A former Martin Luther King, Jr. School librarian has filed a lawsuit against the Paterson Public Schools for wrongful termination.
Alexander Cardillo was terminated in May 2019. His lawsuit filed last month accuses Monica Florez, principal of Martin Luther King, Jr. School, of subjecting him to a “pattern of harassment, abuse and hostility.” He also accuses the acting principal Ramona Serrano of harassment.
On December 2018, Cardillo was asked to mentor a struggling student. He began mentoring the student, who had academic and behavioral problems, with aid of the parent. The same month, Serrano became the acting principal after Florez went on leave.
Serrano began to question Cardillo’s assignment telling him there’s no record of his mentorship assignment. She barred Cardillo from meeting the student, says the lawsuit. He alleges Serrano appeared hostile as if he was “doing something wrong.”
The suit says Serrano later indicated she had confirmed Cardillo’s assignment.
“People are watching you,” Serrano allegedly told Cardillo, says the lawsuit.
Cardillo claims because of the harassments and attacks he had to seek medical treatment in Feb. 2019. He provided a doctor’s note to the school’s nurse that was rejected by the district, says the lawsuit.
By Mar. 2019, Florez returned to work. Cardillo claims that led to an intensification of the harassment.
On Mar. 14, 2019, Jose Correa, director of instructional technology and library media services, came to the school for a pre-conference relating to Cardillo’s upcoming evaluation. On that day, Cardillo alleges, Florez sat in the library “abusing” and “following” him when he accompanied students from library to a classroom.
On another occasion, Cardillo purchased lunch for himself and the student he was mentoring. Florez allegedly berated and scolded him in front of his students. She told him she did not want him sitting with the students in the cafeteria.
The incident shook Cardillo. He experienced a panic attack while teaching, according to the lawsuit.
Cardillo claims the harassment continued through March into April. He became ill due to the attacks, losing 20 pounds, damaging his esophagus as a result of a nervous cough. He threw up every morning before going to work, says the lawsuit.
Cardillo met with John McEntee, Jr., president of the teachers’ union to complain on May 6, 2019. The next week, Cardillo received a reduction in force notice.
Cardillo began working for the district as an aide in Sept. 2014. He was hired as a librarian on Nov. 5, 2015 for $53,465. He expected to attain tenure in Nov. 2019.
The lawsuit is seeking lost past and future salaries, fringe benefits, and his reinstatement effective Nov. 5, 2019.
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