Abuse, harassment cases spell trouble for Cindy Marten’s nomination to Deputy Secretary of Education

Written by Sidiqa Atira

Cindy Marten has been the Superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) since 2013, and now she’s been tapped by the Biden Administration to be the Deputy Secretary of Education. However, criticisms are arising regarding her handling of harassment and abuse complaints within her school district. Marten is also being accused of hiding such cases from the public eye.

Within the last few years, there have been various efforts to improve how harassment cases are handled in the district. Many of these efforts have come from outside federal agencies. One agency investigated the handling of a specific sexual abuse case and San Diego County responded. San Diego County’s District Attorney provided a safe way for students as well as other associated parties to report abuse without going through the district.

Marten, in her defense, claims that the district has taken numerous legal steps to address the issues of abuse reports as well as trained staff to better handle these kinds of situations. The outcries from students, however, suggests otherwise. Students who’ve reported sexual abuse have mentioned feeling dismissed, scrutinized, and retraumatized. Since then, Marten created what’s called “The Office of Quality Assurance” where parents, students, and employees can report their concerns and immediately get their case investigated.

But, according to the Voice of San Diego, “The office itself was soon beset with complaints of rash decision-making, unqualified leadership and inadequate investigations. The value of the office was called into question by testimony describing the district’s response to a sensitive complaint in 2014.”

For an in-depth look at Marten’s ineptitude when it comes to handling abuse and harassment cases, check out the full Voice of San Diego article.

Marten’s underhandedness and disregard for transparency was also put on display earlier this year when it was revealed that SDUSD staff were trained to permanently delete emails under her leadership. According to the district official who sat in on the training, in order to delete emails, the staff would follow 3 steps to remove conversations from both the computer’s hard drive and the main server. It was also reported that staff would communicate via Google Docs so that they did not leave a paper trail.

“It seemed like the reason we were being trained to do this is because records requests were coming in and it was becoming a problem. And so we needed to understand how – when we sent things that we didn’t want the average Joe to see – to get rid of those emails,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

At the end of the day, what Marten’s time as Superintendent of SDUSD has proven is that she has no business holding a major educational leadership position. From mishandling serious abuse allegations to allowing training on how to purge emails from the server, and even fostering an environment where staff worked to avoid a paper trail, the evidence is abundant and shocking.

Marten’s nomination should not come as a surprise, however, as she is not President Biden’s first controversial pick. The Administration recently had to pull Neera Tanden’s nomination for Budget Chief because of highly controversial social media posts she made while President Trump was in office. Nonetheless, Cindy Marten has proven that she can not put childrens’ or the public’s best interests first and does not have the trustworthiness or leadership skills required to help lead the Department of Education

Photo by Adriana Heldiz