Private School Fires Back at Sex Allegations

     CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) — A Christian Science-based private boarding school called a former teacher’s lawsuit a “baseless” attempt to benefit from her minor daughter’s relationship with a former employee.
     Phoebe McVey sued The Principia Corp. on May 12 in St. Louis County Court. The private school and college is not formally associated with the Christian Science Church, but the principles of Christian Science form the basis of community life at Principia, according to the school website.
     McVey, who now lives in Arizona, claims the school fired her after she reported that her underage daughter, M.M., was statutorily raped by 31-year-old Zachary Retzlaff, who was the school’s telecommunications director at the time.
     Retzlaff was not named as a defendant in McVey’s lawsuit. A grand jury indicted him on a charge of statutory rape in the second degree on July 22, 2015. He pleaded not guilty and is free on $35,000 bail. The criminal case is pending.
     In her lawsuit, McVey, who lived on the Principia campus at the time with her husband and daughter, said she was fired two days after filing the police report.
     Principia had no comment on the lawsuit last week. But the school came out firing in a news release Tuesday afternoon, saying there “is no merit to the allegations” made by McVey and that it would defend itself “against these baseless allegations.”
     Principia claims McVey’s firing had nothing to do with her allegations against Retzlaff.
     “The former employee [McVey] was terminated by Principia because of exceptionally low enrollment in her high school courses,” the school said in the statement. “Due to particularly low enrollment in the home economics classes she was scheduled to teach in the fall, it became clear in July 2015 that Principia had no choice but to cancel her classes, resulting in the elimination of her position.
     “Principia believes the former employee is continuing to attempt to benefit from her daughter’s after-school, off-campus relationship with Zachary Retzlaff, a former employee of Principia’s Telecommunications Department.”
     Principia claims it had nothing to do with Retzlaff’s relationship with the girl.
     “Retzlaff’s position did not encompass interaction with, or supervision of, any students at Principia,” the statement said. “Nothing improper occurred at Principia or during school hours. The girl resided with her parents and was never a boarding student. She first met Retzlaff at a friend’s home, not at Principia. Principia had no control of the girl’s out-of-school time or activities. Any permission to spend time with Retzlaff, or to babysit for his children, was not given by Principia.”
     Principia says Retzlaff was suspended and fired because it believed he violated its fraternization policy. Principia claims there is no evidence that other students were involved and said it has cooperated with law enforcement’s investigation.
     “A previous lawsuit filed in 2015 by the former employee and her husband in their daughter’s name was dismissed because it became evident that the case did not represent the true interests of their daughter,” the statement said. “The former employee’s daughter previously applied for an order of protection from her parents.
     “There is no merit to the allegations in either of the lawsuits filed by the former employee,” the school said.

%d bloggers like this: