The Principal's Principles

A TUSD investigation of Maxwell Middle School's Ruben Ruiz reveals numerous rule violations.

In his three-year tenure as principal at Maxwell Middle School, Ruben Ruiz has deployed a "special skill" to intimidate female teachers and has brought several of them to tears.

He called one woman, who holds a doctorate and works in the exceptional education department of the Tucson Unified School District, "an incompetent moron" who "displays many traits of ignorance." In that e-mail, intended for his boss' eyes but mistakenly sent to the woman, Ruiz added: "I will be polite with her and not tell her what a (sic) incompetent idiot she is."

Ruiz employed his brother-in-law, Josh Camarena, as a campus monitor and, months after Camarena beat up an eighth grader, elevated him to a permanent substitute job. Ruiz failed to properly report the fight.

Installed as principal--first on an acting basis--in January 2001, Ruiz allowed Maxwell to have segregated assemblies for honors convocations that separated disabled students from the rest of the students.

He made race-based jokes.

After his workouts at Maxwell, the 46-year-old in good shape insisted on showering next to a female physical education teacher's office, which caused the woman to be "uncomfortable."

Those are among the findings contained in a report from an investigation by TUSD's Equity Development Department, the district's equal opportunity office.

Ruiz did not return calls and has refused to speak to The Weekly since April 21, when he said he did not believe a reporter was at Maxwell to interview him about the incident involving Camarena and the eighth grader.

Three Maxwell teachers filed complaints that instigated TUSD's investigation, which concluded with the findings that Ruiz:

· Treats female employees differently from male employees. The consequence is the creation of a work environment that is generally more hostile and intimidating for female employees.

· Acted unprofessionally by failing to report the assault on the student by Josh Camarena, or, in the alternative, by failing to take reasonable steps to make sure all required reports were filed.

· Has demonstrated a lack of sensitivity toward disabled students and should take affirmative steps to ensure there is not sequestration or separate identification at school assemblies, honors convocations and promotion ceremonies.

· Acted unprofessionally in his characterization of the exceptional education staff member.

Another finding faults Ruiz for calling the female physical education teacher at home to ask for two knee pads used by student soccer players. The pads had not been returned by Ruiz after he borrowed them.

The investigation, the report states, showed "there is reasonable cause to believe Ruiz violated" TUSD governing board policy by "creating a hostile and intimidating environment for female employees."

One teacher who complained about Ruiz told investigators, according to the report, "I've been a victim of meanness." She added: "He kept pushing me until I cried."

Such was the case during a basketball game at Wakefield Middle School, according to the report. A student had quit the team and Ruiz was "angry" that the teacher/coach "had permitted it."

"I was crying and he kept going," she told investigators. "I said 'enough already.' "

Ruiz "continued to verbally abuse her even after she asked him to stop," the report states.

The same woman was uncomfortable to have Ruiz use the shower on the other side of a door from her office. Asked why she did not complain, she said: "I am not on overly friendly terms with him."

Responding to investigators on June 13, Ruiz said he used that shower, one of three at Maxwell, because the other shower next to the boys physical education area was "filthy. My teacher can't keep it clean. There are boxes and the shower head is broken." He didn't ask that male teacher to clean the shower.

Ruiz said use of a third shower was out of the question because it was used by students.

Speaking to investigators, Ruiz denied treating female employees differently from males.

"When asked whether female employees have cried in his presence, he answered, 'perhaps,'" the report states. Asked about five females crying in his presence, Ruiz "answered affirmatively." He "admitted that he has never seen a male employee cry in his presence."

Asked in the TUSD probe to characterize his management style, Ruiz, who is paid $67,564 a year, said "I hold people accountable." Asked if his style could be described as "autocratic," he repeated "I hold people accountable."

It is not clear if anyone was held accountable when Camarena, the brother of Ruiz's wife, smacked down and sat on a Maxwell student in the fall semester of 2001, shortly after Ruiz was promoted by the TUSD board to Maxwell's permanent principal.

The student's injuries required his mother to take him for treatment at nearby St. Mary's Hospital. At the school, Ruiz told a staff member that he would take care of required reporting to TUSD and law enforcement officials.

"The evidence is conclusive the assault...was concealed, not reported," according to the report.

Ruiz refused to respond to TUSD investigators' questions about Camarena, and at one point, according to the report, said "go talk to Ms. (Yvonne) Ramirez," the Maxwell assistant principal.

The student's mother said she "never understood why the Tucson Police Department was not involved."

The failure to report the assault is a violation of state law, according to the report.

Ramirez told investigators that she told Ruiz that Camarena would have to go.

"I didn't see how he could be a monitor," she said.

Camarena left Maxwell, but quickly became a monitor at Doolen Middle School. He was fired, according to the report, for being "unprofessional and not paying sufficient attention to his duties as a monitor."

Then Camarena returned to Ruiz and Maxwell this past school year--in the $121-a-day job as a permanent substitute.

Meanwhile, Ruiz ripped into a female monitor, for the offense of leaving her post on an occasion during the 1999-2000 school year. The woman acknowledged she temporarily left her post to retrieve her medication, according to the report. Ruiz's subsequent "verbal abuse was severe enough to make her cry," the TUSD investigative report states.

In his first year as principal, Ruiz allowed a segregated honors ceremony that split emotionally disabled students from the rest of the students.

A parent complained, but Ruiz, according to the report, drew a blank with investigators.

"I don't know. They may have conducted their own ceremony. I don't know," Ruiz told investigators.

Ruiz hit the wrong button on his computer when he delivered his rip of the exception education staffer. "Good morning boss," he wrote, in reference to Marla Motove, now the second in command at TUSD.

In his meeting with investigators, Ruiz acknowledged that he told a "joke" about Mexican cholos.

"I can make that joke," Ruiz told his staff, "because I'm a Mexican and you're not." But TUSD policies forbid epithets, slurs, jokes, and negative stereotyping that relate to race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation.

Equity Development at TUSD recommends that Superintendent Stan Paz or one of his deputies determine and impose appropriate discipline against Ruiz. The office also recommends that Ruiz be required to attend professional development to help him interact professionally with female employees and learn ways to provide a respectful and nondiscriminatory environment for disabled students.

It also urges that Camarena's assault on the student be "immediately investigated" by TUSD's Department of School Safety--the district's police--"because of potential violations of state law."

Finally, it recommends that TUSD cops also investigate the disappearance of the athletic knee pads.

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