By Gina Martinez
A Flushing principal who has settled over $500,000 in lawsuits is being sued again, this time by his vice principal who is accusing him of harassment. Marc Einsohn, vice principal at John Bowne High School, is suing the Department of Education and Principal Howard Kwait for allegedly punishing him after he spoke out against inflating student grades.
According to the suit filed in U.S. Eastern District Court in Brooklyn, during a December 2015 cabinet meeting, Kwait suggested students’ grades should be adjusted to fix the low passing rate. Einsohn spoke out against the idea, and as a result was “subjected to retaliatory harassment, punishment, and pressure to leave the school for not abiding to Kwait’s vision.”
The suit claims that after that meeting, Kwait began to punish Einsohn and pressure him to leave the school. On Jan. 13, 2016, Kwait threatened to write on Einsohn’s mid-year evaluation that he was “failing to meet expectations” for no justifiable reason and threatened to summon Einsohn to a disciplinary conference, the suit says.
The following day, Kwait gave Einsohn’s third period, junior Spanish class to another teacher and assigned him to a freshman native language arts Spanish class, the suit says.
On Feb. 4, 2016, Kwait told Einsohn to get coverage for his class and to leave the building for the day. Later in the day, the suit says, Einsohn was instructed by a District 25 Administrator to return and was hand-delivered a mid-year evaluation by Kwait that indicated Einshohn was not “meeting expectations.”
Kwait also allegedly handwrote a note on the evaluation that said Einsohn “advised me in person in December that” he was “not qualified and doesn’t feel comfortable teaching native Spanish speakers.” Einsohn claims that never happened.
The handwritten notes also claimed that Einsohn told Kwait that “I’ll just tell her to inflate the grades, then the problem is solved.”
According to the suit, the evaluation has led to Einsohn being disqualified from overtime work, reducing his income. Einsohn claims he also suffers from emotional distress because of Kwait’s “campaign of retaliation and harassment.”
Einsohn is seeking $150,000 in monetary damages.
The DOE did not return phone calls requesting comment.
This is the fifth suit accusing Kwait of unprofessional behavior as principal at John Bowne.
In November 2016, former guidance counselor Lauren Prettitore sued Kwait for sexual harassment. In 2015, the city settled for $275,000 with teachers Maria Catenacci and Sally Maya, who sued over sexual harassment as well. 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.
Einsohn’s lawyer, Jonathan Tand, said the DOE needs to take a stand against Kwait.
“Here’s the thing,” Tand said. “Einsohn is a hardworking guy. How many times has Kwait been in trouble, and the Department of Education sticks their head in the sand when it comes to doing something? What does he have to do to finally do something about him? My client wants to help. He’s a fantastic educator and Kwait is pursuing his own agenda. Einsohn is a brave man for doing this.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart