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Greeley Assistant Principal Sues School District, Claims Racial Bias

Horace Greeley High School Assistant Principal Michael Taylor, pictured speaking at the school's 2014 graduation.
Horace Greeley High School Assistant Principal Michael Taylor, pictured speaking at the school's 2014 graduation. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- Horace Greeley High School Assistant Principal Michael Taylor is accusing the Chappaqua Central School District of racial discrimination.

In a federal lawsuit that was filed against the district on Nov. 22, Taylor, who is Chappaqua's only black administrator, alleges that he was treated differently than his white counterparts when it came to several similar experiences.

Taylor has worked at Greeley since 2004, the lawsuit states. The high school as an entity, Principal Robert Rhodes and outgoing Superintendent Lyn McKay are also named as defendants. Taylor is seeking both economic and punitive damages.

Greeley has a total of three assistant principals.

“As set forth herein, he was subjected by his employers to disparate treatment as a result of his race and ethnicity,” the lawsuit's complaint states. “In addition, Plaintiff was the victim of a hostile work environment that disfavored him and, upon information and belief, other black minority employees.”

A copy of the lawsuit can be read here.

Taylor's most prominent bias accusation stems from when he brought his 9-year-old daughter to work in August 2013. The suit states that Taylor left her at his office, and told his secretary in advance, because he left for the Bronx to attend to what he called “an important personal matter that he believed would take a short amount of time.”

The suit states that Taylor was brought up by the district on disciplinary charges for his action even though there is no policy prohibiting it. Furthermore, Taylor alleges that white colleagues who engaged in similar acts were never subject to discipline.

“Many employees of Defendants CCSD and HGHS regularly bring their children with them to work,” the complaint states. “Those employees routinely send their children – unattended – to play in the school gym or visit with friends.”

CCSD and HGHS are the abbreviations for the school district and the high school, respectively.

Taylor, the suit alleges, was charged with disciplinary counts of misconduct, conduct unbecoming of an administrator and neglect of duty. He was subjected to a disciplinary hearing, called as a “3020-a” in March 2014.

The hearing officer, who is white, allegedly told Taylor prior to the hearing's start that he should accept any settlement offer from the district, “as the hearing officer intended to impose a much harsher penalty.”

As a result, the suit claims that Taylor accepted a deal under duress, which it terms “an unduly punitive settlement.”

The suit does not specify what the settlement's terms are.

Reached for comment, Acting Superintendent Eric Byrne offered the following statement, “The school district does not comment on matters in litigation or personnel matters; however, we intend to vigorously defend against all claims in this matter.”

Taylor alleges that he was subjected to discriminatory treatment in other ways.

For example, in personnel evaluations held years prior to the incident with Taylor's daughter, the suit claims that he was described as ““overcoming” his “heritage” and acclimating to a new “culture.””

Other allegations of double standards included not being granted secretarial support while white assistant principals were given it, and having his ideas disregarded by co-workers while white colleagues who offered the same ones were taken seriously.

Taylor initially pursued legal action against the school district in September 2014 when he filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner (EEOC). This past August, the federal agency issued Taylor what is called a “Right To Sue” letter, which gave him the go-ahead to commence with the lawsuit.

The assistant principal claims that his EEOC report resulted in retaliation against him. Allegations include being given a larger workload, notably being tasked with assembling the school's master schedule for classes and students; being moved to a smaller office with less privacy; being informed by Rhodes that he, falsely, failed to get a substitute math teacher and submit transcripts; was denied a two-day leave request despite giving it within the contractually specified advanced time period; and being told that, despite getting permission from Rhodes for a half of a day off for sick time, that he was required to have gotten it from McKay.

“The burden of Plaintiff's additional work, combined with his original workload, was designed to set him up for failure,” the complaint states. “Defendant CCSD's hired investigator observed that Plaintiff might quit under the workload.”

The lawsuit comes as the district has become beleaguered due to fallout from the sex-abuse case involving former Greeley drama teacher Christopher Schraufnagel. The district, as a result, is facing litigation from seven student accusers, both in the active and preliminary stages. Schraufnagel, meanwhile, pleaded guilty in his criminal sex-abuse case after accepting a deal from the prosecution.

McKay, meanwhile, is slated to retire on Jan. 2 after the school board announced, on Halloween, that she was leaving. While no reason for given for McKay's upcoming exit, the announcement came after parents demanded her ouster over how she handled the Schraufnagel case.

Previous coverage of the Schraufnagel cases can be found here.

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