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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Not Your Business, Teacher Tells School Board

PALM BEACH (CN) - A teacher sued her church-affiliated school board, claiming her principal threatened to fire her if she did not tell all her colleagues and parents that she has epilepsy, and answer parents' questions about it.

Melissa L. Russo sued The Trustees of Advent Lutheran Church in Palm Beach County Court, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Florida Civil Rights Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

Russo had taught for two years at the Advent Lutheran Early Childhood School when she called in sick in April 2012 due to an epileptic seizure, she says in the lawsuit. Russo never told the school she had epilepsy, but she did tell other teachers in confidence, the complaint states.

After she called in sick, principal Sally Whitney asked what was wrong with her, Russo says, and she explained that she had suffered an epileptic seizure.

When Russo returned to school the next day, Whitney told her she wanted to be able to rotate all 40 teachers at the school, and to do so, "Russo would be required to disclose the nature and severity of her epilepsy to all of the teachers and the students' parents and answer any questions of the parents of students at the school regarding the nature and severity of her condition," according to the complaint.

Russo says she was not comfortable with that, and said so, but Whitney told her the disclosure was a requirement for her continued employment "until a replacement for her was found."

Russo offered several alternatives, including not being a part of the rotation and working only with teachers who already knew of her condition, but Whitney refused, the complaint states.

Russo says no other teacher at the school has ever been "required to disclose their disability or medical condition to other teachers and/or parents of students."

Russo seeks lost pay, reinstatement, damages for pain and suffering, punitive damages, and attorney's fees.

She is represented by Barry Balmuth of North Palm Beach.

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