principal Bradley Mitchell, along with $200,000 each in damages.

One of the teachers claims she was sexually harassed by both Dye and Mitchell during her time at the elementary school, and that Dye drugged her on two occasions when they were having drinks together.

The other teacher alleges Mitchell pressured her over months into having a sexual relationship with him and retaliated when she ended it. The woman said that she “felt she had nowhere to turn” to report Mitchell’s behavior because he told her “if she went to the board, they would laugh at her.”

The women claim harassment was pervasive at the school. Of 25 employees who left Heritage this year, Dye made inappropriate comments to or had a sexual relationship with at least 14, the letter states.

Six former Heritage employees told The Arizona Republic that multiple teachers during the past two years raised concerns about sexual harassment with school officials.

An attorney for Heritage, Roger Hall, said the school is investigating the women’s claims, but added that they have “serious credibility problems” and the school “disputes nearly all of the factual allegations” in the letter.

Heritage Superintendent Jackie Trujillo said she received no complaints of harassment from school employees, including from the two former teachers while they were employed at Heritage.

Trujillo said Dye has denied the allegation against him and passed a polygraph test in which he was asked whether he had given an employee drugs without their knowledge. Mitchell is also scheduled to take a polygraph test as part of the school’s investigation, she said.

RELATED: Glendale charter school reverses itself, will award teacher bonuses

Dye declined to comment to The Republic. Mitchell did not respond to questions sent to his school email or to a message left at Heritage. 

The Republic obtained the June 19 demand letter through a public records request to Heritage. The newspaper is not publishing the names of the women because they allege they are victims of sexual assault and harassment.

The women said they could not comment on advice from their attorney. Stephanie Leach, the women’s attorney, did not respond to a request for comment.


Sexual harassment has been a hot topic amid the #MeToo movement, but what are the facts about workplace sexual harassment?

The women’s allegations

The demand letter alleges Dye and Mitchell used their positions to entice the two teachers to have sex and retaliated when the women rebuffed their advances.

One of the teachers, who was 21 when she began working at Heritage in July 2016 said Dye soon started asking her on dates, according to the letter.

In May 2017, the woman and Dye went to a restaurant together and were drinking. Afterward, they went to Dye’s home and had more drinks. After taking a sip of a drink she said Dye told her “there were roofies in that.” (“Roofies” are sedative drugs, such as Rohypnol, placed in the drinks of unsuspecting victims.) 

The letter states that she recalled “the room spinning and Mr. Dye pulling her down the hallway to his room. She kept repeating that she would stay on the couch. The next day when she awoke, she was naked in his bed.”

The woman alleges that after that incident Dye offered her father a job at the school. Dye also continued to ask her out, according to the letter.

In August 2017, the woman joined Dye and other Heritage employees on a trip to Rocky Point, where she “was given drinks by Mr. Dye again, and blacked out for four hours,” the letter states. The woman was “still unaware of what happened while in Mexico, but believes that Mr. Dye drugged and raped her,” according to the letter. 

The woman never reported the incident to authoritiesbecause she believed no action would be taken, the letter states.

This past March, Dye called the woman to his office at Heritage, where he told her to be careful about who she was talking to because “corporate had heard about the incidents,” according to the letter. 

The woman also alleges that Mitchell, the vice principal, kissed her when she bought him a beverage at an end-of-the-school-year party in May 2017. Mitchell sent her texts, saying “I want to pull you in close and kiss you,” the woman claims. The two began a relationship.

RELATED: Sexual harassment at work? Here’s what you can do to take action

Taunts and blame alleged

The other teacher alleges that during fall 2017, Mitchell began to repeatedly text and call her, seeking a relationship. The two eventually began an on-and-off sexual relationship, the letter says.

At one point, when the teacher was at the school on a Sunday preparing lessons for the week, Mitchell entered her classroom and they had sex, the letter states.

When the teacher tried to end the relationship, “Mitchell then turned rude and aggressive towards her, blaming her for her issues at school,” the letter states. 

Mitchell told the woman that the school’s board would “laugh at her” if she brought them allegations against him, according to the claim. The woman later felt “she had nowhere to turn,” but complained to Dye. He told her to work it out with Mitchell, according to the letter.

Because “there was nowhere for her to go with her problems,” she did not renew her teaching contract.

“The wrongful acts of the company were so outrageous in character, so shocking in nature, so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable,” the letter states.


Lauren Peace talks with attorney Sharon Stiller and Michelle Cammarata of Restore Sexual Assault Services about how to identify instances of sexual harassment or assault and what to do about it. Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

‘Embarrassed to say I worked there’

Six former Heritage staff members — Olivia Blanco, Sonia Camilli , Brittany Diaz, Amanda Love, Sonia Medina and Hollee Morrow — told The Republic that during the past two years they frequently were targets or witnessed sexual harassment at Heritage.

The women said they brought concerns or know of other staff who brought concerns about sexual harassment and inappropriate relationships to Trujillo, the superintendent.

The concerns included Dye dating teachers, harassing them, retaliating against staffers who knew about his behavior, and photographs of former female employees posted in a shower near Dye’s office, the teachers said.

The former staff members made no allegations related to Mitchell.

Camilli, the school’s vice principal from 2015 to 2018, said she knows of at least three former staff members who told Trujillo during the past two years that Dye was having sexual relationships with teachers, sexually harassing staff and creating a hostile work environment.

“I’m embarrassed to say I worked there,” she said.

Love, who ran the school’s English language program, described most Heritage teachers as right out of college with no professional teaching experience and unsure how to respond to sexual harassment.

Love said Dye didn’t offer her a contract for the upcoming school year because she knew he was pursuing and sexually harassing teachers.

Morrow said she chose not to return to the school this academic year because of Dye’s behavior toward her and her 21-year-old daughter. 

Morrow said Dye met them in May at Westgate and started flirting with her daughter. Dye later came up behind Morrow at a restaurant and massaged her back and neck. Morrow said she had seen Dye giving back rubs to other teachers in the school’s lunchroom.

Diaz, who taught at Heritage from November 2015 to December 2016, said Dye repeatedly flirted with her and texted her while she was separated from her husband, including asking about a sex act.

She said she confronted Dye about the text and he began retaliating by being aggressive and cold towards her. Diaz said she didn’t report the incident to his supervisors because she feared further retaliation.

Diaz said Dye threatened to withhold a merit bonus when she quit.

Women at Heritage did not stand up to Dye because he had the power to fire them without cause, she said.

The school, which has more than 900 students, earlier this month was involved in a salary dispute with at least 20 former teachers. They claimed Dye and Heritage did not pay them merit bonuses earned during the 2017-18 school year. After The Republic investigated, the school’s board held an emergency meeting and voted unanimously to pay the teachers. The school’s superintendent credited Dye for getting teachers their money.


Charter school enrollment is growing in Arizona, but what’s the difference between a charter and your neighborhood district school?

Photos in the shower

Blanco, an art teacher who left Heritage after the 2017-18 school year, said that after hearing rumors that photographs of female staffers were posted in a shower, she looked inside the shower “and lo and behold, there were pictures,” Blanco told The Republic.

“They were old ID photos of previous teachers who worked at the school. … It just creeped me out,” she said.

Blanco shared with The Republic a video of the pictures. Blanco sent the video to Trujillo in January, and the superintendent acknowledged receiving it, according to records provided to The Republic

“I’m not sure exactly what I’m looking at, but I will get to the bottom of it and take care of it,” Trujillo wrote in her response to Blanco. 

Trujillo told The Republic the shower was not being used and staff posted “random pictures lying around” of teachers in the shower. She said one of the photos was of Dye as a teenager.

The Heritage teachers, however, say the shower was being used.

Trujillo said the pictures were removed after she became aware of them.

“This wasn’t something Mr. Dye started,” Trujillo said. “It was like a bulletin board of old staff pics and the shower was unused. It sounds creepy because it’s a shower.”

Heritage: No complaints

Trujillo said the demand letter came as a surprise because “not one teacher to date” has brought to her a harassment complaint involving Dye or Mitchell.

“I have not had any teachers speak with me. I have not had any reports come to me,” she said.

She credited Dye for boosting the school’s enrollment, which brings additional state and federal funds to the school, and for improving Heritage’s academic ratings.

She also said Dye has taken Heritage staff and families to Mexico to build homes for needy individuals, and helped a disabled mother and her son get transportation.

“He just does stuff like that,” Trujillo said. “He has done amazing things for his school.”

The women who sent the demand letter both signed contracts to return to Heritage for the 2018-19 school year, then resigned, Trujillo said. The superintendent noted that the contracts were signed in April and May, well after any alleged wrongdoing.

The women, however, claim they were “constructively discharged,” meaning they quit because of a hostile work environment.

Hall, the Heritage attorney, said no complaints were made regarding Dye or Mitchell dating teachers.

Heritage has a nonfraternization policy to avoid “claims of sexual harassment,” and the school has a policy against sexual harassment. Mitchell would be subject to that policy.

Dye, however, is employed by Apex Charter Services, which is owned by Heritage charter holder Raena Janes.

That company, which provides management services to charter schools, does not have a policy prohibiting principals from dating teachers. Janes said Apex frowns on managers dating employees, but the company is “not going to try to control people’s lives on who they can and can’t date.”

Because some charter schools contract with outside companies to staff and manage aspects of their campuses, schools can have staff who are employed by private companies.

Janes said she was not personally contacted about allegations of wrongdoing at Heritage, which she said “shocked” her. She said the investigation would “get to the bottom of it.”


Which system gets more funding? Well, it depends on how you count the dollars.
William Flannigan, azcentral

Different rules for charters

Heritage, like other Arizona charter schools, has great autonomy under Arizona law, which also means employees sometimes have less recourse in conflicts with management.

If Heritage were a traditional Arizona public school district, teachers could have complained to an independent human resources department or an elected school board.

But charter oversight boards typically are not independent or elected. Usually, a charter holder appoints the oversight board, which can include friends or people with business ties to the school.

OPINION: Arizona’s double standard on charter school finances cheats you

A four-member, nonelected board supervises Heritage, which is connected to a small chain of charter schools Janes runs throughout Arizona. Some of Heritage’s board members are friends of Dye’s, according to the school’s former vice principal. 

Trujillo said two of the board members predate Dye’s arrival at the school, and the board members have a professional relationship with staff and are not friends of Dye’s.

The Arizona State Board for Charter Schools sets financial expectations for charters and can shut down schools that break the law or repeatedly fail academically.

Charter schools are not required to hire certified teachers and administrators.

Dye holds a state school administrator’s license. Mitchell does not have a state teaching or administrator’s license.

The Education Department could have revoked Dye’s administrative license after he was convicted of two misdemeanor charges in 2015 for hunting waterfowl out of season. He pleaded no contest and paid $350 in fines, Payson Justice Court records show.

State law requires certified teachers and administrators to report arrests and convictions to the State Board of Education.

Trujillo, the superintendent, said she was unaware of Dye’s conviction.

Stefan Swiat, the state Education spokesman, said the State Board determines whether to revoke a license on a “case by case” basis. He said Dye’s conviction is moot “because charters do not need to have certified teachers or administrators.”

But Swiat said district or charter school employees who’ve been accused of sexual harassment can be placed on leave during an investigation but there is no state policy requiring it.

Hall said if discipline is necessary, Heritage will take action only once the school’s investigation is complete. 

Meanwhile, Dye and Mitchell continue to work at Heritage, where classes begin Monday.

ABOUT THIS REPORT: Throughout 2018, investigative reporter Craig Harris examines the finances of some of Arizona’s most prominent charter schools to reveal how they spend the tax dollars they receive, who profits off the operations, and what those deals mean for the future of education.

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-8478 or on Twitter @charrisazrep.


Read or Share this story: