A South Orange-Maplewood kindergarten teacher has sued the school district after she was fired after having “crying spells.” These spells were caused by heightened anxiety, she says, after being forced to teach special education students without an aide.
The lawsuit filed by South Mountain Elementary School kindergarten teacher Sarah Barlow says,
Barlow was asked to teach a classroom that included special education students, yet (she) was not provided any special education teachers or paraprofessionals to assist her.
This was first reported by nj.com.
New Jersey state code requires most special education classes to have aides, depending on class size and the nature of the disabilities involved.
According to court papers, Barlow claims in 2021 South Mountain principal Kevin Mason decided she had sent an anonymous letter to Superintendent Ronald Taylor accusing Mason of “misconduct.” So so this past September, in retaliation, the principal transferred Barlow to the “Annex” of South Mountain where she taught an inclusion class for both neuro-typical and special education students. The class had no aide and Barlow “complained several times” about the absence of one. Mason sent her a letter calling her crying spells “unprofessional” and said she would have to have a corrective action plan.
The suit says “this situation caused Ms. Barlow a significant amount of emotional distress and exacerbated her anxiety, a condition she has suffered with since her teenage years.” Yet Mason admonished her “for exhibiting signs of anxiety and stress in the classroom.” She says she was forced to resign this past November, even though she is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. She wants the district to pay her the salary she would have gotten if she hadn’t resigned, along with “compensatory and punitive damages.”