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Fired Teacher Sues Manatee District

February 27, 2008

By Sylvia Lim, The Bradenton Herald, Fla.

Feb. 27–MANATEE — A former Manatee County teacher is suing the school district claiming discrimination and unjust termination of her employment.

The suit, filed Monday by former Mills Elementary teacher Mary Cropsey, names the school district, Superintendent Roger Dearing and Mills Principal Mike Rio as defendants.

In the lawsuit, Cropsey is seeking $15,000 or more in damages and her attorney’s fees.

“I will have my day in court,” Cropsey said.

Cropsey was cleared of charges she tampered with her students’ Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, a crime under Florida law.

When asked to participate in an interview with school district investigators, Cropsey refused because her attorney would not be allowed to attend with her.

The school board then fired her for insubordination.

Cropsey, who now teaches at a charter school, has a pending case appealing the school board’s decision in the Second District Court of Appeal.

School board attorney John Bowen said Cropsey’s lawsuit is groundless.

“She hasn’t been denied any rights. We are aware of her entire situation,” Bowen said Tuesday. “She had a full and fair hearing before the school board and her employment was terminated. On top of that . . . it was established (her contract) hasn’t been renewed for numerous reasons.”

Bowen said he had not seen a copy of Cropsey’s lawsuit and declined to say why her contract was not renewed.

Cropsey claims the accusation that she’d tampered with the FCATs claims were in retaliation for complaints she made against Rio, accusing him of not renewing her contract because she refused to participate in a prayer service at the school, age discrimination and other issues.

Two other teachers are in the process of appealing school district decisions to discipline them for refusing to participate in investigations without their attorneys.

One of them, former middle school special education teacher Pathaline Daniels, has gone to an appellate court seeking to overturn a 10-day suspension and the loss of her tenure, Bowen said.

Another former high school teacher’s case went before an administrative law judge in a Florida Public Employees Relations Commission hearing, Bowen said.

The judge recommended that Todd Raven’s termination was wrongful because the district did not allow his attorney to be with him while being interviewed by internal investigators, Bowen said. The board will decide whether to go with the judge’s recommendation on March 10.

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