A former teacher said she was fired for calling police after a student touched her buttocks and legs with his exposed penis when she was bent over a microscope, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New York last Thursday.
Who is the plaintiff and where did she teach?
- Judy Sugar was a teacher at Mary McLeod Bethune Junior and Senior High School in the Greenburgh Eleven Union Free School District in Dobbs Ferry, New York, the lawsuit said.
- The public school district is on the grounds of a private agency, The Children’s Village, and educates about 250 male residential and day students with emotional, behavioral and learning problems from kindergarten through grade 12.
What are the allegations?
- Sugar claimed that on May 14, 2015, the student approached her "from behind while she was bent over a microscope, with his genitals exposed, and touched her leg and buttocks with his exposed penis." The student then fled, the lawsuit said.
- Sugar reported the incident to Principal Elton Thompson, who took no action, the lawsuit said.
- She then reported the incident to her head teacher, who "disregarded and dismissed" her claims, the lawsuit said.
- After the student's caseworker and social worker told Sugar to take whatever action she needed to address her safety concerns, the lawsuit said Sugar told her head teacher she wanted to call police.
- But the head teacher told Sugar she had called police, the lawsuit said, and that Sugar could visit police at the end of the day to address her concerns.
- Sugar called police anyway, the lawsuit said, and police said they would come to the school immediately.
- The lawsuit said the principal expressed disapproval toward Sugar and said, "You called the police?"
- The principal also told Sugar she needed to immediately leave school grounds and would be contacted with instructions regarding her employment, the lawsuit added.
What did police allegedly say?
- The lawsuit said Sugar visited the police station later that day, and the officer assigned to the incident said Sugar's call was the only one police received.
- And when police attempted to enter the school following Sugar's call, they told her they were turned away by staff, the lawsuit added.
What happened to the student?
- The student was arrested the next day — May 15, 2015 — and a protection order was issued barring the student from contact with Sugar, the lawsuit said.
What happened to the teacher?
- Four days later — May 19, 2105 — the principal told Sugar she was fired "because of complaints by students and other teachers," the lawsuit said.
- The principal also said Sugar was not a permanent employee and had no right to a hearing and that he could fire her without any fear of repercussion, the lawsuit added.
- But Sugar claimed in the lawsuit that the actual reason she was fired was for purportedly violating a policy that prohibits teachers from calling the police to report crimes on school grounds without approval.
- The district hadn't previously published such a policy, the lawsuit said, and Sugar wasn't aware of it.
- The lawsuit also said Sugar believed another reason she was fired was because Thompson, the principal, didn't want a crime reported as it would reflect badly upon him professionally.
- The lawsuit added that Thompson — who's listed as a defendant in the lawsuit — failed to act on Sugar's previous complaints about the student.
What does the teacher want?
- Sugar wants the court to declare that the district violated her free speech rights and state human rights law prohibiting workplace discrimination, the lawsuit said.
- In addition to wanting her job back, Sugar also wants lost wages, bonuses and benefits, the lawsuit noted, as well as damages and legal fee coverage.
How are school officials responding?
- TheBlaze on Wednesday requested comment from Thompson, as well as the district superintendent and the school board president. None of them immediately replied.
This story has been updated.
(H/T: Blue Lives Matter)