On April 19, 2017, The Snell Law Firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Sharla Monroe, a former Lake Hills Montessori employee who was terminated in retaliation for reporting a case of child abuse to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TXDFPS). The lawsuit is against Lake Hills Montessori and Sandra Karnstadt, the owner and founder, of Lake Hills Montessori.
In 2008, Ms. Monroe began working for the school as a Classroom Assistant. Eventually, she was promoted to School Director in 2013 and served in that capacity until 2016.
Entering 2016, the new year brought troubles to the campus, as Monroe began witnessing repeated inappropriate behavior by a teacher identified as Ms. S. For example, Ms. S. failed to keep accurate records, failed to adhere to school’s policies regarding classroom administration, and most alarmingly, students in Ms. S’s class began reporting that Ms. S was emotionally aggressive and locked them in bathrooms, alone, for extended periods. Then in April, Ms. S struck Jane Doe, a toddler and now former student. Ms. Monroe investigated, confirmed, and reported these acts to Karnstadt as they occurred. Karnstadt put the reputation of Lake Hills Montessori above the safety of the children by not reporting the abuse, and, in fear of losing her job, Monroe kept quiet. On June 9, Monroe reported Ms. S’s actions to TXDFPS. On August 7, 2016 TXDFPS rendered a decision that Lake Hills Montessori Bee Cave had violated Texas Administrative Code § 746.307(a)(3), which requires immediate notice to parents of suspected harm to a child while under the facility’s care. Finally, on August 17, 2016, only ten days later, Karnstadt terminated Monroe’s employment. Monroe asked why she was being fired and Karnstadt told her that had she not reported Ms. S she would have “found a way” to continue Monroe’s employment.
Sharla Monroe was a model employee and an advocate for the children who attended Lake Hills Montessori and the faculty who worked there. She was fired for doing the right thing when the school would not.
“We’re pretty shocked this kind of behavior could happen,” Jason Snell said. “The law specifically prohibits this kind of retaliation and encourages reporting. That is all to protect the children … We’re going to make sure that a Travis County jury appreciates the gravity of what did occur to discourage this from happening not only at this school but anywhere else.”
Based in Austin, Texas, The Snell Law Firm, PLLC has proudly been providing excellent legal services since 2007. With diverse strengths in many areas of the law, the firm’s accomplished team provides strong legal counsel and fierce courtroom representation on a wide range of civil litigation matters, including business and commercial disputes, real estate litigation, construction matters, and class action litigation.
Local news stations KXAN and KEYE interviewed Mr. Jason Snell and broadcasted the following stories about the lawsuit: