The ex-principal of a Catholic school in Baldwin claims he was put on leave — and then had a signed job offer at another school rescinded — in retaliation for how he defended a racially-bullied Black eighth-grader, a lawsuit says.
Timothy Gely, 47, who was hired in August 2020 as principal of St. Christopher school in Baldwin, said some parents were reportedly displeased with how he reacted to the bullying of the student. He recounted, to the entire school, his own teenage experience being wrongfully racially profiled by the NYPD in the Bronx, he recalled in an interview.
The suit, which doesn’t specify how much money is being sought, claims retaliation on the basis of race and in violation of the terms of employment.
Gely said the eighth grader returned to her desk in June after what he said, in the interview, was an absence from school due to COVID-19-exposure. The suit, filed this month, described how she found a "a slew of handwritten racist and threatening hate notes in her desk." The notes invoked race-stereotyping names, and suggested suicide, the suit said.
"They were very graphic and very vulgar. So I didn’t want the child to think that this was acceptable or she needed to even actually pay those notes any mind or any attention," he said in the interview, adding: "I didn’t want her to be alone, and didn’t want her to feel abandoned."
The suit says: "Plaintiff immediately went to each classroom to discuss the incident, to unequivocally condemn the racism. In doing so, he mentioned racial profiling that he himself had experienced."
"Some white students took umbrage at plaintiff having mentioned his own experiences as a person of color. They complained to their parents, who agreed that it was ‘offensive’ to condemn racism and to identify oneself as having been a victim of racism, and complained to the pastor of the school," the papers say.
The bully was never caught, said Gely, who is Latino. He said he harbors no anti-police animus and respects cops.
The suit, filed by Brooklyn-based law firm Crumiller PC, adds: "Instead of ignoring these racist and retaliatory complaints — let alone denouncing them — St. Christopher took disciplinary action against plaintiff by removing him from his position and placing him on administrative leave."
The suit says that as a result, his employment was "effectively terminated" once the school closed, and a written job offer to be an assistant principal at St. Martin De Porres Marianist School in Uniondale was rescinded.
One of the defendants, the Diocese of Rockville Centre, which oversaw St. Christopher and closed it last year, declined to comment, through diocesan spokesman Sean Dolan. A message left with another defendant, St. Martin De Porres Marianist School, went unreturned.
Gely said he hasn’t been able to find work since.
"I feel like I’ve been labeled now, and I just think that it’s wrong. All I did was defend the child," he said, adding: "Now I’m paying the price for doing the right thing."
St. Martin is the school whose headmaster resigned in March after allegedly forcing an 11-year-old Black student to kneel while apologizing. The headmaster had reportedly claimed that a Nigerian dad had once brought his son to school and told him to kneel while apologizing, saying that is how some Africans express sincerity.