An East Quogue Elementary School teacher who sued Southampton Town and the school after she said police threw her to the floor and handcuffed her during a 2016 lockdown drill has settled the federal lawsuit for undisclosed terms.
The town board voted 5-0 at its meeting Tuesday to approve the settlement, the details of which were stricken from the court record through an order issued by Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto on April 21.
According to the complaint, Christine Capozzola, 51, of Westhampton, agreed to play the part of a mother in a custody battle with her spouse in a January 2016 drill, screaming and demanding to see her children in the school’s main office.
School staff assumed their roles, hitting a panic button to alert the Southampton Town Police Department that the drill was underway. The department was aware the drill was happening, but police didn’t respond until the school principal called 911, according to the complaint.
Though Capozzola had been told earlier she wouldn’t be touched, three police officers who arrived after the district called 911 “brutally and violently” threw her down and yanked her arms behind her to handcuff her, the lawsuit claimed.
Only when the police in charge of the drill arrived did they release Capozzola, and one of the three initial responding officers then told her that “I was two seconds from tasing you,” according to the lawsuit.
In a court deposition, Superintendent and Principal Robert Long rebutted that description and said Capozzola also acted aggressively during the drill, at one point holding a pair of scissors to his throat and kicking him.
No students witnessed the mock arrest, Long said.
Capozzola, who is still employed by the school, filed suit in 2017 in State Supreme Court, seeking at least $3 million in damages for violation of her constitutional rights, according to the complaint. The case was later moved to U.S. Eastern District Court in Central Islip.
The town did not respond to a records request for the settlement agreement. Town Attorney James Burke said Southampton will be responsible for a $100,000 insurance deductible payment, but declined further comment.
Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, Southampton Police Chief Steven Skrynecki and Long all declined to comment on the case, which contains a confidentiality agreement.
Neither the attorney representing the school district, Caroline Lineen of Silverman & Associates in White Plains, nor Capozzola’s attorney, Craig Riha of Carmel, Milazzo & Feil LLC, which has an office in Melville, returned a call seeking comment.