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Rye teacher’s suit: Judge denies motion to return to class

Published: May 30, 2014

Publication: Lohud, The Journal News

By Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy

A federal judge Friday denied a motion by a Rye teacher for a preliminary injunction requiring the school district to end her administrative reassignment and return her to her classroom.

Carin Mehler, one of four teachers who was placed on administrative reassignment following allegations of improper coaching during the state tests last year, sued the district in April, saying she had been left in limbo and that her name had been sullied.

Another teacher, Dana Coppola, later joined the lawsuit. Coppola was charged by the district within days of her joining the suit with 10 counts of “misconduct and neglect of duty” in both 2013 and 2011.

Coppola has asked for an open administrative hearing on the district’s charges.

In dispensing her ruling in U.S. District Court in White Plains, Judge Cathy Seibel said Mehler’s paid reassignment did not constitute a “violation of due process.

“An employee who continues to be paid cannot claim to be deprived,” she said. Salaries reported by the state Teachers Retirement System show that, in 2012-13, Mehler’s salary was $125,683.

“We are very pleased with the judge’s well-reasoned decision,” said Lewis Silverman, the attorney representing the district. “It bodes well for our motion to dismiss the lawsuit.”

Seibel did not act Friday on the district’s motion to dismiss the case, but set a new court date in June.

According to allegations detailed by the district in response to the teachers’ lawsuit, Mehler told students to change answers during the state assessments in 2013.

Arthur Schwartz, the attorney for Mehler and Coppola, said Mehler had filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court on Friday afternoon, seeking her return to the classroom or to be charged by the district, the same she’s seeking from Seibel.

Shannon Gold, a fourth-grade teacher at Milton, resigned from the district in January. Gail Topol, a third-grade teacher at Osborn, returned to the classroom in February after paying a fine of $2,500 and converting 27 days of her administrative reassignment to a paid suspension.

The district changed its protocol on proctoring state assessments this year by disallowing teachers to oversee their own classes.

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