Ex-Hempstead school employee files wrongful termination suit
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A former Hempstead school employee who informed state officials about the district's practice of systematically changing some students' failing grades has filed a federal lawsuit alleging wrongful termination in retaliation for his action.
Carlos Ramirez, the Hempstead school district's former director of technology, sent a letter in June to state education officials informing them of his concerns about the district's grade-boosting practice. The district decided to stop rounding up final course grades of 63 and 64 to passing scores of 65 in July -- just days before it fired Ramirez.
Ramirez filed a lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn seeking back pay for wrongful termination and an unspecified amount of damages, said his attorney, Aymen Aboushi of Manhattan.
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The lawsuit describes Ramirez as an "exemplary employee" who was "subject to unlawful retaliation" because he reported activity that was "in detriment of public school students and their families."
The case has not been assigned a court date, Aboushi said.
"We hope one of the things that comes out of this is some transparency," he said. "Money is not the driving force for this lawsuit."
Attempts to reach school Superintendent Susan Johnson were not successful.
School board member Lamont Johnson declined to comment.
District officials do not discuss personnel issues publicly, said Todd Shapiro, a district spokesman, who declined to comment further. Austin Graff, an attorney for the district, said, "The district is unaware of any lawsuit."
Hempstead has nearly 6,000 students and is consistently one of the lowest-performing districts on Long Island. Its graduation rate in 2011-12 was 38 percent -- lowest among the Island's 124 public school districts.
Ramirez's lawsuit alleges that district officials "sought to mask their failures while duping the public, parents and students into thinking that the school district was improving" its record.
The Hempstead school board approved a resolution in July that stated it will "be policy and practice of the Hempstead Union Free School District that all grading and/or scoring shall be strictly recorded and reported in accordance with the results of actual student performance in all testing."
Attempts to reach Ramirez, who lives in Westchester County, were unsuccessful. He is seeking new employment and "trying to get his life back on track and dealing from the fallout from this situation," Aboushi said.