The city’s Board of Education settled a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit brought by a former Bronx School Board employee last week for $100,000.
The suit, filed against the Board of Ed and others by Maureen Grogan, a long-time secretary at Community School Board 8, alleged sexual and racial harassment and assault by Dennis Coleman, a member and former president of that board. A counterclaim made by Coleman, alleging that Grogan’s accusations were false and defamatory, was dismissed by the court also last week. Coleman, at one time a State Senator for a short period in the mid-1960s, was suspended by then School Chancellor Rudy Crew several years ago in connection with his behavior over an incident during a school board meeting. A tape of the meeting revealed that he had yelled at a parent in attendance, and shoved Grogan, reinjuring an old neck problem she suffered from.
Coleman is still a member of the Board. The suit, which alleged a pattern of discrimination that stretched through years, added fuel to the fire of that board’s already hot flames of racial division. Grogan’s suit claimed that Coleman would regularly treat her in an abusive fashion, making her feel “insulted and humiliated.” An investigation by the Office of Equal Opportunity Employment into the allegations found grounds substantiating at least some of Grogan’s claims. Despite the findings, however, Board of Education officials did not reprimand Coleman, sparking the suit filed by Grogan’s lawyer, Joseph Maya, in federal court for the Southern District of New York.
Coleman was later suspended in connection with the incident at the school board meeting. In Crew’s harsh suspension letter to Coleman at that time, the school’s chancellor had said that Coleman’s actions, “went beyond that of antagonism and rudeness and crossed the line beyond which elected school board members can go… your vilification of parents, as well as your shouting at colleagues and staff … are indefensible.”
Coleman could not be reached for comment as of press time. Board of Education officials were also unavailable for comment as of press time. Maya, reached by phone on Tuesday, called the settlement a “tremendous victory” for his client.
“It really is a victory for her to be vindicated,” Maya said. “And to have Dennis Coleman’s counterclaims dismissed.”
Maya called the entire incident a shame, saying that “The children of New York City should not be burdened with losing $100,000 for this sort of thing.”
According to Maya, last week’s settlement came after long negotiations between both parties. He called the discrimination suffered by his client “egregious and systemic.”
By DAVID CRITCHELL
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