Teacher Files Lawsuit Against School District Alleging Gaslighting After Raising Special Education Concerns

A Farmington High School teacher has filed a lawsuit against the Board of Education, claiming that administrators violated her right to free speech while harassing and “gaslighting” her for speaking up in support of special education kids, according to court filings.

A 12th-grade English teacher named Heather Maynard claims in a lawsuit filed in the state Superior Court in Hartford that after school leadership changed in 2015, the favorable reviews she had been receiving for years soured, and she was “made the target of retaliation and subject to a hostile work environment.”

The lawsuit alleges that the harassment is particularly apparent due to an “educator improvement plan” that made Maynard work countless additional hours under threat of termination.

In a statement, the school district said it “denies all allegations of wrongdoing. We take pride in the specialized programming and supports we provide to our students who are identified in need of such programming and supports.”

Maynard had formally complained in 2017 that special education students made up about 85 percent (18 of 21 students) of one of her classes, despite federal and state laws that require students with special needs to be taught to the maximum extent possible with their non-disabled peers, the lawsuit stated.

Teacher Files Lawsuit Against School District Alleging Gaslighting After Raising Special Education Concerns

Maynard claimed that school officials broke the regulations after she complained, but the lawsuit claimed that she was not the victim of retaliation until the 2019–20 school year when Scott Hurwitz took over as principal.

According to the case, she met with Hurwitz, who was later elevated to assistant superintendent, “to express her concern about the systemic violation” of the rights of particular education pupils, noting the unbalanced class she initially raised in 2017.

On the other hand, administrators did not support Maynard’s advocacy; instead, they questioned her methods for evaluating student work and erroneously concluded that she “historically has a problem with assigning work only at the end of the semester,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that in 2021, Maynard was unjustly accused of skipping two planning team meetings for the particular education pupils in her class by Abigail Rohr, the special education department head at the high school. After that academic year, the lawsuit claimed Maynard received her first unfavorable evaluation from Dean of Students Mary Lundquist.

According to the lawsuit, Maynard claimed she spoke to Hurwitz about Lundquist, but he declined to nominate a different assessor.

After that, Maynard was placed on an “educator improvement plan” by Lundquist, who allegedly threatened to fire her or order her to perform “all manner of additional, unpaid work,” according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit claimed that Hurwitz was informed of and in favor of the plan when Maynard complained about it.

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According to the lawsuit, Maynard’s unwavering support for students in special education did not stop the harassment and mistreatment. Melissa Bader, the English department chair, was accused of “continuing to undermine plaintiff by defaming (her) character among her colleagues, smearing her name and the curriculum she taught” and giving less seasoned instructors leadership positions in the department, according to the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, Maynard claims that Bader and Assistant Principal Lisa Kapcinski, who took over as her evaluator from Lundquist, “continue to gaslight” her on objectives, due dates, and expectations.

In addition to other relief, the lawsuit demands punitive damages, the withdrawal of unfavorable ratings, and the termination of the instructor improvement plan.

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