Sunday, August 03, 2008

Former District 75 Assistant Principal Will Get His Day in Court on Retaliation Claim for Refusal to Conspire to Ruin the Careers of Two Teachers

Judge Shira Scheindlin of the Federal District Court ruled last week that Joseph Fierro, an Assistant Principal at District 75’s P.S. 12X has the right to continue his lawsuit against Principal Ronna Bleadon for sexual harassment and for refusing to take part in what he claims was an effort to destroy the careers of two teachers in his school. Fierro claims that his refusal to take part in the principal’s advances or in her scheme to unsatisfactorily rate two teachers caused his demotion to teacher and other damages.

The facts of the case, as described by Judge Scheindlin, portray an unhealthy work environment for Mr. Fierro and his attempt to change it.

Fierro started working as an assistant principal for P.S. 12X in 2002. P.S. 12X is comprised of approximately six school sites located in the Bronx with its administration primarily based at Lewis & Clark High School. Fierro and the rest of the administration all had offices at Lewis & Clark.

Fierro alleges that from the start of his employment at P.S. 12X, the principal, Ronna Bleadon, made inappropriate comments about how handsome he looked in a suit and how her husband was jealous of him because she constantly told him what a good job he was doing. During the first two years at P.S. 12X, Bleadon also made comments about Fierro's physical appearance in the presence of co-workers. For example, when he wore shorts to work during the summer months Bleadon commented that Fierro had great legs and asked whether he had been working out. Bleadon also told Fierro intimate details about her personal life, sharing her past experiences with an ex-husband.

In or about the fall of 2004, Bleadon repeatedly suggested that Fierro visit her home while her husband was on a business trip so that he could "keep her company." Bleadon directed these comments at him while at work, as well as during phone calls that she initiated after work-hours. Around that same time, Bleadon would "beckon him to her office by saying 'Come see mommy' or 'Come to Mama Bleadon' in front of other assistant principals." According to Fierro, Bleadon's comments and advances made him feel very uncomfortable and awkward.

Fierro also claims that he exercised his First Amendment right to free speech in or about the fall of 2004 when he refused "to participate in or facilitate Bleadon's campaigns to ruin the careers of two teachers whom Bleadon did not like. Fierro witnessed one of the two teachers -- Ms. Grey -- intercede in an altercation between two students. Bleadon directed Fierro to lie and state that he had seen Ms. Grey participate in the fight, but Fierro refused to do so. Bleadon directed Fierro to enter the second targeted teacher's classroom -- that of Mr. Simon -- and "find things for which the administration could give that teacher a 'U' rating. Fierro observed that teacher's classroom and did not find anything that warranted a "U" rating. He told Bleadon the same.

In the middle of the spring semester of 2005, Bleadon transferred Fierro against his will to West Side High School, another P12X school site. Due to this transfer, Fierro no longer had his own office, parking space, computer, and phone. He was separated from the other assistant principals of P12X who all remained at Lewis & Clark. Moreover, he had to travel a greater distance from his home to West Side than to Lewis & Clark. Following his transfer, Bleadon repeatedly called Fierro at West Side to ask him how he liked the transfer, commenting to him that he no longer had the "same comforts that you had here." When Fierro responded that he did not understand why he was transferred and no longer had his own office, Bleadon responded, "Well, you think about it." When he returned to Lewis & Clark for routine meetings with Bleadon, she would ask him whether he missed her or whether he was "ready to behave."

In or about August 2005, Fierro complained to Sharon Burnett, a Local Instructional Superintendent in District 75 who supervised P12X. He informed Burnett that he had been sexually harassed by Bleadon and felt that he had been retaliated against for rejecting her advances. Burnett spoke with Bonnie Brown and Dr. Susan Erber, Deputy Superintendent and Superintendent of District 75, respectively, regarding Fierro's complaints. Burnett then informed Fierro that he was being transferred to P753X -- a District 75 high school located in Brooklyn that was known to be one of the most dangerous schools in New York State.

Fierro protested that he had previously been stabbed twice during earlier placements at dangerous schools and did not want to be transferred. Moreover, he only had two more years until he was eligible for tenure at P12X and a transfer would significantly disrupt his progress. Nevertheless, Fierro was transferred to P753X "in retaliation for complaining about Bleadon's sexual harassment of him and about her retaliation against him for rebuffing her advances."

As a result of Bleadon's sexual harassment and her retaliatory acts, Fierro alleges that he suffered mental and physical distress, and he incurred costs associated with medical visits and medication. Additionally, he took a medical leave from work in the spring of 2006, and lost twenty days worth of wages. Fierro further alleges that, due to his distress, he was unable to undergo training in early 2005 to work with autistic children. This delay prevented him from obtaining employment in this field until very recently.

Fierro alleges that in retaliation for the filing of the instant suit the City of New York, the DOE, and Brown have pressured the principal of District 75 -- his current supervisor -- to terminate him. Specifically, the principal advised Fierro that he did not think that he would be retained as a teacher for the next academic year, despite the fact that two teachers with less seniority were not so advised.

While certain claims were dismissed Fierro has now the opportunity to prove, at trial, these allegations. No date has been set for trial.


JOSEPH FIERRO - against - THE CITY OF NEW YORK, et. al., 07 Civ. 11214 (SAS), UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 57516, (July 30, 2008)

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are there other similar cases pending against DoE? These kind of stuff happens everyday in DoE schools. What are the results of previous lawsuits of this nature?

Anonymous said...

Can an employee have their case heard in court if they have not expired their administrative recourse? Do you know of such instance? How would one proceed if in fact that was the circumstance??

Anonymous said...

The CSA is weak, so a lawsuit would be the way to go. Same for UFT members.

Anonymous said...

An employee can withdraw his or her case from administrative agency, request a notice of right to sue, and then take his or her case to federal court assuming this AP is currenty suing under the protection of the Title VII of the Civil Right laws of 1968 for gender discrimination and then retaliation. There are some other less often used laws offering similar protections such as 42 USC of 1983, and 42 USC 1981. learned from googling some sites.

Anonymous said...

Good material for us to work with. Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

Port Richmond HS coach fired for cause, judge rules
BY THOMAS ZAMBITO
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Sunday, August 3rd 2008, 5:35 PM

Veteran Port Richmond High School boys' track and cross-country coach Barry Bastian has lost a federal discrimination lawsuit that challenged his 2003 firing.

Manhattan Federal Judge Paul Crotty tossed out Bastian's race and age discrimination lawsuit last week, ruling that school officials had good reason to fire the 26-year veteran.

Bastian, 58, claimed he and his teams were underfunded and that he was unjustly fired.

He also challenged his 2006 reassignment to a nonteaching position after teaching health and physical education at the Staten Island school for 31 years.

"The obvious explanation is that [Bastian's] termination had nothing to do with funding and everything to do with his unprofessional behavior and failure to abide by applicable rules and regulations," Crotty wrote.

City attorneys cited eight letters of reprimand Bastian received in the six years leading up to his firing as track and cross-country coach.

They said he failed to supervise his runners at the school and at meets, and once told a father to "go to hell." He entered an academically ineligible student at a meet, and entered another under a fellow student's name, they said.

"He also conceded, in contravention of school policy, he had approached at least two teachers and suggested that they alter student athletes' grades to preserve their eligibility for competition," Crotty wrote.

Bastian was fired in February 2003 for a pattern of disregarding athletic department rules and regulations, and was replaced by an African-American female.

Three years later, he was removed from his teaching post when school officials said he made sexually suggestive comments regarding students' weight, family and religion.

Crotty said Bastian's claims he was underpaid didn't hold up.

"Plaintiff presents no competent evidence of a single female comparator who was paid at a higher rate than he was paid," Crotty wrote.

"He makes only an unsubstantiated claim that he 'received less pay and money to perform his job' than the girls' gymnastics coach."

tzambito@nydailynews.com

Anonymous said...

The Port Richmond story is not very promising.

Anonymous said...

HES THE BEST PERSON AND TEACHER I EVER NOW. THANKS TO HIM MY LITTLE GIRL HAS IMPROVE 100% SINCE HE TOOK CARE OF HER, I HOPE ALL HE'S DOING IN HIS CASE ENDS IN GOOD FOR HIM, HE DESERVE IT. I HOPE ALL PARENTS AGREE WITH ME. I THANK HIM AND WISH HIM GOOD LUCK.

Anonymous said...

Fierro v. The City of New York, et. al.

May 9, 2009

I am writing in response to Joseph Fierro –against- The City of New York, et al. I have known Mr. Fierro for many years as both an Administrator and Teacher. I admire and support Mr. Fierro in taking action against the corruption that takes place in the Education Department of the City of New York. Particularly against teachers students and other support staff in how they are treated. For Principal Ronna Bleadon (P.S. 12-X) to make inappropriate comments regarding Mr. Fierro’s appearance as well as recruiting him in a conspiracy against teachers is wrong and done very often by Principals and Assistant Principals. We, as teachers, are caught between making choices in doing what’s right or playing ball to keep ourselves from getting U rated; ultimately being transferred as Mr. Fierro was. Under this current Administration, the “Leadership Academy” is training young men and women with very little classroom experience to become Principals, exercising an enormous amount of inappropriate actions against teachers and staff. At what point are they accountable to the District and Superintendents of their Districts. I encourage and support Judge Scheindlin of the Federal District Court to pursue Mr. Fierro’s lawsuit against Principal Ronna Bleadon at District 75-P.S. 12-X for her inappropriate actions against Mr. Fierro .

KrinskyRichard said...

08-3962-cv
Fierro v. The City of New York
Scheindlin, J.
S.D.N.Y.
07-cv-11214

JOE LOST ON APPEAL

KrinskyRichard said...

The Appellate Court reversed the decision; Joe lost on appeal - the Court ruled that he did not sufficiently establish a First Amendment violation.
08-3962-cv
Fierro v. The City of New York
Scheindlin, J.
S.D.N.Y.
07-cv-11214

Kevin said...

Dear Krinsky,

I don't know where you get the info that Fierro "lost on appeal" (implying that Mr. Fierro lost, if you check the official record accurately) Feb. 26, '10. Joe Fierro won in the Magistrate Federal Court under Judge Francis a settlement of $300,000 for damages in July of 2010 and city officials confired that disabled children were indeed abused, there was a cover-up and Mr. Fierro's civil right along with those of his fellow teachers and children were violated. Joe's victory was not his alone but blow for child's safety, civil rights, respectable teachers and all who do honest work for a living and are faced with abusive corrupt leadership.

Anonymous said...

It is very interesting this site only exposed the honorable attempts that Mr.Fierro did for teachers as per the southern district courts. If you looked a little deeper you find that his quest for justice was even more profound dending chidlden's rights as they were physically abused in the public school system. You can find this case in the eastern district courts. Mr. Fierro has risk a great deal of his own for all NYers and we owe our gratitued and support. It would be nice to truly see all Mr. Fierro has done for our city. Please post the eastern district case so all can comment and no the full truth.

Anonymous said...

Dear ICEUFT,
I'm writing to express my thanks to your Blog for exposing a very imprtant man who has questioned one of the systems that is extremely corrupt and that is the NYC DOE. By doing so Mr. Joe Fierro risked everthing that he worked so hard for his whole life. My child is one of the many children that was abuse in district 75 which is the special education district of NYC and covers all of NYC.He save my son and many other children and teachers from the corruption of evil city officals. Thank you Mr. Fierro and I'm sorry for all you went through for trying to do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

Hello ICEUFT,
I was an exstudent of K753 and I new Mr.fiero he was a truly good man,we could always turn to him for help,before he got to our school things were out of control and he was able to stablize things and students final had someone to turn to. I read one of the coments made about children being abuse and it was so true and we were treated with no respect. He respected us and we returned the same repect cause he heard us and listen.I wonder what happened to Mr.fiero I hope he is well. And I dont thing the people who hit us kids were ever arrested.I wonder why are they above the law.All I know is the people who did nothing to protect us got promoted and Mr.fiero who defended usand treated us with respect was gone.Should some one tell the police or the news.
sincerly Ex K753 Student