The Horace Greeley High School assistant principal who filed a racial discrimination lawsuit last year against the Chappaqua School District is appealing a decision by a hearing officer that suspends him for two years without pay.
Michael Taylor, who has been an assistant principal at the school since 2004, charged that the penalty that was handed down by officer Carol Hoffman as a result of a series of 3020a disciplinary hearings held in March is excessive and based on flimsy evidence following the district’s filing of 13 disciplinary charges against him.
According to Taylor’s request filed on June 28 asking the court to vacate the decision, the district retaliated against Taylor, who is black, with a series of petty disciplinary charges for filing the federal lawsuit.
The latest action mentioned that Taylor was not warned or counseled before any charges were filed against him. It also states that other district faculty members have never been brought up on the charges placed against him.
Charges included bringing his mother to work during school hours without permission; exercising in a conference room prior to a meeting; using flatulent language after students set off a stink bomb; interrupting class while sporting a Santa necktie; removing a teacher from his classroom to meet his mother; offering unauthorized counsel regarding depression during a parent/teaching conference; allowing a student to enter a colleague’s empty office without permission; and leaving his undergarments to dry on a chair in his office during school hours.
Taylor was charged with misconduct, conduct unbecoming of an administrator and neglect of duty.
“Respondent has made it clear that he is not currently fit to carry on his professional responsibilities because he has lost sight of the fact that his job is to support the educational mission of the high school,” Hoffman stated in her disciplinary report filed on June 19. “His actions support a finding of an extreme lack of appreciation for the impact of his behavior on students, faculty and staff alike and warrants serious discipline.”
Hoffman also determined that Taylor should seek psychotherapeutic counseling during his suspension and provide the district with medical proof that he is capable of performing his duties prior to his return.
On July 12, the Chappaqua Board of Education approved the hiring of the law firm of Shaw, Perelson, May & Lambert to represent the district in the matter. Calls placed to the firm late last week as well as Taylor’s attorney, Karen Zdanis, were not returned.
The latest litigation also states that Hoffman penalized Taylor for his allegations of race discrimination and retaliation. The alleged incidents standing alone do not warrant such severe punishment, the complaint said.
“The penalty issued to Mr. Taylor exceeds the hearing officer’s power, is otherwise irrational, arbitrary and capricious, excessive and shocking to the conscience, and should be vacated and remanded,” the lawsuit stated.
While the complaint states that Taylor has never been found guilty of any previous 3020a charges, he was found to have engaged in misconduct in 2013 for leaving his then nine-year-old child unattended in his office while he traveled to the Bronx on a personal matter. He similarly claimed he was treated more severely than other employees who brought their children to work.
“Despite the district’s commencement of 3020a charges, it is uncontroverted that Mr. Taylor never violated any written policy or procedures of the district, and it is apparent that he never intentionally violated any specific policy,” the lawsuit states.
With administrators determined to move forward, the suit comes after a year of controversy surrounding Christopher Schraufnagel, the former high school drama teacher who pleaded guilty to engaging in inappropriate activity with several students.