John Bowne principal accused of sexual assault – again

John Bowne principal accused of sexual assault – again
By Gina Martinez

Howard Kwait, the principal at John Bowne High School in Flushing, is being accused for the fourth time of sexual assault, according to a new lawsuit filed in Brooklyn federal court.

Lauren Prettitore, a former guidance counselor who worked at the school from 2002 until this year, claims that Kwait endlessly sexually harassed her with “both heinous and lascivious comments as well as physical assaults on her person.”

Prettitore, who is openly gay, lists multiple occasions of verbal sexual assault in the suit, which also names the city Department of Education. She says during a Christmas break the school’s entire staff received an e-mail which referred to five women, including Prettitore, as part of a “five star lesbian club.”

In the suit Prettitore says that Kwait, described as the “pervy principal,” was “excited” by the fact that she was a lesbian and saw her sexual orientation as a “personal challenge he needed to conquer”

Prettitore claims that during a meeting with several colleagues present, Kwait leaned over and asked her: “Do you use that silk belt you are wearing during sex?” On another occasion during preparation for the new year, Kwait allegedly told Prettitore if she achieved a high graduation rate, he would perform oral sex on her.

Prettitore says the harassment was not just verbal. On an outing with co-workers Kwait forcibly pulled her towards him in an attempt to seat her on his lap and whispered in what he thought was a seductive voice, according to the complaint. He allegedly also caressed her earlobes and rubbed them between his fingers.

The suit also accuses the principal of asking staff members to “fix” students’ failing grades even if they did not deserve them. When they objected, he threatened the staffers by asking them to look for employment elsewhere, it says.

Prettitore claims that she suffered extreme mental anguish, outrage, severe anxiety about her future and her ability to support herself and her family. She is seeking $2.5 million in damages.

This is the fourth suit filed against Kwait.

The complaint includes exhibits giving the details of three earlier suits against Prettitore that were settled.

In 2015 the city settled for $275,000 with teachers Maria Catenacci and Sally Maya. In 2012 the city settled for an undisclosed amount with an assistant principal who accused Kwait of discriminating against her because she was pregnant, according to the New York Post. The city also paid $225,000 in a settlement over a student who was falsely accused of sending threatening e-mails.

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.