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Lawsuit accuses Riverhead Charter School principal of bias

The Riverhead Charter School on Middle Country Road

The Riverhead Charter School on Middle Country Road in Calverton, April 10, 2014. Credit: Randee Daddona

Thirteen current and former teachers at Riverhead Charter School have filed a $10 million lawsuit against the school and its principal, Raymond Ankrum, alleging racial, gender, age, religious and disability discrimination as well as wrongful termination, according to documents filed in state Supreme Court.

Court papers allege that Ankrum removed teachers who were older and those who were white, replacing them with "teachers whom he found attractive and whom he could more easily manipulate into furthering his discriminatory agenda."

Ankrum, who is black, was named principal of the charter school in 2012.

The lawsuit was electronically filed Aug. 7 in state Supreme Court in Suffolk County. It calls for Ankrum's termination, the reinstatement of the teachers who were removed under his oversight and monetary damages.

Attorney Joseph Dell, whose Garden City firm is representing the plaintiffs, said Friday that two of the teachers still work at the school. Twelve of the 13 plaintiffs are white, he said.

"The truth and the facts of this case are that all of our firm's clients suffered from the discriminatory actions, practices and policies that Mr. Ankrum perpetrated. My clients have decided to stand together, and stand up for their rights," Dell said. "They suffered. Their careers suffered. Worst of all, the students suffered."

Sharon Berlin, an attorney for the school, said Friday that "the complaint reads like a good fiction novel, and is not based on the law or the facts."

For example, she noted, the documents allege that Ankrum hired his best friend and college roommate, Eric Davidson, as a teacher and promoted him to dean without Davidson having any teaching certification. Berlin sent a copy of New York State Education Department records showing Davidson has multiple certifications.

Ankrum did not respond to a request for comment.

Riverhead Charter School, which has been in operation for nearly 15 years, serves about 360 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Students whose families apply to the school are selected in a lottery, and their home public school districts pay for their education.

It is one of five charter schools on Long Island.


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