BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (CN) - A former teacher claims in a lawsuit that she was falsely charged with six felonies and coerced into resigning her tenured position under threat of being jailed.
In a complaint filed in the Syracuse, N.Y. Federal Court, Julie Cornwell claims the Hancock Central School District and its superintendent, Terry Dougherty, made false accusations and charges against her relating to her family's eligibility for reduced fee school lunches.
She says Dougherty then "interjected and asserted himself into the criminal prosecution, ultimately convincing the Delaware County district attorney's office to force plaintiff to resign her position in order to have all criminal charges against her dismissed."
Cornwell alleges Dougherty engaged in these activities, while also the teachers' union from negotiating for her at a disciplinary hearing.
In doing so, "Defendant Dougherty ... bypassed the contractual legal process for termination of a tenured teacher after years of harassing plaintiff, a longtime tenured employee," the complaint says.
Frank W. Miller, who is representing the defendant school district, told Courthouse News his client has not done anything improper, "and will vigorously resist this lawsuit."
Cornwell alleges that the superintendent has "systematically and repeatedly acted in a threatening and unprofessional manner" towards her, dating back to 2004.
She says Dougherty used his authority to prevent her from obtaining coaching positions and an athletic director position for which she had applied. "Defendants instead retained either younger personnel and/or male teachers for these positions," the lawsuit states.
Cornwell also says Dougherty never bothered to verify her school lunch program applications, and instead concluded without a hearing and without due process that her family did not qualify for the reduced fee lunches, when, in fact, they did.
She accuses Dougherty, a former tight end for the Syracuse University football team, of using his "physically intimidating stature" to intimidate her, according to the complaint.
Cornwell has since reapplied for her job but the district has refused to respond to her application, the lawsuit says.
She seeks $1 million in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages on claims of tortious interference with her contractual rights, wrongful termination and age and gender discrimination.
Cornwell is represented by Jonathan Landsman of Manhattan.
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