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Austin-area Montessori school employee claims she was fired for reporting abuse

A Montessori school employee says she was fired for doing the right thing. (CBS Austin)

A Montessori school employee says she was fired for doing the right thing.

Sharla Monroe is the former director at Lake Hills Montessori Bee Cave. She filed suit against the school and its founder Sandra Karnstadt. Monroe claims she was let go for reporting child abuse to the state.

Monroe is suing Karnstadt for wrongful employer retaliation for up to $1 million.

Monroe started working at the school in 2008 and was eventually promoted to school director. In the spring of 2016 she received reports that a newly hired teacher, only identified in the lawsuit as "Ms. S," was being emotionally aggressive and physically struck one of the students.

"Grabbing children in an aggressive manner and locking children in a bathroom while they were crying unattended," said Monroe's attorney, Jason Snell.

According to the lawsuit, in early 2016 Monroe reported the abuse to Karnstadt who refused to notify school parents or the state and "instructed Monroe not to report the abuse."

School founder Sandra Karnstadt talked to CBS Austin on the phone and denied any wrongdoing.

"I can't comment on specifics, but what I can say is anytime CPS has done an investigation at any of our schools we have cooperated fully," Karnstadt said.

Snell said it was his client, Sharla Monroe who went against the orders of the school founder to report the alleged abuse to CPS.

"Our client did decide to go forward and report that behavior to the state of Texas and she was fired for doing that and that's against the law," Snell said.

The Department of Family and Protective Services investigated, and found the daycare did violate state standards. The report said the school did not report to parents that a child was hurt by inappropriate discipline.

Ten days after the findings were released, Karnstadt reportedly fired Monroe.

"The founder of the school who is the defendant in the lawsuit walked the client out to her vehicle and they sat down in Sharla's vehicle and fired her and said words to the effect of 'I'm just not going to be able to get past this' meaning she felt betrayed by Sharla's reporting the behavior to the state of Texas," Snell said.

Karnstadt would not comment on employee matters,

"I have to respect her privacy and it limits the details I can give you," Karnstadt said.

This was the first high level violation for the day care in its 18-year history. There are no criminal charges in this case.


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