Sparks flew at the Suffern Central School District’s May 7th Board Meeting as resident Michael Curley took on and beat into submission the 800 pound gorilla in the room.
In a District that has seen false and potentially defamatory accusations hurled about in a wanton fashion via social media, during public comment sessions at board meetings and even in an article published by the Journal News, Michael Curley cut through the smoke and mirrors to highlight what matters most, the alleged victims who have thus far not only been denied justice, in some instances allegations weren’t even investigated.
When one compares and contrasts what Michael Curley said with what the district’s Title IX attorney Elizabeth Ledkovsky said during the April 2, 2019 board meeting (see the transcript below) it’s abundantly clear that he’s on the right track.
Curley starts out by taking district teachers to task who have commented, liked and shared the article that was full of false allegations that attacked the Dale family. He continues by stating that the issue isn’t about that family.
“What this is really about is sexual molestation or sexual abuse that has actually been going on since 2017 in the school district or alleged shall we say and the fact that no-one did anything about it. So a new board comes on and they had the courage to do things about it. They have the courage to hold Executive Sessions longer, they have the courage to say you know what, I may have a problem with this teacher, they have the courage to say that I may even have a problem with the Superintendent. There’s problems here folks in this district. Okay. And no one, should ever let any young girl be assaulted in this district and not speak up. Even if it’s alleged, you have an obligation to separate those parties.”
Curley continues by stating, “This is about where we fell short(fall), and this school district is not and will never be more powerful than any young kid that goes in this district but we’re not the Mighty, Mighty Mounties, we’re the Mighty Mighty Mice.”
Later he said, “If any young girl was affected in this school district and we did nothing about it, we are nobody. And anybody who had knowledge of that and did nothing is nobody and should be gone.”
Curley wraps up by discussing the BOCES CoSer agreement to investigate a potential data breach that the current Board President had to sign after weeks of delays by district administrators. Confidential student data was sent out of the district at least eight times and accessed by a Yahoo email address. This violates state and federal privacy laws.
Title IX Report April 2, 2019 -presented by Elizabeth Ledkovsky of Shaw, Perelson, May & Lambert, L.L.P. (video of this Title IX report follows at the bottom of this article)
“Thank you madam President.
In early February the Board of Education called upon the District’s Title IX and DASA compliance officers together with me as a legal advisor to review a matter involving a number of alleged instances of misconduct in the nature of discrimination on the basis of sex.
During the ensuing eight weeks, an extensive investigation was conducted involving interviews of 41 individuals including students, parents, administrators and other members of the faculty and staff.
The details of the resulting 150 or so page investigative report which are confidential, have been presented to the Board for it’s further review.
In the course of this investigation, we found an additional allegation of the nature of sexual harassment had been previously brought to the attention of certain administrators but that investigations of those allegations had not been carried through to completion.
The failure to clearly implement protocols informed by statutory and regulatory provisions caused the neglect of certain personnel matters and student concerns that are now being addressed by the District.
We have identified opportunities for corrective measures with a goal towards implementing best practices. We also have decided to undertake further investigation of the prior allegations toward the goal of ensuring that the District makes good on its commitment to protecting all of its students and fostering a safe and healthy educational environment.
From the Shaw, Perelson, May & Lambert, L.L.P. website: …Ms. Ledkovsky often assists school districts with investigations of harassment claims and compliance with human rights statutes such as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and DASA – the NYS Dignity for All Students Act…”
Allegations Against Two District Teachers
There are allegations that a teacher who was initially put on paid administrative leave and who has now been suspended with pay has acted inappropriately with female students.
It’s been alleged that in 2017 there was physical contact with a female student, ‘sugar daddy’ money given by the teacher in question so that the student could go shopping and an intimate relationship between the teacher and the student during the summer months of 2017.
The district was notified of these allegations in the fall of 2017.
The current allegations that are under investigation are thought to have come from two, possibly three female students.
A second teacher was put on paid administrative leave for alleged improper misconduct in March.
Both teachers are considered innocent until proven guilty and are entitled to due process.
The Teacher’s Union is Unfairly Getting a Bad Rap
Some residents have expressed outrage and disgust at the Suffern Education Association (teacher’s union) for ‘allegedly’ protecting the teacher in question for the 2017 incident which in their opinion, has led to the suspended teacher having the opportunity to continue to have access to students.
The truth of the matter is quite different.
Unions exist to negotiate better wages, benefits, working conditions and protections for their members.
Although the 2017 incident was reported to district administrator(s) as referenced in the videos and in the transcript above, the district did not follow through with an investigation and therefore the Suffern Teacher’s Association had no one to protect and therefore was never asked to defend one of their members against these allegations. This was a failure on the part of the District and not on the part of the Suffern Education Association. The issue here is the District’s failure to investigate and to protect students from alleged misconduct
In the event that a complaint is filed against one of their members, regardless of how distasteful the alleged actions are, labor unions have an obligation to not only provide representation, they usually have an obligation to defend their members as well.
Failure to provide an adequate defense could result in the union being subjected to claims of ineffective representation.
Making things even more challenging is the fact that some teachers live in the district and have children in the schools. In the event that a union member acted inappropriately with the child of another member, the union would still be obligated to defend the alleged offender.
With the charges against suspended Superintendent Dr. Douglas Adams not having been made public, residents are still left wondering who knew what and when as well as exactly which administrators were involved in not fully investigating the complaints.
Information is scarce because of privacy laws and tensions are high as a result as the investigation continues. All students and their families effected by this alleged misconduct and abuse are Mounties too and are deserving of the respect and support of the community.