A former Eastside High School teacher has filed a lawsuit against the school district alleging she was subjected to ridicule and mockery for having a Spanish accent, according to the complaint filed in New Jersey Superior Court.
Tania Hallal, who taught Spanish at the district from Dec. 2012 through Nov. 2017, alleges supervisors at the School of Government and Public Administration (GOPA) at Eastside High School discriminated against her by mocking and imitating her accent.
Hallal’s lawsuit specifically names supervisors Thomas Easterbrook and Kelinda Young. Both allegedly engaged in a campaign of “mentally abusive and offensive behavior” directed at Hallal, who suffers from a psychological disability, for being Hispanic, according to the lawsuit.
“Do you even know the English language?” Easterbrook, who is white, allegedly asked Hallal while imitating and mocking her accent, says the lawsuit. Her suit claims Young on “numerous” occasions constantly yelled at her stating she could not understand a word Hallal was uttering.
Hallal claims both allegedly created a hostile work environment. She claims Young performed surprise classroom inspections from 2012-17 to allegedly issue false unsatisfactory performances. She also allegedly changed Hallal’s instructional assistant without her knowledge in Jan. 2017 and put in place Nina Jones, a woman who provided no assistance to her but rather criticized and berated her in front of students, according to the complaint.
On one occasion, Hallal told Jones to work individually with a special needs student, but Jones allegedly refused and told her she was “nobody’s aid.” In Apr. 2017, Easterbrook relied on Young’s assessment to give Hallal a negative evaluation for “classroom environment.”
Hallal claims she experienced “daily harassment” and “disability discrimination.” In 2016, the school board introduced a new lesson plan template, Hallal requested more time to draft the plans because she had been suffering from severe anxiety and depression due to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Easterbrook told her creating lesson plans were part of her professional responsibilities and she would not be given extra time.
Hallal tried to seek permission to submit lessons plans using the older format, but her request was rejected. She later submitted a joint lesson with plan another teacher, but that submission was rejected.
Both teachers taught the same course, says the lawsuit.
Hallal’s lawsuit states she filed complaints in 2017 that she was being discriminated against to union, school, and district officials, but no actions were taken.
Hallal was terminated from her job in Nov. 2017, according to her lawsuit. She is seeking unspecified amount in damages.