BRONX (CN) - A history teacher at Horace Mann School, a private school in Riverdale for wealthy kids, says the school fired and defamed him in retaliation for writing a novel. Andrew Trees' book, "Academy X," is about "a teacher persecuted by a corrupt school administration because of his refusal to play along with the school's kowtowing to wealthy parents and their 'by any means necessary' attitude toward college admissions for their progeny." Trees adds, "Ironically, the fictional teacher was accorded more due process than Plaintiff Trees before being fired."
Trees seeks damages for breach of contract and defamation. He also sued a former colleague, David Schiller.
Trees taught high school history for six years until he was fired without cause in January, he says. Trees' novel is "a fictionalized account of life at an unnamed New York private school catering to the wealthy and very wealthy. The novel portrays the unusual social dynamics of the children of wealth in a setting of great pressure to succeed socially and academically. In an unfortunate example of life imitating art, Defendant Horace Mann embarked on a smear campaign against Plaintiff Trees as punishment for writing 'Academy X' before firing him, just as the fictional protagonist of 'Academy X' was a teacher persecuted by a corrupt school administration because of his refusal to play along with the school's kowtowing to wealthy parents. ...
"In real life, Defendant Horace Mann attempted to isolate Plaintiff Trees by telling his colleagues that Trees was planning on writing a nonfiction book, this time 'naming names,' and that he was identifying people to mine for salacious information. "Apparently certain trustees of Defendant Horace Mann saw reflections of themselves or their children in the fictional 'Academy X,' and pressured the school administration to punish Plaintiff Tree for having the temerity to critique their kind. ...
"Ironically, the fictional teacher was accorded more due process than Plaintiff Trees before being fired. Defendant Horace Mann elected to skip the kangaroo court hearing process of 'Academy X,' and simply decided to fire Plaintiff Trees without even the pretext of the due process promised Horace Mann employees in two employee manuals."
Trees adds: "The Horace Mann Head of School. Tom Kelly, stated that he was terminating Plaintiff Trees' employment only because he had authored 'Academy X.' Mr. Kelly also admitted that he was firing Plaintiff Trees in a way that would make it difficult or impossible for Plaintiff Trees to find another teaching job. By firing him midway through the school year, and well after the publication of 'Academy X,' Defendant Horace Mann created the impression that Plaintiff Trees was fired for some disciplinary reason unrelated to the book. ...
"(W)hen the head of school fired him in January 2007, Mr. Kelly admitted that Plaintiff Trees was an excellent teacher, and that his firing had nothing to do with his job performance," the suit states.
Trees says defendant Schiller was Kelly's "proxy," and that Schiller defamed him by "stat(ing) that Plaintiff Trees remained at Horace Mann only to collect material for another book." Trees claims Schiller told several other teachers "that Plaintiff Trees had a huge book and movie deal to write a nonfiction book about Horace Mann, and that Plaintiff Trees this time was going to 'name names.'"
He claims that before Kelly fired him, Kelly had been advised by outside legal counsel that the firing would be illegal. "His firing was also preceded by a campaign of defamation designed to make Plaintiff Trees' continuing at Defendant Horace Mann impossible."
Trees is represented in Bronx County Court by Thomas Mullaney of Manhattan. See complaint.
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