Lawyers file amendment in teacher's lawsuit

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Attorneys for Zeynep Unal, a special education teacher who currently works at Mountain Elementary School, recently filed an amended complaint to a 2013 lawsuit she filed against the Los Alamos Public Schools, The Los Alamos School Board, Principal Kathryn Vandenkieboom and Superintendent of Schools Eugene Schmidt.
In her lawsuit, Unal alleges she was harassed and discriminated against by her former boss, Vandenkieboom, the principal at Aspen Elementary School.
Court documents said Vandenkieboom would discriminate against her by excluding her from formal meetings and making “insensitive remarks regarding the ethnicity and national origin of both the plaintiff and other persons as well (Unal is Turkish).”
Unal also claimed that Vandenkieboom made working conditions difficult for her, primarily by refusing her teacher’s assistants to deal with heavy class loads at the time, which occurred during the 2008-09 school year. Other teachers, Unal said, were provided aides. “...other teachers’ overloads were ameliorated within weeks of requests by other teachers,” Unal said in her report.
Unal also alleged that the harassment and discrimination she experienced caused her health problems as well as anxiety issues, which caused her to go on hiatus for the 2011-2012 school year.
The amendment to the lawsuit, which was filed in July, states that the defendants also violated Unal’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Her lawsuit claims that when she tried to return, the district claimed she didn’t return a letter of intent to do so on time, a claim Unal’s attorney, Kate Ferlic, denies. Ferlic also claims in the suit that they tried to fire her because the district was unwilling to accommodate her medical request, that she not be placed back in Aspen Elementary School where Kathryn Vandenkieboom was still principal.
The reason it wasn’t included in the original complaint was because it had to be approved by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to Ferlic.
“The claim is based on the year after the discrimination took place, when Zeynep tried to return to work,” Ferlic said, adding that the district then violated the rules surrounding medical accommodation requests.
“...The employer then has an obligation to either ask for more medical information or grant the accommodation. Instead of doing that, the district tried to get rid of her,” Ferlic said.
Superintendent of Schools Gene Schmidt said he and his administration are well aware of the new filing, but he nor anyone in the administration is allowed to comment on that or any other matter specific to the lawsuit.
“It is an issue involving personnel, and as such, I cannot comment,” he said.