Attorney Arthur Schwartz will move for a preliminary injunction that could allow client Carin Mehler to return to her classroom at Osborn School.
By Sarah Varney
Attorney Arthur Schwartz will move for a preliminary injunction that could allow client Carin Mehler to return to her classroom at Osborn School. “We will ask for a judge to issue a stay so that Mrs. Mehler can get back to work,” said Schwartz. Mehler was one of four elementary school teachers suspended for allegedly coaching students during state testing. (Two of the teachers have already come to an agreement with the School District — one was reinstated, the other resigned.)
The lawsuit, filed March 27, names individual Board of Education members, Superintendent Dr. Frank Alvarez, Osborn School principal Angela Garcia, former interim superintendent for curriculum Mary Ann Evangelist, and district attorney Gus Mountanos.
Board members Laura Slack, Nancy Pasquale, Karen Belanger, Nicole Weber, Chris Repetto, Katy Keohane Glassberg, and former board member Kendall Egan are named individually in the suit. Outgoing board member Ed Fox is not included in the suit. “Fox isn’t in the suit because he was never in favor of this strategy,” said Schwartz.
The suit which requests a jury trial, charges the defendants with depriving Mehler of her right to teach in order to coerce a waiver of due process rights, and “deprivation of liberty interest without due process” essentially impinging on Mrs. Mehler’s future career opportunities by damaging her reputation.
The suit asks for an apology, an admission from the District that it has no evidence against Mrs. Mehler, and $1 million each for punitive and compensatory damages.
Schwartz added that he is in discussion with the suspended Milton teacher, Dana Coppola, to see if she wants to join the lawsuit. He said he hopes to set up a briefing schedule and a date for a hearing. He estimated that the briefing period will take three or four weeks. “We hope to move this along quickly,” Schwartz said.
The goal of the lawsuit is twofold he said. “The purpose is to get Carin back in the classroom and to get compensation for her.”
He demurred when asked if the real purpose of the suit is to push the District to settle the case. “I hope that they try to settle but I’m shocked that we’re still sitting out here almost a year later without them logging charges,” said Schwartz.
A short time after the suit was filed, the Board of Education issued a statement calling the suit baseless and without merit. According to Schwartz, the District has hired Lewis Silverman of Rutherford & Christie, a Manhattan firm with a strong litigation reputation.