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Teacher Alleges Retaliation by School District for Giving Newspaper Interview

A Long Island, New York, elementary school teacher has filed a lawsuit claiming her former employers tarnished her reputation and fired her after she gave an interview to a local newspaper.

October 21, 2011
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Related Topics: Legal Compliance, Miscellaneous Legal Issues, Retaliation, Wrongful Discharge, Latest News
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According to a lawsuit filed Oct. 14 in a Brooklyn federal district court, Rebecca Posteraro, a third-year music teacher at the Bellerose Avenue Elementary School in East Northport, New York, broke her leg on Feb. 15, minutes before the curtain was to rise on the opening night of a school musical she was co-directing. Despite the injury, Posteraro stayed to see her cast through to the end of the show.

During the show, Barbara Falotico, the school's principal, called an ambulance to take Posteraro to the hospital, but then realized she would have to miss the end of the production, the lawsuit alleges. Agreeing to let Posteraro finish the show, Falotico instructed an emergency operator to forget the request, saying that she would call back later, according to court documents.

The next week, both women were interviewed by a Newsday newspaper reporter about the night's events. The article, published Feb. 20 and titled "Music Teacher Breaks Leg, Stays for Play," detailed Posteraro's efforts to remain on hand during the production in spite of the pain, according to court documents.

When she returned to work eight days later, Posteraro learned that Falotico and Northport-East Northport School District Superintendent Marylou McDermott had decided to deny her tenure because they interpreted the Newsday article as criticism of the school's "failure to insist on Posteraro being taken immediately to the hospital," according to court documents.

During the next two months, Posteraro claims in her lawsuit that she was retaliated against repeatedly for giving the interview. Falotico allegedly reprimanded Posteraro personally for talking to the reporter, despite having done so herself, court documents note.

On March 30, Posteraro alleges that she was forced to sign an inaccurate and misleading teacher evaluation. A week later, she discovered that her personnel file had been "pilfered" and that "all of the positive documentation had been removed," according to court documents. On May 18, a few days before the school's spring concert, she was told she would be fired at the end of the school year.

Posteraro also claims that another teacher, Izzet Mergen, and Falotico defamed her by telling parents who complained about her firing that they would "understand and agree" with the district's decision if they "knew all the details," leaving them to deduce that she had committed a serious infraction.

Calls to McDermott's office seeking comment were not returned.

Posteraro has asked that the district's actions be removed from her teaching record and is seeking back pay and additional compensatory damages.

Matt Dunning writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

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