Teacher files lawsuit against Montclair BOE alleging discrimination
COURTESY WESLEY TINGEY
BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Montclair High School teacher Kenneth Schnitzer is suing the Montclair Board of Education, alleging discrimination as a white Jewish male in his attempts to be promoted to an administrative position.
The suit alleges that Schnitzer, 64, was passed over for assistant principal positions, which were were filled by “younger, less qualified non-Caucasian candidates, who were mostly female.”
Schnitzer, a resident of West Orange, has been employed by the district as a teacher of business, finance and marketing since 2004. He has also been the coach of the high school’s varsity bowling and golf teams.
Attorney Lawrence N. Levigne filed the suit Aug. 13 in Essex County Superior Court on behalf of Schnitzer, alleging discrimination under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination and a hostile work environment.
Beginning in August 2006 and continuing through the present, Schnitzer said, he sought promotions to administrative positions, including several open assistant principal positions, and was passed over 10 times. The suit contends Schnitzer possesses the appropriate certification to be qualified for the positions. According to Schnitzer’s LinkedIn profile, he has a bachelor's degree in marketing from Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, as well as an Educational Leadership and Administration degree and an MBA in marketing, both from Seton Hall University.
According to the suit, the district does not employ any Jewish administrators.
“[Schnitzer] had a distinguished career with the Montclair Public Schools having received excellent reviews during his tenure there. At all relevant times hereto, [he] was a Caucasian man and a member of the Jewish religion,” the suit reads.
Since September 2017, Schnitzer suffered a disability concerning his knees that required surgery, and for which he sought accommodation for his disability but was denied, according to the suit. He also alleges a hostile work environment.
“[Schnitzer] has suffered an adverse employment action by way of being passed over for promotion, hostile work environment and failure to accommodate a disability... and has suffered economic and emotional damages,” according to the suit.
The suit alleges that the school district failed to combat the creation of a hostile work environment by failing to enact reasonable policies and procedures, and failure to enforce any such policies that they had in place.
He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and reimbursement of attorney's fees and expenses.
Schnitzer’s suit is the third this year filed by teachers against the district. Earlier in the year, a math teacher at MHS filed a lawsuit against the school, the district, and another math teacher, alleging that she was subjected to harassment and a hostile work environment. In August, six African American teachers at Glenfield Middle School filed suit against the BOE alleging they were discriminated against and prevented from teaching extra classes that would have resulted in extra wages. The teachers claim that the district failed to post job openings on the district website or email notice of the open positions to all employees for the 2017-18 school year as required by law.