NJ school fires special ed teacher for complaining, suit says
🍎 A Bordentown special education teacher was fired last year
🍎 It was retaliation for 'whistleblowing' on understaffed classrooms, a lawsuit says
🍎 She was suspended after taking medical leave for stress and anxiety
BORDENTOWN — A fired special education teacher claims she lost her job for speaking out about her understaffed classroom and unqualified aides, according to a lawsuit.
Bryanna Mostak was fired from her job at Clara Barton Elementary School on Feb. 2, 2022. In Mostak's termination letter, Bordentown Regional Superintendent Trudy Atkins said that Mostak had exhibited a "pattern of disturbing conduct," according to a lawsuit filed earlier this month.
Mostak had been suspended two weeks earlier for "unprofessional" behavior. But the suit says that three days before her suspension Atkins had commended Mostak in a Jan. 18, 2022 report for her "patience" and her "consistent and caring approach."
The special education teacher claims that the quick change in heart from school administrators stemmed from her persistence in calling for better staffing. Atkins told New Jersey 101.5 the district does not comment on ongoing litigation.
Understaffed classroom, underqualified aides
According to the suit, Mostak first raised concerns about her classroom being understaffed in September 2021 toward the start of the new school year.
She said the class of seven students was required by law to have five adults as some of the students had "aggressive or violent tendencies." However, the class had only three adults including Mostak.
To address the shortage, another aide was assigned to the class. However, the aide required training and only worked two out of four weeks. In November 2021, the aide was replaced with another unqualified aide who had no training with special needs students and was seven months pregnant, making her unable to handle the physical aspects of the job, according to the lawsuit.
The complaint states that Mostak's coworkers became hostile and were angry that she reported the situation. In December 2021, Mostak took medical leave for the stress caused by what the suit calls a hostile work environment.
Upon her return, she complained several times about the situation to her supervisor, the principal, and the district superintendent. Instead of addressing the classroom's needs, Mostak was suspended, the suit said. She was fired soon after.
The lawsuit seeks Mostak's reinstatement, lost wages, attorney costs, and damages.
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Rick Rickman is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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