New Case Filed Against Ladera School

December 19, 2009

Richard Nigh, former principal of the the Ladera International School of Saipan (LISS) has filed a complaint in federal court against the Korean owner Yong Nam Park. The complaint alleges willful and outrageous conduct against the plaintiff by the defendant and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

In August 2009 a complaint was filed by Hyun Suk (Arnold) Kim against owners Kim Yong Nam Park President and CEO and Sung Yun Anne Kim (Anne), Vice-President. His complaint alleges forced labor, human trafficking, fraud, and FLSA violations including unpaid minimum wage and overtime compensation.

LISS is a Korean-owned school run by a CNMI-registered company called ILC Corporation with ties to the Governor's Office and Marianas Visitors Bureau who promote the school as an example of edu-tourism.

Mr. Nigh was a teacher in Japan for 27 years and was hired by the defendant on a part-time basis. He was tasked with "hiring teachers and training them and helping them adjust to life in the Commonwealth and such other administrative duties appropriate to the position" according to the complaint.

Park repeatedly asked Mr. Nigh to accept the position of principal at Ladera, which he finally did in July 2007. Mr. Nigh later learned that there had been three previous principals since the school opened in 2006. All of them allegedly left because of ill treatment by the defendant.

Mr. Nigh's position as principal began August 1, 2007. According to the complaint the "Plaintiff's duties as Principal were to develop policies of the school, participate in administration of the school and to continue to hire teachers." Mr. Nigh had no apparent problems until October 15, 2007 when he received an email from Park stating, "The honeymoon is over." The complaint states, "This shocked Plaintiff who had been putting in long hours at the school and had previously been praised for his good work by the Plaintiff."

The complaint alleges a pattern of continued bullying and abuse by the defendant:
8. Defendant Park's willful and outrageous treatment of Plaintiff began to worsen with many sessions of yelling and criticism and Park began to be very aggressive toward Plaintiff, yelling at him on a daily basis and criticizing him for unforeseeable incidents on campus, and saying "you Americans are all alike" and "I ought to punch you" causing fear on Plaintiff's part of bodily harm. These tirades were never concerning any specific area of criticism but rather just general antipathy and often occurred in the presence of students at the school and other employees and sometimes parents of students.

9. On October 23, 2007, Plaintiff called Defendant and expressed a desire to rehabilitate their relationship telling Defendant that he was tired of the abuse. The Defendant stated that he would try to remain more calm and not to allow himself to continue with this abusive behavior toward Plaintiff.

10. Following this conversation the situation improved for a short time but Defendant then returned to his prior behavior and by the middle of December Plaintiff could take no more and resigned from his position at Ladera. Throughout the rest of December Defendant asked Plaintiff to return and train a new principal and continue to teach his algebra class which Plaintiff did without further salary. The new Principal resisted training Plaintiff attempted to provide and the Defendant continued to exhibit his outrageous and willful behavior toward Plaintiff.
After the defendant resigned "indignities" continued against his two sons who were enrolled in the school. The complaint alleges, "Most of this poor treatment of the boys came from the new Principal's sons and from Defendants sons." The new principal was Wayne Pangelinan.

On January 21, 2008 Mr. Nigh was called to the school by the defendant to talk. The complaint states:
When Plaintiff arrived at the school he was confronted by Defendant Park and the new principal, Wayne Pangelinan and subjected to almost two hours of criticism and anger particularly from Defendant Park.
Since he left the school Mr. Nigh sought medical help for a variety of depression-related illnesses and was diagnosed with major depression by a visiting psychiatrist from Guam. From the period of December 2007 to January 2009 Mr. Nigh was unable to work due to his illness. The complaint states:
20. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant, Yong Nam Park, the employer of Plaintiff, intentionally and deliberately inflicted emotional distress on Plaintiff by a process of systematic harassment, bullying, yelling and threatening to punch Plaintiff, often in the presence of students at the school where Plaintiff was employed as Principal and other employees thereby destroying his relationship with students and employees and his supervisory ability and causing him extreme embarrassment and emotional and physical distress.

21. Defendant's conduct was extreme and outrageous, beyond all possible bounds of decency and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.

22. The actions of the Defendant were the cause of Plaintiff's physical and emotional distress.

23. The Plaintiff is a reasonable man.

24. The emotional distress sustained by Plaintiff was extreme and severe and of a nature that no reasonable man could be expected to endure.

25. As a result of the Defendant's extreme and outrageous conduct, Plaintiff has suffered and with a high degree of likelihood, will continue to suffer, mental pain and anguish embarrassment and humiliation that he was treated so and caused such severe emotional and physical trauma.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages and attorney fees.

Mr. Kim's August 2009 complaint alleges similar questionable behavior by the school's owners:
In addition to the long hours and lack of pay Park and Anne treated Arnold very poorly. They blamed him for every problem. If something went well it was because of Park's good work. If' not, it was Arnold's mistake. Many things were going wrong. Staff were not being paid on time, paychecks were bouncing, LISS changed principals five times while Arnold was there. Several teachers came to Saipan as tourists and then taught at the school until their visas ran out.
It is alleged that Eucon School another foreign-owned school also "fixed their papers" not in China, but on Saipan with the help of willing CNMI immigration personnel.

In a previous posts I pointed out that LISS is endorsed by Governor Fitial and convicted felon, former Lt. Governor Timothy Villagomez and that their photos and endorsement remained on the LISS web-site even after the former Lt. Governor Villagomez has been imprisoned in a high-security federal prison in Tucson, Arizona. The photos and endorsement are still on the web-site. Here is the endorsement from the LISS web-site:

Since I put up the initial post in August there have been many disturbing comments from former LISS employees that make serious allegations against the school. Additionally, there is a web-site that focuses on exposing problems with LISS entitled, Edu-Tourism: Business or Criminals? The posts addresses issues concerning credentials of the teachers, the routine practice of hiring tourists to work, teachers regularly being paid late or having their paychecks bounce, and more.

The Saipan Tribune reported on December 17, 2009 that 8 CNMI schools were eligible to peitition for foreign students through the tudent and Exchange Visitor Program:
The Washington, D.C.-based SVEP is within the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

CNMI Commerce Secretary Michael J. Ada announced yesterday the eight schools that have been both SEVP- and CNMI Department of Commerce-certified.

They are the Agape Christian School in Gualo Rai, Calvary Christian Academy in Chalan Kiya, Eucon International School in Gualo Rai, Grace Christian Academy on Navy Hill, Mount Carmel School in Chalan Kanoa, Northern Marianas College in As Terlaje, Saipan Community School in Susupe, and Saipan International School in As Lito...

...Other private schools with mostly international students have yet to be certified by the federal government, including Ladera International School of Saipan, International Business and Professional College, Emmanuel College, and the University of Loyola at CNMI. These schools have students mostly from the Philippines, China and South Korea.
The federal government should keep a watchful eye on some of the schools that have lawsuits filed against them, allegations of "fixing papers" for employees, and complaints from employees of unpaid wages and delayed pay checks. Right now LISS employees are stating that they were not paid their full salary last week and are still waiting for their wages.

It is also rumored that the school is being sold to a large Korean telecommunications company. Private schools are businesses, but their primary function should be to provide quality education to students. Edu-tourism is only effective if the schools involved have highly qualified teachers, administrators and staff; utilize high educational standards; and are effectively regulated.

Both of the lawsuits filed against LISS, the one filed by Mr. Kim and the one filed by Mr. Nigh, depict LISS as a school being run by abusive bullies. How does this school keep its license? Is any student truly safe in this setting?

For more on LISS check out these previous posts:

Ladera International School of Saipan Update
Governor Intervention in Human Trafficking Case?


Anonymous said...

Why is this school still open? The owners sound dangerous and irresponsible. Maybe the feds can check the immigration papers of employees of Saipan's private schools.

Anonymous said...

The feds should absolutly check the papers of private school sudents and their would show many surprizes.

An endorsement from "Ben & Tim" LOL

Anonymous said...

From what I heard, Nigh was fired for obvious reasons that even the students were aware of.

Anonymous said...

Five principals were "fired" for obvious reasons within 2 years? Was Nigh fired or did he leave?

Anonymous said...

I see both of these two cases are brought in federal court by former CNMI Deputy Attorney General Loren A. Sutton. People with tips or information about these two cases may want to contact Mr. Sutton directly.

Loren A. Sutton
Law Office of Loren A. Sutton
Garapan, Summer Holiday Suites, Ste. 7101
P.O. Box 5593
Saipan, MP 96950-5593

Tel: 670-235-8065
Fax: 670-235-8069

Those with evidence of criminal malfeasance, however, may want to contact the FBI (670-322-6934) or ICE (671-472-7265) (Guam) directly.

Wendy said...

Mr. Nigh was not fired. He resigned.

Anonymous said...

None of the principals were "fired" to my knowledge-some were not recontacted-but they were NOT fired. Recently, in December, the school has had all except one of it's vehicles repossessed and is sadly in arrears in paying it's staff, including teachers.