Katonah-Lewisboro school (KLSD) officials are waiting for input from the state when it comes to the suspension of an employee, who happens to be suing the district.
The administration says the lawsuit—which cites discrimination—filed by Kristin M. Peterson and the suspension are separate issues. She has been with the district as a social worker since 1997.
Peterson is still considered an employee. According to a KLSD official, last month the district conducted an internal hearing on the issues that led to her suspension; it has since been advanced to the state level. Activity is expected to resume in February or March.
Peterson, a North White Plains resident, filed a lawsuit with the Superior Court of New York in Westchester County Nov. 29. It names the district, the Board of Education and several officials in both "individual and corporate" capacities, including Superintendent Dr. Paul Kreutzer, Katonah Elementary School Principal Jessica Godin and Director of Special Services Connie Hayes as defendants.
"Plaintiff's claims include but are not limited to prima facie tort, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, negligent supervision, negligent hiring, retaliation, hostile work environment, discrimination based on disability, discrimination based on gender," as well as several violations of civil rights, the lawsuit reads.
Peter Hoffman, Peterson's attorney, declined to comment or provide details on timing. The KLSD official said the suspension came first.
"We believe the claim is absolutely without merit," the district said in a statement. "Upon the advice of counsel, we will not provide further comment on pending litigation."
The New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal is handling the case for the district, which is reportedly not subject to potential financial liability. An official response to the lawsuit is in the works.
The 46-page suit does not seek a specific amount of money, but requests "compensatory damages" in a to-be-determined amount. It does ask, among other things, that Peterson's personnel file be expunged and "supervised employee training and anti-bullying programs" be implemented "for all employees and students" at least four times annually.
It claims that "KLSD has engaged in a pattern and practice of discriminatory, tortious and wrongful conduct" against Peterson, who sustained disabilities after undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and surgery in treatment for an aggressive brain tumor in 1998.
The document references a September 2011 incident with a special needs student, where Peterson claims the district falsely accused her of manhandling the youngster. It also alleges that Peterson was "singled out" often among her peers, notes repeated assignment changes and maintains that the defendant's complaints to human resources were never investigated.
Defamation charges by Peterson allege that the district labeled her a "child abuser" and that Kreutzer called her "crazy." The suit was filed prior to the teacher's association bringing their own concerns about Kreutzer's leadership to the school board.
Here are some additional snippets from the suit:
- "...Upon information and belief, KLSD does not have an anti-harassment policy. Absence of such a policy constitutes condonation of the harassment."
- "The subject matter of Plaintiffs complaints to KLSD are of public importance because they concern the rights of special needs students and the rights of employees with disabilities who are being discriminated against."
- "The harassing and retaliatory conduct prevented Peterson from providing state and federally mandated services to students with IEP's and 504 Plans. Peterson repeatedly raised these concerns with KLSD because its retaliatory behavior caused service disturbances for the children with special needs. KLSD did nothing; thus, it is not in compliance with several IEPs and 504 Plans."