Teacher files suit against Los Alamos School District

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By John Severance


Zeynep Unal, a Turkish-born special education teacher who has been employed by the Los Alamos Public Schools since 2005, is suing the district for violations of the New Mexico Human Rights Act, defamation and breach of contract.

The suit claims that Unal continues to suffer from loss of income, severe emotional distress, anxiety, humiliation, embarrassment and the violation of her federal and state statutory rights.

Los Alamos Public Schools, the Los Alamos Public Schools School Board, Aspen Elementary School principal Kathryn Vandenkieboom and superintendent Gene Schmidt are named as defendants in the case.

“I can’t comment on its merits,” said school board president Jim Hall. “It’s inappropriate to comment on a legal matter especially involving personnel. We have to wait and see what happens and let the court process play out.”

“Until our attorneys look at this and study this, I can not comment,” Schmidt said.

Unal’s attorney, Kate Ferlic of Santa Fe, filed the suit in district court Friday.

Schmidt said Saturday morning the school district had not been served yet but confirmed the case was filed in district court.

“It is especially troubling when there is national origin discrimination in the schools of such an international community,” Ferlic said, “Under the law, it is not acceptable to hold people to a different standards based on national origin.”

Ferlic said that Unal currently works at Mountain Elementary.

“Ms. Unal is an exceptional teacher — dedicated to her students and to her student's success,” Ferlic said. “It is a shame to treat someone of such caliber so poorly. Needless to say, Ms. Unal is disappointed that the school board and its lawyers have consistently refused alternatives to litigation.”   

Read more about the suit in Sunday's Los Alamos Monitor.