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Disciplinary hearing of suspended Long Beach teacher continues

Testimony resumed Tuesday in the disciplinary hearing of suspended Long Beach Middle School teacher Lisa Weitzman, who is facing charges by the district of allegedly abusing her special education students — accusations she has denied.

The district is seeking to fire Weitzman, citing eight incidents involving five former students that include allegations she threatened to use zip ties as restraints, used a bathroom for “time out” and dug one of her high heels into a child’s foot.

School officials have said they suspended Weitzman in 2014 when they became aware of accusations of abuse. She is on paid leave and continues to collect her $96,000 annual salary.

Weitzman, a teacher in the district since August 2007, has denied all the allegations. She requested that her disciplinary hearing, which began in March, be open to the public.

Long Beach Middle School psychologist Jane Schlegel, testifying Tuesday, said she was aware that Weitzman had restrained a female student after the student became violent and aggressive. Schlegel said the student was being restrained “appropriately.”

Under cross-examination by Christopher Powers, the school district’s attorney, Schlegel said she did not see or hear of zip ties being used or threatened for use in restraining the student.

Hearing officer Robert Grey was appointed by the state Education Department to oversee the proceedings. Testimony is to continue Wednesday, with other hearing days scheduled Dec. 21 and Jan. 23.

There are several legal actions that are separate from the disciplinary hearing. One is a $10 million federal lawsuit filed in April by Long Beach parents of a former student of Weitzman’s that alleges physical and sexual abuse of the boy, who has autism. The suit names Weitzman, Superintendent David Weiss and several other district officials, and the Long Beach school system.

Parents Todd and Kim Greengus, at a news conference when the suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Central Islip’s Eastern District, said they started noticing changes in their 14-year-old son two years ago when he came home from school.

Although their son was nonverbal, he used to act like “the little mayor, walking around town introducing himself,” Kim Greengus said. “He loved to go to school, then suddenly he didn’t want to get off the bus. He couldn’t tell us the everyday torture he was going through. I knew as a mother that something was wrong.”

An attorney for the Greengus’ and families of other students said they were alerted to the possible abuse by an anonymous letter that circulated in the community in October 2015.

The lawsuit states that school officials used forcible restraints and zip ties on students, locked students in bathrooms, forced medication on them and committed sexual and physical assault.

Weitzman in June filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District, saying she was removed from her classroom and was the subject of a malicious investigation though she was only acting as an advocate for her students.

The district’s actions resulted in her suffering “severe emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, had her career placed on hold, expended large sums of money, time and effort defending herself from the false charges and suffered irreparable damage to her reputation as a teacher,” the lawsuit says.

Separately, Weitzman and former teaching assistant Lauren Schneider filed legal actions Sept. 30 in State Supreme Court in Nassau County against the district and school officials, as well as others who sent an anonymous letter to parents and posted allegations on a Facebook page. In the court papers, Weitzman and Schneider said they were defamed by statements made by school officials.

“As a result of the false and defamatory statements published by the defendants, plaintiff’s lives have been ruined,” the court papers said. “Plaintiffs have been viewed by the Long Beach community and the educational community as pariahs, and abusers of special education students.”


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