MEDINA COUNTY – A former Medina Valley Independent School District employee said administration failed to respond properly after she reported her supervisor this spring for repeatedly kissing her while at work.
Housekeeper Linda Puckett resigned in March, shortly after disclosing to district officials that her boss, housekeeping supervisor Christopher Prater, had begun kissing her on the forehead when he saw her alone.
District officials reprimanded Prater for his behavior, but allowed him to continue working for the district in a different position.
Puckett, during an interview with Medina Valley ISD Facilities Director Tommy Ellison on March 15, said that Prater’s behavior had escalated from side hugs and back rubbing to the kissing, which made her feel uncomfortable, according to notes from the meeting released to the KSAT 12 Defenders following an open records request.
“I don’t want to destroy the man’s life. I just don’t want the man’s hands on me. I don’t want the man’s lips on me,” Puckett told Ellison, the records show.
“I was getting frustrated and I said ‘just tell him to keep his lips off of me,’” said Puckett, recalling the meeting during an interview with KSAT 12 earlier this month.
Puckett, after discussing her treatment at work with her husband Mike, decided to resign from the district shortly after meeting with Ellison.
“To my husband and I it felt like they were just going to brush the behavior under the rug, which they ultimately did,” said Puckett.
Prater admitted to Ellison that he had kissed Puckett, but said it had only happened “once or twice” and was done in an effort to console her and let her know she was doing a good job, district records show.
Puckett also accused Prater of retaliation, sharing with district officials a text message from her boss in which he previously refused to give her the cleaning supplies she needed.
“Maybe y’all made me mad?” wrote Prater, who included an angry face emoji.
Puckett told Ellison she had not confronted Prater about making her uncomfortable out of fear it would make him upset and he would again withhold her supplies, records show.
Ellison told Puckett that the district takes sexual harassment very seriously and that he would instruct Prater to stay out of her space.
“For them to allow him to continue to work there, they knew he was doing things inappropriately,” said Mike Puckett, who encouraged his wife to quit after hearing how her meeting went.
Linda Puckett was at least the second Medina Valley ISD housekeeper to accuse Prater of retaliation, district and federal employment complaint records confirm.
Prater was placed on administrative leave with pay following Puckett’s complaint, Medina Valley ISD records show.
Two weeks later, on March 30, Prater received a written reprimand for “direct violations” of district rules.
The violations included not adhering to COVID-19 social distancing protocols, specifically for not wearing a face mask, as well as not recognizing or respecting the rights of other employees, records show.
The reprimand notes that Prater’s behavior caused an employee to resign from the district.
Records show Prater was removed from his position of supervising housekeepers and reassigned as a journeyman electrician, a position he had with the district prior to being promoted to supervisor.
The reassignment meant a decrease in pay of about $5 an hour. But the pay cut has been partially offset by Prater now receiving a longevity stipend, district records show.
Medina Valley ISD officials refused repeated requests from the Defenders to make Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Rohrbach available for an interview for this story.
A district spokeswoman instead released the following written statement June 9: “The matter has been resolved after consulting with the persons involved.”
After Prater did not respond to an email request for an interview, the Defenders tracked him down last week at a gas station near where he works.
Prater at first said he was not Christopher Prater, but then after the Defenders told him Puckett had accused him of “predatory behavior,” he responded, “Wow. No comment.”
“Maybe one time if you get too fresh with somebody, okay, shame on you. But now it’s shame on the district because he’s a repeat offender,” said Linda Puckett.
Since early April, Prater has been assigned to work in the district’s facilities building, down the street from Medina Valley ISD headquarters.
A large sign in front of the facilities building states that the district is looking to hire more housekeepers.
A second housekeeper who resigned from the district last year said she found Prater kissing a co-worker in a closet last August.
After the housekeeper reported Prater to Human Resources, she told the Defenders Prater retaliated against her and moved her to a different shift.
Left without transportation to work for her new shift, the housekeeper was forced to quit and is now pursuing legal action against the district.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dismissed her federal employment complaint without making a determination on its merits earlier this year and issued the former employee a right to sue letter April 29, records show.
A third housekeeper told the Defenders she was sexually harassed by Prater for years but never brought the allegations forward out of fear of retaliation.
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