A gym teacher has filed a lawsuit against the Paterson school district for being assigned to the infamous rubber room.
William Best, a physical education and health teacher at School 24, claims school officials created a hostile work environment and racially discriminated against him. His troubles began on Dec. 21, 2017, when he was transferred from School 24 to a non-teaching assignment at the central office.
A mother complained her minor son had semen on his pants after gym class prompting the transfer. Student in the case told the parent he had been sweating because he had just come from gym class and that’s why his pants were wet, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says the mother did not believe her son and filed the “completely unfounded, ludicrous” complaint with the school’s principal, Florita Cotto.
Best vehemently denied the mother’s allegation.
Cotto, without questioning the gym teacher about the incident, had him “quarantined” to the rubber room.
Best, who is black, claims a second teacher, white, was also monitoring the same gym class. His lawsuit states the white teacher was not sent to the rubber room.
At the central office, former security director James Smith questioned Best about the allegation. Smith played a video of the gym class.
“The video tape clearly shows that Plaintiff was nowhere near the vicinity of the student during that class,” says Best’s court complaint filed on Mar. 22.
Best, who had been teaching in the district since 2003, remained in the rubber room despite the video evidence. His lawsuit says the district violated its own 30-day rule for investigations.
Investigation into his case continued until Mar. 2018. He was kept in the rubber room all day.
“As one may suspect, the ‘rubber room’ was given its derisive nickname from the rooms typically thought of as being in insane asylums and hospitals for the mentally ill,” says Best’s lawsuit.
Staff members facing serious accusations or being investigated for disciplinary action were held in the rubber room.
The assignment caused Best to suffer “severe mental and emotional distress, ridicule, torment, anxiety, humiliation and embarrassment especially considering the nature of the unfounded, ridiculous allegation,” according to the lawsuit.
Best is seeking in excess of $250,000 in damages. His lawsuit is the third over rubber room assignments.
Prior to that Noreen Sweeney, a social studies teacher at International High School, successfully sued for being assigned to the rubber room for two years. The district settled her case in Aug. 2018 for $200,000.
All three teachers hired the same lawyer, Jason Nunnermacker.