HILLSIDE, NJ — Allegations of sexual harassment against the principal of a Hillside middle school has resulted in his resignation.
Juan Leonardo, principal of Walter O. Krumbiegel Middle School, was found to be in violation of the district’s affirmative action policy for sexual harassment and was asked to resign. After a formal complaint was filed by a teacher at the school for sexual harassment, former Hillside Board of Education attorney Perry Lattiboudere came back with a decision against Leonardo, finding that the teacher’s complaint was founded.
Lattiboudere was unavailable for comment as of press time.
Leonardo, who had been with the district for 10 months, left the school premises after an email was sent out to staff and faculty on June 6. On June 7, a robo-call informing parents of his removal was sent out, with confused parents taking to social media in the hopes of finding out why Leonardo was gone. Speculations came fast and furious as many parents posted questions, comments and theories, and all wondering why Leonardo had left.
An insider, who requested anonymity, told LocalSource that she, along with several other staff members, teachers and administrators at the school had allegedly been harassed by Leonardo for a long time, but that everyone had been too afraid and intimidated to step forward. In addition to the sexual harassment, the source said that Leonardo had allegedly mistreated students at the school as well. “No one was speaking up,” she said. “Not the parents, not the teachers. It was shocking. There was a blanket of fear there.”
According to the source, there were plenty of red flags leading up to the latest incident. “There were red flags all over the place,” she said. “His behavior was inappropriate.”
The source said that besides the alleged sexual harassment of teachers, Leonardo often victimized the students at the school. Despite this, she said, most parents never caught on and were charmed by Leonardo. “He was very good at schmoozing people,” she said. “If you weren’t smart or savvy, you just walked away thinking everything was okay. I find it very disturbing that some of the teachers didn’t speak up.”
The source said that Leonardo had an unpredictable temper, and would often unleash on the kids. In addition, she said that Leonardo made “mean and nasty” comments about the students. “He would fly off the handle and scream, then the next day blow smoke up your ass,” she said. “He would usually just say he didn’t mean it or say that it was because of his ‘Dominican self.’”
Leonardo has not returned LocalSource’s request for comment as of press time.
According to the source, who often had to chastise Leonardo for his inappropriate conduct, other teachers who experienced the harassment were too afraid to file a formal complaint, yet did document it in their personal files. “There was verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and just an unhealthy work environment,” she said. “He was just so good at manipulating people. I was witnessing the teachers not speak up and it was killing me. There were many more instances that should have been reported long before, but everyone was too scared. It’s been a very challenging year.”
Before coming to W.O.K., Leonardo had been previously employed as vice principal in the Randolph school district, then as principal at Calvin Coolidge Elementary School in Hillside for two years. He took the helm of W.O.K. at the beginning of the academic year.
According to Superintendent Zende Clark, who said she was unable to comment on personnel matters, Leonardo’s official last day in the district was July 1.