Accused of sexual harassment and violating federal law, two LPSS officials now on medical leave

Photo by Allison DeHart

The Current has confirmed that two top-ranking Lafayette Parish School System employees named in a federal lawsuit accusing them of sexual harassment and retaliation are on medical leave, according to school system email exchanges.

Robin Olivier, director of Career and Technical Education and former Schools of Choice director, notified school and system officials on May 31 that she is on medical leave until June 30, with intent to resign July 1, according to emails obtained through a public records request.

Annette Samec, chief academic officer, announced in an email to LPSS administrators she went on medical leave effective May 16, citing unspecified “issues that need to be addressed.” Records show Superintendent Donald Aguillard announced in a separate email to administrators, principals and assistant principals that Irma Trosclair, LPSS’ school improvement administrator, will serve as acting chief academic officer until Samec returns. The leave appears to be indefinite, and it is unclear when or if Samec will return.

Olivier and Samec — along with Aguillard, Schools of Choice Enrollment and Recruitment Manager Barbara Pippin, the Lafayette Parish School Board and World Languages Specialist Tia LeBrun — are listed in a lawsuit filed by former Schools of Choice Marketing Director Azadeh Yazdi.

Yazdi declined to comment for this story. Her attorney, Lane Roy, was unavailable for comment.

In the civil suit filed in the U.S. Western District of Louisiana on April 14, Yazdi, who was fired in January, claims her termination was in retaliation for raising concerns regarding alleged cases of favoritism and exclusionary practices in the Schools of Choice program. Yazdi, who also alleges system employees are diverting students from the English as a Second Language program into the world languages academy, further claims that Olivier and Samec sexually harassed her.

The suit accuses Olivier, Samec and Pippin of selecting students on the basis of color, friendship, relationship by blood or marriage to students or LPSS employees and whether the applicants were related to school board members. Yazdi also claims the employees denied students in the lottery system spaces in the academies.

Posing at an LPSS event in 2017: Aguillard, left, Samec, third from left, Yazdi, fourth from left, and Olivier, fourth from right

The Schools of Choice, also known as Magnet Academies, were established in 2002 during efforts to put LPSS in compliance with a 1967 federal desegregation order. They were constructed to attract students of different races and socioeconomic statuses and offer specialized training in subjects such as health, foreign languages and broadcast. Now housing more than 28 programs in schools around the parish, the Magnet Academies use a lottery system to select student applicants regardless of race, socioeconomic background or relation to LPSS employees.

Yazdi claims in the suit that Olivier, Samec, Pippin and LeBrun advised Schools of Choice applicants who should be screened for the English as a Second Language program, which is offered across schools, against testing to “relieve [themselves] of the obligation and oversight of the program,” as well as “further manipulate both race, color and creed” of the ESL program and the Spanish Immersion enrollment. The immersion programs exist at Charles Burke and Alice Boucher elementary schools. In other words, the administrators allegedly deterred Schools of Choice students from ESL in order to increase enrollment in Spanish Immersion and decrease the amount of non-white students enrolled in ESL around the parish.

When Yazdi raised her concerns to Olivier and Samec that they were violating federal law, the suit states, Olivier, who directly oversaw Yazdi, allegedly disciplined her with recommendation for termination.

After reporting the incident, Yazdi’s work environment reportedly turned sour.

The suit states that Samec and Pippin threatened her with termination if she took action. After reporting her concerns, she alleges, Samec and Olivier made sexually harassing remarks to her, including one incident in which Samec allegedly told Yazdi she “could not stop staring at [her] legs.”

Yazdi also alleges that Olivier, Samec and Pippin made fictitious, detrimental reports about her to Aguillard.

Yazdi also contends that Samec tampered with her personnel file on multiple occasions.

Upon airing her concerns to Aguillard, the suit states, Aguillard terminated her contract, according to the suit.

Sandra Billeaudeau, who retired from LPSS in 2016 after serving as assistant superintendent and district planning administrator, called the allegations, if true, a “black eye on our community.

“Our kids are suffering,” she says. “Our community is suffering.”

Danielle Boudreaux of Hammonds, Sills, Adkins & Guice, a Baton Rouge-based law firm, is listed in the suit document as the school system’s attorney. However, Pecoraro Law, based in Lafayette, has signed on to the case as well, according to Mona Bernard, the school system’s risk management director.

Contacted for this story, Pecoraro Law Principal Elena Pecoraro declined to comment, stating the pending litigation.