Fired Philly special ed teacher sues district over termination

Jon Campisi Apr. 11, 2012, 8:01am

A former teacher for the School District of Philadelphia whose position was terminated late last year after she received unsatisfactory performance ratings has filed a federal civil rights complaint against the educational institution alleging, among other things, that the district breached its contractual duty with the plaintiff.

Attorney William C. Reil filed the civil action April 6 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Philadelphia resident Charity M. Lynch.

According to the complaint, Lynch, who was hired by the district as an apprentice teacher in November 2009, was initially suspended for a three-month period late last year after receiving unsatisfactory ratings by the district.

Some of the evaluations that led to her suspension involved the reported witnessing of Lynch using corporal punishment on a student, the lawsuit states.

In late December 2011, Lynch received a letter by the school district’s Office of Human Resources, which was attached to the lawsuit as an exhibit, which informed Lynch that the office would recommend her termination to the School Reform Commission.

The letter cites unsatisfactory job ratings from the 2010-2011 school year.

The letter goes on to state that Woolworth Davis, who is the principal at the Ethel D. Allen Promise Academy, which is where Lynch worked, issued an unsatisfactory incident report that covered the period of October 11, 2010 to April 14, 2011 in which Lynch was cited for failure to properly write IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) and assess students in Lynch’s special education classroom.

Davis went on to issue additional unsatisfactory incident reports in the ensuing months, the letter shows.

One example of Lynch’s alleged unsatisfactory performance related to an incident outlined in the letter during which Lynch supposedly pushed a student out of her chair, causing the student to fall on her head.

The letter is signed by Donald L. Rickford, who is identified as the acting chief talent and development officer for the school district.

Rickford is named as a codefendant in the lawsuit along with Davis, Lynch’s former principal.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of violating the contractual agreement between Lynch, a tenured teacher at the time, and the school district; failing to afford Lynch procedural and substantive due process rights; failing to allow Lynch to gather evidence to defend herself against the district’s charges; failing to allow Lynch to appropriately question witnesses and students; coercing students to make false or misleading statements against Lynch; commingling the functions of investigation and adjudication with respect to the charges against Lynch; and failing to provide Lynch with incident reports regarding the alleged corporal punishment.

The lawsuit claims that while student mistreatment was one of the reasons for Lynch’s termination, the district never provided any evidence that corporal punishment ever existed.

“The student who was allegedly the recipient of the corporal punishment was never injured and the School District of Philadelphia did not do a proper investigation of this incident,” the lawsuit states.

The suit goes on to state that the district violated Lynch’s rights by failing to issue a “definitive” letter of dismissal, and failing to show that it terminated Lynch for cause.

Lynch has suffered damages including the loss of her teaching career, since she can no longer be hired by the school district, and loss of salary.

Lynch seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney’s fees and equitable relief.

A jury trial has been demanded.


The federal case number is 2:12-cv-01778-LP.


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