July 4, 2022

Parent Withdraws Federal Civil Rights Complaint Against Region 4 and Valley Regional High School Administrators

REGION 4–A U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights investigation of Region 4 and Valley Regional High School administrators has been dropped after the parent of the Asian-American student involved in the case withdrew the complaint.

Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for the Department of Education, and an attorney for the school district, each confirmed Tuesday that Bounthanh Outama, father of high school senior Aaron Outama, had recently withdrawn the civil rights complaint he filed against the school district last December. Bradshaw said the case, which included an investigation of the actions of district administrators conducted earlier this year by Office of Civil Rights personnel, had been “closed administratively,” with no further action or report expected on the matter.

Outama’s complaint had alleged that his son, who is of Laotian descent, had received harsher disciplinary action than other students who were involved in a rally held last September in support of former high school principal Eric Rice. The complaint was directed at Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy, Assistant Superintendent Ian Neviaser, and acting Principal Kristina Martineau, who replaced Rice and was hired as Valley Regional High School principal on a permanent basis in April.

Rice, a Chester resident, resigned as principal last October, after barely two months in the job, and received a severance package from the school district. Levy and Rice, who now works in the West Haven school district, have never commented on details of the situation.

But recently released e-mails among school administrators and staff indicate that Levy and Neviaser, who served as Valley Regional High School principal from 2008-2010, had quickly become dissatisfied with Rice’s performance as an administrator after he assumed the principal job in August 2010. Aaron Outama, who is from Essex, graduated with the Class of 2011 on June 20, receiving his diploma from Principal Martineau.

Levy said Tuesday she never doubted the OCR investigation would be resolved favorably for the three-town school district. “I have great confidence in the administrators and staff in all of our schools in Region 4 and that they continually do the right thing for all of our students,” she said, adding ”I am glad that this is behind us and the outcome was favorable to the district.”