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California Superintendent Fired After Threatening Students For Not Clapping For Her Daughter

Poway Unified School District Superintendent Marian Kim Phelps has been fired after she allegedly threatened members of her daughter's high school softball team for not clapping loudly enough for her during an awards ceremony.

Screenshot of Marian Kim Phelps
NBC News

Board members of the Poway Unified School District in California unanimously voted to fire its Superintendent, Marian Kim Phelps, for allegedly harassing and bullying her students.

The accusations originated from an incident last May that became known as Clappergate that involved the Del Norte High School softball team.

The students who attended their softball awards banquet alleged Phelps threatened to deny them graduation privileges because they didn't applaud loudly enough for her daughter who played on the team.

The Del Norte students and their parents claimed Phelps bullied one of the players she believed was the ringleader in telling fellow softball players not to clap for the Superintendent's daughter at the banquet.

According to NBC 7, Phelps called and texted one of the students close to midnight without parental knowledge following the silent reception her daughter received at May's banquet.

She threatened to revoke graduation privileges if they didn't admit to orchestrating the withheld applause.

You can watch a news report here.

California superintendent fired after allegedly bullying

Michael Roberts, who is a parent to one of the students, told the news outlet:

“Threatening kids not to be able to graduate and walk at their graduation ceremony."
"I think those responses are just inappropriate. The whole thing is inappropriate."

Del Norte varsity coach Tom Peronto said he notified the school board of Phelps' "abuse of power", which included threatening to get a junior player kicked off the team and banning them from participating in extracurricular activities.

Peronto's job security was threatened as well.

He said:

"Because I had exposed these abuses and emails to the board members, she then falsely accused me of verbally attacking a member of the board in the district parking lot, using this as justification to have me fired from coaching softball at Del Norte."

School board president Michelle O’Connor-Ratcliff said the board voted to terminate Phelps' contract in a closed session following an investigation launched from November 15 to April 18.

Said O'Connor-Ratcliff:

"Based on her conduct, as revealed to the Board through the investigation, the Board has lost all confidence and trust in Dr. Phelps’ ability to continue to serve as Superintendent, as well as in her ability to continue to work collaboratively with the Board as part of Poway Unified’s governance team.'

A separate lawsuit in connection to the case was filed in San Diego by a "Jane Doe."

The suit alleged that Phelps "constructed a narrative falsely suggesting" the anonymous student bullied her daughter and that Phelps "unilaterally" perceived an "intense rivalry" between her daughter and the other players on the team.

As punishment for challenging Phelps, the student was barred from extracurricular activities during her senior year, which included playing on the softball team, attending school dances, and field trips, participating in student clubs, activities, and attending graduation.

A group of players led by senior student Miranda Mosqueda attended a board meeting to discuss the Clappergate incident.

"I, along with my teammates, were at the softball banquet on May 30," Mosqueda told the school board.

"To be honest, it was the best banquet I've attended. Everyone was happy and cheering, and supporting one another, but little did we know, one of the parents thought that her daughter didn't get enough claps."
"She started an investigation, and five months later, we're all still dealing with this. She made life hell for 10 seniors, threatening to bar them from their own graduation if they didn't admit that they did something that they didn't do."

He continued:

"These seniors are our friends and didn't do anything wrong. Neither did the other student who this parent also threatened and even had investigated."
"This parent has a lot of power in our school district. She used her power and influence to bully our students and essentially break up our softball program at Del Norte."

Mosqueda added:

"This is my senior year at Del Norte. I was very excited to represent my school during my senior season and to play with all of my friends for the last time before we had to go to college, but now, many of us are afraid to play this year for fear of being harassed and intimidated."

He concluded by asking:

"Who is the real bully in this situation?"

Phelps maintains that she "never threatened any student."

She told NBC News of bullying accusations:

"I never would. I've never talked to any student about making threats about them not graduating."
"All those accusations are completely false and fabricated.”