Bucks County, Pa. school faces federal civil rights lawsuit

By Jon Campisi | Jul 28, 2011

A Bucks County public schoolteacher filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against his employer July 25, alleging discriminatory treatment because of his diagnosed depression.

The complaint, which was filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by Penndel, Pa. attorneys Timothy M. Kolman, Wayne A. Ely, Eman Abouelseoud and Lalena J. Turchi, alleges that New Hope, Pa. resident Timothy Michael endured discrimination at Central Bucks High School East, where he was employed as a history teacher beginning in 2004.

The lawsuit states that Michael was diagnosed with clinical depression in the spring of 2009. Immediately thereafter, he notified the school’s principal, Abram Lucabaugh, of the diagnosis, the suit claims.

“As a consequence of informing Lucabaugh of the depression, he [Michael] was discriminated against and treated in a disparate and discriminatory manner,” the lawsuit claims.

At first, Michael was subjected to “heightened scrutiny,” the suit states, which included being watched or criticized if he ever left his classroom, according to the complaint.

Michael was also not instructed to miss anymore school, despite the fact that he had personal time stashed away, and that he might have needed to look in on an ailing parent who lived out of state.

In October 2009, the school’s principal called police when it appeared as though the teacher came to school intoxicated. It turns out that Michael was negligently given Valium, instead of another medication, by his pharmacist, the lawsuit states, an explanation for his appearing intoxicated.

After the incident, Lucabaugh became “extremely angry,” the suit states, and informed Michael that his position at the school was “increasingly untenable” due to his erratic behavior.

“Lucabaugh showed no sympathy and little understanding to Plaintiff,” the lawsuit states.

Eventually, both Lucabaugh and the school district superintendent told Michael that he should take a leave of absence and put some “distance” between the events of that school year and the next.

Because rumors had gotten out to the school community regarding his supposed state of mind, Michael decided to write to his parents directly to tell them he had been given the wrong medication from the pharmacy during the incident earlier that school year. Still, the teacher’s reputation continued to suffer, the suit states.

Eventually, in light of his treatment by his employers, Michael filed a discrimination charge against the school with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging disability discrimination, according to the complaint.

At the end of the 2010 school year, Michael was informed by superiors that he was being transferred to a middle school in the district.

“Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff was subjected to an unannounced alleged ‘informal observation’ by the principal,” the suit states.

The principal told Michael she was unaware of his past issues at his previous school, but the plaintiff stated he believed otherwise.

“Plaintiff has been subjected to intrusive observations, disparate treatment, incorrect and false evaluations and general harassment,” the lawsuit alleges.

In his lawsuit, Michael alleges that the district violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, and that it retaliated against him for filing the complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Through the complaint, Michael seeks to prohibit the school district from continuing a policy of discrimination. He also seeks unspecified punitive damages and other remedies.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-04677-PD.

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