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Employee sues school on grounds of alleged discrimination against sexual orientation

Employee sues school on grounds of alleged discrimination against sexual orientation

A private school for gifted children in New York City is being sued by one of its employees, who claimed that his contract was not renewed due to his sexual orientation.

63-year-old former administrator Alan Cohen filed a lawsuit against the Speyer Legacy School last week, where he had been serving as the assistant head and head of the lower school for about a year. Cohen, who shared that he has been an educator for more than 30 years, claimed that he was denied of a contract renewal and a three percent pay raise simply because he is gay.

According to Cohen,  he met with the head of the school, Barbara Tischler, in the second half of 2015 to discuss a report the latter had received from the school psychologist. The report was concerning a staff member’s query about Cohen’s sexual orientation – of which he was upset of being asked the question, but acknowledged he is gay.

Cohen also claimed that staff members then discussed his sexual orientation and the wife of a board member subsequently offered to set him up on a date.

According to Cohen, he had been very sure though that he was going to have his contract renewed and get a pay raise – he claimed to have seen a document in March this year showing these details.

Cohen was, however, informed by Tischler the next month that his contract would not be renewed. According to him, Tischler told him that he was ‘not a good fit’, which to Cohen came as a shock because he had only ‘received positive feedback about his work’.

Eventually, Cohen was replaced with a female teacher who is married to a man and has ‘far less experience’, according to him. A check on the school’s website shows that Cohen’s replacement is currently only holding an interim position.

Tischler could not be reached in time for comment.

Current and former employees of the school who spoke on the condition of anonymity, however, had different stories to share.

‘They have never mistreated me, they have always respected me and they value me as a person,’ said a senior administrator at Speyer who identifies as LGBTI.

‘It (referring to the school) is really a wonderful place,’ said another former administrator at the school, who identifies as gay.

According to her, the school was happy that she was openly out as she provided a role model for students who may be exploring their sexual orientation. When her son was born, her wife also received a ‘lovely basket’ laden with onesies and other baby gifts. Subsequently, the family was also also invited to school events.

She added: ‘That’s an emphasis that they have. It’s important that kids feel safe, and you can’t help kids feel safe unless the grown-ups feel safe.’

Cohen, however, maintained that the school was ‘not progressive’ in ‘any form or fashion’, and had a ‘systemic’ problem with his sexual orientation.

‘This, for me, is putting my integrity on the line,’ said Cohen.

He added: ‘This is about being very proud of who I am.’