Sexting Tattle Spurred Firing, Woman Claims in Lawsuit; Matthew Conover, Buckeye Assistant Principal, was Fired

A former employee of the Buckeye Union High School District claims in a federal lawsuit that she was fired in retaliation for ratting out an assistant principal in a suspected "sexting" case.

The assistant principal, Matthew Conover, resigned last year after allegations that a 17-year-old student e-mailed nude photos of herself to his phone. Police arrested Conover in February 2009, saying that after he received the photos, he texted the girl back to ask if she had "anything else." No charges were ever brought, judging by the lack of court records.

In the lawsuit filed yesterday, former district employee Jennifer Mello says she began work at Buckeye Union High School in July 2008 as an adminstrative assistant for both Conover and another assistant principal, Tawn Argeris. She received several awards and positive job reviews.

But then, Mello "observed what she believed to be inappropriate behavior" between Conover and the student.

She reported her concerns to the Buckeye school principal, Mary Ann Sphar, on January 22, 2009, the lawsuit states.

A few days later, Conover gave her an "unexpected performance review." According to the court document:

The results of the review conducted by Conover were negative. Additionally, Conover verbally warned Plaintiff to "keep things to herself" and to "follow the chain of command."

On February 5, 2009, the administrator spotted the same student texting on her cell phone, which was against school rules. Mello snatched the phone away from the girl and discovered the explicit photos and texts to Conover.

She turned over the phone to Sphar, and Conover was arrested the same day.

That May, Mello was informed after an annual review that she would be terminated, the lawsuit states. Her last day was May 22.

Mello's asking for unspecified amount in damages, claiming "that if she had not exposed the illegal conduct of Conover, her employment with the District would not have ended."

District Superintendent Beverly Hurley could not be reached for comment.

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