Complaint ro

Teacher fires back over SPD meetings

Recognize and honor St. Patrick’s Day: Attorney Brian O’Dwyer.

By Ray O’Hanlon

I want my St. Patrick’s Day!

That, in essence, is what New York public school teacher, Frank Schorn, is saying to New York City after school officials decided to call for mandatory middle school parent teacher meetings on March 17.

Frank Schorn, through the law firm of O’Dwyer and Bernstien, has filed a complaint with the city’s Commission on Human Rights over an issue which has caused complaint in former years and has arisen again in a year when St. Patrick’s Day is taking on extra significance due to the centenary of the 1916 Rising.

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The mandatory meetings, and the anticipated negative reaction from Irish American and Irish educators and families, was first reported in Daily Irish Echo the week before last and has since led to a bill crafted by New York State Senator Tony Avella calling for St. Patrick’s Day to be made a holiday.

The story also broke into wider media coverage today with a report on Schorn’s complaint in the Daily News.

The complaint by Mr. Schorn, “on behalf of himself and similarly situated New York City Public School Teachers,” according to the filing, is against the city, its department of education, the “Board of Education of the City School district of New York and Carman Farina as Chancellor of New York City Public Schools and in her Individual Capacity.”

Schorn, who lives in Queens and teaches in Brooklyn, in his complaint, alleges that he became aware that his school, along with all other New York City public middle schools, had scheduled parent teacher conferences for the evening of March 17, 2016 beginning at approximately 4.30 p.m.
The complaint states; “March 17, 2016 is Saint Patrick’s Day, which has been celebrated in New York City going back at least to the year 1762, making it one of the oldest cultural and religious celebrations in New York City. There are only two parent teacher conferences per school year.

“Complainant is of Irish descent and an adherent to the Roman Catholic faith. Complainant’s attendance at the scheduled parent teacher conferences is mandatory pursuant to his terms and conditions of employment. Upon information and belief, Complainant will be subject to disciplinary action by Respondents if he fails to attend in order to observe St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

“City Council Members Daniel Dromm, Elizabeth Crowley, Jimmy Van Bramer, and Corey Johnson jointly wrote to Respondent Carmen Fariña on January 13, 2016 explaining their concerns with the scheduled parent teacher conferences and requesting that the Respondents instruct its middle schools to reschedule the scheduled parent teacher conferences and to refrain from scheduling any such conferences on Saint Patrick’s Day in future years.

“Upon information and belief, Respondents have not replied to the January 13, 2016 letter.”
A copy of that letter is attached to the complaint.

The complaint continues; “Complainant asserts Respondents’ aforementioned actions are in violation of Sections 8-107(1) and 8-107(3) of the New York City Human Rights Law. Respondents have committed an unlawful discriminatory practice under Section 8-107(1)(a) by discriminating against Complainant (and those NYC public school teachers similarly situated) in ‘terms, conditions or privileges of employment’ on the basis of his national origin by scheduling parent teacher conferences on Saint Patrick's Day.

“Respondents have also committed an unlawful discriminatory practice under Section 8-107(3) by imposing upon Complainant (and those NYC public school teachers similarly situated) as a condition of retaining his employment, a term or condition, compliance with which would require Complainant to violate, or forego a practice of, his Irish Catholic religion, namely, observance of any portion of Saint Patrick's Day. To date, upon information and belief, Respondents have offered no reasonable accommodation to the religious observance needs of Complainant or any other similarly situated NYC public school teacher.”

The filing to the Human rights Commission goes on to state that the complainant “requests that this Commission investigate and take action upon this Complaint against Respondents, and seek the following relief: (1) A temporary and permanent injunction prohibiting Respondents from scheduling evening parent teacher conferences on March 17, 2016, and on Saint Patrick's Day in any future years, and; (2) Any other fair and equitable relief.

The scheduling of parent teachers meetings in the city on St. Patrick’s Day has occurred in the past and has sponsored negative reaction.

This year’s scheduling comes in the wake of Mayor Bill de Blasio designating the Lunar New Year and the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as days off for public schools.

“We are not asking that the mayor accommodate New York’s oldest immigrant community by declaring a school holiday,” said attorney Brian O’Dwyer.

“We are instead asking that the Department of Education make a minor change to its schedule so that the religious observance of thousands of teachers and parents who celebrate the feast day of St. Patrick be recognized and honored.”

“The insensitive scheduling of parent teacher meetings on March 17th has put me in an untenable position of choosing between my ethnic and religious heritage and my duty to help my students,” Schorn told the Daily News.

He said that he was especially looking forward to this year’s parade because Grand Marshal George Mitchell is a hero of his because of his work in brokering the Good Friday Agreement.