Former teacher sues SVSU, officials, alleging racial discrimination | Regional Information

BENNINGTON — A lawsuit filed by a former teacher at Molly Stark Elementary Faculty alleges she was discriminated against and her contract was not renewed simply because of her race, and for the reason that she complained that a faculty source law enforcement officer was improperly focusing on a Black student about related pupils who have been white.

Rosa Van Wie, represented by James Valente, of Costello, Valente and Gentry, of Brattleboro, also contends her Very first Modification rights had been violated since she was retaliated against for kneeling and remaining silent for the duration of the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance at Molly Stark.

The accommodate was filed this 7 days in Bennington Excellent Court docket Civil Division. Van Wie, who describes herself as multiracial, alleges violation of Vermont’s Good Employment Procedures Act, which bars discrimination and wrongful discharge on the basis of race her free speech legal rights below the U.S. Constitution and community coverage and legislation in Vermont.

The action names as defendants Molly Stark Elementary Faculty, Southwest Vermont Union Elementary University District, Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union and in their person capacity, SVSU Superintendent James Culkeen and Molly Stark Principal Donna Bazyk.

Van Wie, who now lives in New Hampshire, is seeking “compensatory damages, affordable attorney’s expenses and expenses, punitive damages, and such other and even more reduction as the courtroom shall deem right.”


In accordance to the grievance, Van Wie, a graduate of Dartmouth University, is accredited to educate kindergarten via sixth quality, and was utilized as an elementary college teacher at Molly Stark during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school a long time.

She explained she was educated through a assembly at the school in March 2020 that her educating deal would not be renewed.

In accordance to the match, the non-renewal choice adopted by 19 times Van Wie’s criticism in February 2020 about College Useful resource Officer Jared Austin, of the Bennington Law enforcement Office.

“Plaintiff also observed that Officer Austin did not give the very same focus to the white students between the group of behaviorally tough students in her course, even when they misbehaved in equivalent approaches to the black university student,” the accommodate states. “Plaintiff reasonably believed that Officer Austin was singling out the black scholar on the foundation of the student’s race and that carrying out so was harmful to the university student. Plaintiff moderately believed that Officer Austin’s steps towards this black college student were racially discriminatory.”

The complaint provides that Van Wie considered the scholar of color “was not the most disruptive student in the class.”

The criticism provides, “During the faculty year of 2019-2020, plaintiff continuously educated the Molly Stark Elementary University that she essential aid owing to the massive number of learners in her course that had severe behavioral challenges. The faculty administration did not give plaintiff’s classroom with sufficient aid.”

The accommodate states that Van Wie spoke privately with Austin all over Feb. 24 and informed him “he appeared to be concentrating on the black university student primarily based on that student’s race” and “requested that Officer Austin support all her students and not single out the black student.”

The suit contends that “Officer Austin turned defensive all through this dialogue and denied performing with a racial bias.”

According to the match, Van Wie believes that soon afterward, Austin “communicated with Main Paul Doucette of the Bennington Law enforcement Department pertaining to plaintiff, presumably to express his displeasure about plaintiff’s recommendation that he was concentrating on the black college student.”

The accommodate provides, “Upon data and belief, amongst February 24, 2020, and February 26, 2020, Chief Doucette communicated with Superintendent Culkeen concerning plaintiff, presumably to categorical his displeasure that plaintiff experienced lifted the issue with Officer Austin.”

The fit states that Culkeen subsequently spoke with an staff union formal and that that information was afterwards similar to Van Wie by one more union representative.

“Upon information and perception, throughout that conversation, Superintendent Culkeen criticized plaintiff for objecting to Officer Austin’s racially discriminatory steps and for kneeling all through the Pledge of Allegiance,” in accordance to the complaint.


The accommodate also alleges that Van Wie’s final decision to kneel all through recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance was an additional variable in the non-renewal of her agreement, in violation of her Initial Amendment rights beneath the constitution and below the Vermont structure.

During her time at Molly Stark, the fit states, lecturers had been not essential to direct the recitation of the pledge, and that Van Wie “knelt and remained silent” through that time.

“Although Plaintiff answered her students’ concerns about the Pledge of Allegiance, she never instructed or encouraged her learners to kneel throughout the Pledge of Allegiance,” the match states, incorporating, “The school administration did not inform plaintiff prior to March 2020 that there were being any fears about her kneeling all through the Pledge of Allegiance nor did they immediate her to say the Pledge or stop kneeling.”


The criticism also alleges that in regard to non-renewal of her deal, Van Wie was informed that “if she required to prevent possessing a non-renewal-of-contract on her training report, she would have to resign her educating posture and not convey to any one about the conference … Plaintiff resigned, productive the finish of the 2019-2020 faculty 12 months, solely to avoid having a nonrenewal-of-deal positioned on her report.”/span

The complaint adds, “The faculty administration’s steps pressured plaintiff’s resignation. But for individuals actions, plaintiff would not have resigned. Appropriately, her resignation was a constructive discharge.”

Referring to Van Wie’s last career efficiency analysis in March 2020, the suit states that the evaluation “made imprecise, subjective attacks on her character, supplied with no any factual support, which includes labeling her as ‘self-serving’ and boasting that, even though plaintiff fulfilled with her colleagues, ‘her specialist apply is beneath specifications.’”

The fit contends that the final analysis was as opposed to her prior evaluations at Molly Stark.

The fit also contends that other lecturers “similarly situated to plaintiff, but who ended up not black or multiracial, have created statements indicating their watch on issues of national political significance, but they have not faced related criticism or destructive employment penalties … Upon information and perception, other instructors who have been equally positioned to plaintiff, but who ended up not black or multiracial, have likewise advocated for the effectively-becoming of their pupils, but they have not faced related criticism or detrimental employment repercussions.” Van Wie’s mom is Black, and her father is white.

The match states that during that interval at Molly Stark there were being other teachers current who expressed political views at university, this kind of as advocacy for the presidency of Donald Trump, strident guidance for the Pledge of Allegiance, and assistance of the federal navy and Vermont Countrywide Guard. These academics were being white, and none was penalized for the expression of political views.”

In addition, “an Indian American long-term substitute trainer, who experienced been given a pretty favorable teaching evaluation, was not provided a everlasting teaching posture everywhere in the supervisory district. It is incredibly strange for a very well-reviewed, lengthy-phrase substitute instructor not to obtain any offers for any posture with a supervisory district subsequent the completion of the substitute assignment.”

Makes an attempt Wednesday to reach Culkeen and chairpersons of the two college district boards named were being unsuccessful.

Town Supervisor Stuart Hurd, who supervises the Law enforcement Division, reported in an email Wednesday morning that he experienced not still viewed the criticism. He did not react even further as of push time.

Decide on Board Chairwoman Jeannie Jenkins and Doucette could not be reached by means of email.