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The Board of Education agreed to pay $50,000 to a former Francis Lewis High School special education teacher earlier this month to settle a lawsuit in which he accused school officials of failing to stop students from harassing him over an eight-year period, said city lawyer Lisa Grumet.
Vincent Peries originally sought $250,000, suing the Board of Ed in Brooklyn federal court in a trial that ended with a hung jury July 3, said Grumet, who represented the Board of Ed in the case.
Peries lawyer, Jeffrey Slade, said his client chose to settle because the first trial dredged up several bad memories and psychological hardship. Peries is still suffering from mental anguish relating to his experience at the Fresh Meadows high school and preferred not to sit through another trial, Slade said.
Grumet said the Board of Ed admitted no wrongdoing, but declined to comment on why it agreed to settle. A spokesman for the Board of Ed declined to comment.
According to the lawsuit filed last month, Peries, an immigrant from Sri Lanka, contended that his students often teased him, mocking his racial background and making it difficult for him to supervise them, Slade said.
For eight years they harassed him. They called him Hindu ----, Gandhi ----, Immigrant go home, Slade said, adding that Peries takes medication to help him cope with psychological problems that have persisted since he taught at Francis Lewis.
School officials did not do enough to discipline students who tormented Peries during his career at the Fresh Meadows high school during the 1990s, Slade said. One teacher even encouraged students to pick on Peries and several educators mimicked his accent, he claimed.
At the time of the trial, Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman from the Board of Ed, said the case was rare because school lawsuits usually involve a student suing a teacher. He said he could not remember a case in which a teacher filed a suit over poor student behavior.
The case is also strange because the behavior of special education students may often be more difficult to control that of other students, Ortiz said. According to Board of Education regulations, special education students can only be suspended under extreme circumstances.
Otherwise, special education teachers must handle their students behavioral problems, he added.
The special education students under Peries supervision may have been physically or mentally handicapped or emotionally troubled, Ortiz said.
Reach reporter Brendan Browne by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 155.
©2002 Community Newspaper Group
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