Claims teachers, administrators ignored bullying
A 2019 Beacon High School graduate has sued the city school district in federal court, alleging that three administrators, a teacher and a guidance counselor failed to intervene during months-long harassment by classmates because he is gay.
The student, who was 17 when the lawsuit was filed over the summer, is seeking unspecified monetary damages.
The complaint, which was filed with the federal court for the Southern District of New York, names Superintendent Matt Landahl, the high school’s principal, the assistant principal, a gym teacher and a guidance counselor, claiming the adults “idly stood by” during the harassment, which emboldened the student’s bullies.
The district was served with the complaint in August, Landahl wrote in an email. “The Beacon City School District takes all issues of bullying seriously,” he wrote. “We dispute the allegations in this lawsuit and will defend against them.”
Landahl said he could not comment further but in a response filed with the court on Sept. 27, the district denied the claims that any of the defendants witnessed the bullying or failed to protect the student.
The student, who lived in Fishkill, attended Beacon schools from kindergarten until his graduation in June, according to the lawsuit. He took art, gym and health classes at Beacon High School for part of the day and other classes at the BOCES Dutchess campus in Poughkeepsie. Most of the bullying took place in gym class at the high school, the lawsuit said.
The student is represented by Hillary Nappi, a New York City attorney who describes herself online as a “zealous advocate for survivors of sexual abuse and assault.”
According to the complaint, during the first three weeks of gym class in September 2018, some classmates began bullying the student, who has recently “come out” as gay. It claims the teacher did nothing as students loudly taunted him as a “homo,” “queer” and “faggot.”
In late September, the student alleges, he confided in a BOCES teacher, who reported the bullying to the Beacon High School guidance counselor. A fellow student also reported the bullying to a principal, the suit alleges, suggesting her friend be moved to another gym class. The principal replied that she “doesn’t do schedules,” according to the lawsuit, an allegation the administrator has denied.
The student alleges that on Oct. 12, he was assaulted after gym class and kicked in the face, and that as a result of the fight, both the assailant and the student were suspended for three days.
On Nov. 14, after a hearing, the district transferred the student to a new gym class, according to the complaint. On Nov. 30, a classmate “shoulder-checked” the student in the hall and threatened him. After a verbal altercation with the same classmate on Dec. 7, the student was suspended through the end of the school year.
He completed enough credits to graduate but alleges that at the ceremony two school security guards, aware of his allegations of mistreatment, loudly booed him.