Toms River superintendent accused of sexually harassing employee over her legs
TOMS RIVER — The superintendent of one of the state's largest school districts is under internal investigation after being accused of repeatedly sexually harassing a guidance counselor, the Asbury Park Press reported Tuesday.
David M. Healy is accused of making comments about the appearance of the female employee’s legs over the course of a year, according to a letter written last month by an attorney for the district’s teachers union.
The letter to the district business administrator and the Board of Education threatens to sue the district unless “prompt and effective remedial action” is taken.
Healy has been superintendent since 2014. He earns a base salary of $200,500 to run the 16,000-student district with a budget of $225.9 million.
District offcials could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.
A copy of the lawyer’s letter was obtained by the Asbury Park Press. The name of the guidance counselor was redacted.
In the letter, the employee bares her anguish, describing how the the college-educated professional was made to feel like "two pennies," belittled, “inferior and objectified.” She also describes how she had come to dread showing up for work as a result of Healy's persistent remarks.
The letter describes four incidents between May 31, 2016, and May 31 of this year in which Healy made the employee and others uncomfortable with his comments about her legs.
The letter says the first remark happened after the Senior Award Night last year, for which she was master of ceremonies.
The woman says Healy told her he had been “distracted by [her] calves," then asked her if she worked out and suggested that she and another employee have a contest to see who had the best legs.
At this year's awards night, she said Healy told her that they had “forgotten one award: an award for the best legs.” He again asked about her workouts, which the letter says made the principal of Toms River High School East “very uncomfortable.”
The letter says the principal tried to change the subject and that there was an awkward silence between he and the female employee after the superintendent left.
The woman says the comments had "a profound effect upon her and her family."
"On the evening of May 31, 2017, I found myself changing multiple times in preparation for the evening, asking my husband for approval of the length of my skirt and the appropriateness of my attire – things I would not have done before. I wanted to avoid this happening – somehow blaming myself for his comments.”
She said that she was “so shaken up” that she “could barely breathe.”
“At the moment I feel like I’m naked and exposed," she says. “I have come to work since May 31st feeling uncomfortable and with shame. I am overly concerned with my dress. I am having issues sleeping and frequent headaches. Today I noticed a cold sore – my body is feeling the stress.”
The letter by Steven R. Cohen, of the Mount Laurel firm Selikoff & Cohen, says the district may have violated the state Law Against Discrimination because administrators witnessed Healy's statements “but did nothing to stop him" and because the district “failed to implement anti-harassment policies."
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email email@example.com.
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