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Fired teacher files discrimination suit against Friends Academy

A former English teacher and department head at Friends Academy in Locust Valley has charged in a federal lawsuit that school officials sexually harassed her, discriminated against her on the basis of gender, and retaliated when she protested such treatment.

The plaintiff, Shawn Garrett, seeks financial damages and lost wages in a lawsuit filed May 24 in U.S. District Court, Central Islip.

Garrett started teaching at Friends Academy in 2012 and had been promoted to head of the English department before being demoted and ultimately fired last year, according to her legal complaint.

Andrea Miller, director of communications at Friends Academy, said in a prepared statement Wednesday: “The opportunity to thrive in a supportive and welcoming environment for our faculty and staff has been, and will continue to be, a fundamental principle at Friends Academy.”

Garrett, in her 20-page complaint, said her problems at the private prep school began in March 2015, when she and a group of other female staffers conducted a group interview with Mark Schoeffel, a candidate for the principal’s position at Friends Academy’s Upper School, the equivalent of high school.

At the end of the session, according to court papers, Schoeffel said to Garrett, “I wonder when I’m going to meet some men around here.”

Garrett reported the comment on an anonymous online feedback form, and later reported it verbally to a faculty official as well, her lawsuit says. Schoeffel got the job and started work around July 2015.

Subsequently, Garrett alleged, the Upper School principal regularly undermined her position as English department head and treated her in a demeaning manner that he never used with male employees.

Schoeffel did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

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