Former teacher accuses Drexel Neumann Academy of discrimination; School seeks dismissal of lawsuit

By Kyla Asbury | Jun 11, 2018

MEDIA — A former Drexel Neumann Academy (DNA) second-grade teacher is suing the school for disability discrimination and a hostile working environment, according to an amended complaint filed April 24 in the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County.

Colleen Seddon said in her lawsuit that she started to teach at DNA in 2007, and she taught at the school for 10 years before her employment was terminated.

Beginning in 2015, Seddon said principal Sister Cathy McGowan and president Sister Maggie Gannon began to pressure her to obtain a teaching certificate with the state.

Seddon said she did not want to pursue the certification because, at that point, she already had 14 years of experience and a bachelor's degree. As a result, Seddon said the teaching certification was of little benefit to her.

Attorney Michael Fortunato

In 2017, the school and its administrators told Seddon if she did not obtain the certification, she would be fired, the complaint said. The plaintiff said she signed up to take courses to complete the certification because she wanted to keep her job with DNA.

At the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, Seddon received a notice of renewal for the school year, but it noted that she had to finish the certification that she had just started that school year, along with a master's degree, according to the suit.

Seddon said she then sought counsel from an attorney, who sent a letter to the school stating that she had fulfilled her part of the deal to pursue the certification and that she would also pursue her master's degree once the certification was complete, but that they could not be completed by the end of the school year.

The school and the administrators failed to respond to the letter, the complaint said, and, on Sept. 12, 2017, Seddon was fired for allegedly failing to accept her letter of renewal. She claims the letter she received had not been dated and did not have a deadline attached to it.

In addition, the complaint said school administrators falsely informed other staff members and the parents of Seddon's students that Seddon had resigned to care for her ailing mother.

Seddon said she believes the school breached its contract with her and that she remains unemployed because the school terminated her employment after the school year had begun.

Seddon also said DNA was aware that she had two young children, was caring for her sick mother and had suffered a stroke after her first child was born. She said the school was also aware that she had suffered several other hardships during her 15 years of teaching.

The defendant also invaded Seddon's privacy, defamed her character, discriminated against her, created a hostile work environment and retaliated against her, according to the suit.

Seddon is seeking compensatory damages and reinstatement to her former position at the school. She is represented by Michael Fortunato and Candace Embry of Rubin Fortunato & Harbison.

In its objections to the lawsuit, DNA states that Seddon failed to state a claim. 

"[Seddon] has failed to state sufficient facts to support a claim that plaintiff suffers from a disability that substantially limited plaintiff from performing the work requirement for completing the required education and certification requirements of her employment," the objections said.

While Seddon claimed the defendants violated the Americans With Disabilities Act, the school said it believes she failed to establish sufficient facts to support the claim under the ADA, according to the objections.

DNA is asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit and for Seddon to pay its attorney's fees and court costs. DNA is represented by Michael J. Malloy.

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