AUBURN | A special education teacher who has been employed by the Auburn Enlarged City School District for 29 years has filed legal action against the district, district employees and board of education, saying she was the victim of retaliation.
Claire Rusin, the teacher, filed claims in state Supreme Court in Cayuga County, alleging the district retaliated against her and discriminated against her under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act, Family Medical Leave Act, Human Rights Law of New York state and state constitutional laws, according to publicly available court documents.
She named as defendants the district; the full board of education; Brian Morgan, high school principal; David Treharne, high school vice principal; Christian Maher, high school vice principal; Laura Owen, director of special education; Jeffrey Pirozzolo, assistant superintendent for personnel; J.D. Pabis, outgoing superintendent, and Camille Johnson, assistant superintendent for student services.
Rusin, through her lawyer A.J. Bosman, accused defendants of subjecting her to unlawful retaliation for her opposition to what she said was the district's "failure to provide services to disabled children" of the school district. The papers did not go into further details about which services Rusin believes were not provided.
"Among other things, Plaintiff was subjected to excessive in-classroom observations with no warning or justification, lost the assistance of all support personnel in her classroom, and was not asked to serve on the special education committee, all in retaliation for her opposition to discrimination," the papers state. "Additionally, Plaintiff has to endure antagonistic treatment from the defendants and was subjected to reprimands with no basis and untrue performance evaluations."
Bosman argued that Rusin became ill with extreme mental distress, anxiety and depression that disabled her in such a way that she is protected by state anti-discrimination laws.
Bosman said Rusin had to take leaves of absence in 2010 and 2011 under the Family Medical Leave Act, and was "further retaliated against for exercising her rights under the FMLA and taking said leave of absence."
Reprimands for "permissible student interactions when no other staff member would have been reprimanded", heightened scrutiny of her performance and scrutiny of her on- and off-the-job conduct were other things to which Rusin was subjected, according to the court papers.
Rusin's complaint also refers to a Sept. 26, 2011, counseling memorandum in which Rusin was accused of "grabbing" two students on two separate occasions (June 1, 2011 and Sept. 19, 2011). Bosman said the memorandum was defamatory and injured Rusin.
Rusin seeks at least $5 million from the parties named for what she said has been injury to her reputation, impairment of her potential earning power and career advancement, physical symptoms such as insomnia, body aches and tension and other pains, severe emotional distress, depression and psychological trauma, damage to her relations and other damages.
Pabis, who was cited as the only district official authorized to speak on the case, was not available Tuesday for comment. A call to Bosman was not immediately returned.