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Principal’s Headaches Began in the NY Post

BROOKLYN (CN) — A former middle school principal whose racy photos made headlines in The New York Post has sued New York City and its Department of Education for sexual discrimination.

Ann Seifullah also sued school Chancellor Carmen Farina in Kings County Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The Queens resident dropped out of a master's degree program at the University of Utah to pursue a position with the school system through the New York City Teaching Fellowship in 2004. The program is designed to infuse the city's troubled educational system with professionals from other fields.

Seifullah taught English at a middle school in Manhattan. She rose through the ranks and finished her master's degree at City College, and also taught classes there.

Then she got tangled up with a fellow teacher named Edward Boland, who described his struggles as a teacher in his tell-all book, "The Battle for Room 314: My Year of Hope and Despair in a New York City High School."

In 2011, Seifullah finished the selective New York City Leadership Academy and became principal at Robert F. Wagner Jr. Secondary School for Arts & Technology. She says in the lawsuit that during her tenure from start to finish in 2014, the graduation rate increased by more than 20 percent and the rate of students' college acceptance more than doubled.

But her "rising star status came to a screeching halt" in May 2014 when The New York Post published an article along and racy photos that claimed she had been fired after a "sex-in-school" probe.

Seifullah says the reporter was fed the bogus information and racy photos by a disgruntled ex-boyfriend, who demanded money from her and "full financial support" after they broke up. She says he threatened that if she didn't pay him, he would "ensure that plaintiff was unemployable and un-dateable."

His allegations were found to be unsubstantiated by the New York City Department Education Office of Special Investigation, Seifullah in the complaint.

She was cited for with minor infractions for dating the chief of staff in the chancellor's office for three months in 2014. But her ex-boyfriend wasn't done with her, she says. He then falsely accused her of having sex with an assistant principal on school grounds.

"These allegations as with all of ex-boyfriend's allegations were unsubstantiated," she says in a 25-page lawsuit that resembles a soap opera script.

Sexism reared its ugly head, she says, when the man she was accused of having sex with kept his job as an assistant principal but she got the ax.

That story hit the front page of the Post on May 4.

She says her paramour then broke up with her, telling her: "Once you're in the cross hairs of the NY Post, even if they're wrong, they won't stop."

She calls it overt gender discrimination, as knowledge of trysts by a male principal did not cost him his job. The man was "protected by the DOE brass, while plaintiff (a female) was thrown to the wolves," she says in the complaint.

She lost her principal job and was demoted to a teacher in June last year.

She says a high-ranking official in the DOE told her that top-level officials at the department would "turn a blind eye to allegations, false or otherwise, regarding sexual misconduct when a male employee is involved."

She also says she was told that the DOE "will seek to make an example of any female employee under the same circumstances."

During testimony in April 2015, her ex admitted he provided the racy photographs of her because it was "newsworthy," she says in the lawsuit.

And, she says, several male principals embroiled in sex scandals did not lose their jobs, but a female guidance counselor was fired when she modeled in lingerie and bikinis in 2011.

In her own case, Seifullah says, the Department of Education urged her to resign.

She says she was forced to report to the department's headquarters and placed on medical leave, her salary was cut and she was given no work assignment.

Former teachers have been known to languish for years, doing nothing, for pay, in the DOE's so-called rubber rooms.

Seifullah says she was put back into the system to teach in Queens, where she suffered a "line of duty injury" on the job. She returned to work this January, but the Post did another article on her, further exacerbating her situation, she says.

She says men in her field don't experience such discrimination.

She seeks punitive damages for gender discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment,

The Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning.

Seifullah is represented by Peter Gleason in Manhattan.

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