A Jersey City teacher is alleging retaliation from the board of education after reporting multiple assaults against her 11-year-old daughter last year, a new lawsuit says.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The two-count, 14-page lawsuit was filed in Hudson County Superior Court on December 22nd by Jenine and Jade Blair, a mother and daughter that both work for the Jersey City Board of Education.
Through their attorney, Drake P. Dreardon, Jr., of the Vorhees-based law firm Javerbaum Wurgaft Hicks Kahn Wikstrom & Sinins, P.C., the Blairs alleged that Jenine’s 11-year-old daughter was assaulted on September 22nd, 2022 and the incident was captured on video.
“Jenine Blair reported the incident to the vice-principal at Defendant, Cara Van
Note. Jenine Blair also reported the assault to the Jersey City Police Department on or around September 30, 2022. The girls that assaulted D then sent threatening text messages stating they were going to assault D again,” the court filing contends.
“Jenine Blair reported the harassing text message to Van Note on October 3, 2022. In one of the text messages, one of the girls said, ‘I’m really bout to kill that b****’ and ‘In the morning [tomorrow] im beating ha tf up.'”
The lawsuit goes on to claim that James F. Murray School No. 38 Principal Sandra Jones Legay met with Jenine Blair, her daughter, and her father on that same date, where Legay allegedly said Van Note had never informed her about the incident.
After Legay was implored by the Jersey City Police Department to act since the student had been threatened again, Van Note asked Jenine Blair to pick her daughter up early to avoid another confrontation.
While the child was supposed to leave through the main entrance, she was not informed of this and therefore left out the back where the girls where waiting for her, accusing Jenine Blair of spraying them with pepper spray, leading to her arrest.
The lawsuit further contends that Superintendent of Schools Dr. Norma Fernandez had told faculty that Jenine Blair had pepper sprayed students, though does not go into further detail about who was told or when.
Jenine Blair again complained to Legay about her daughter being harassed by the same group of girls, to which she was assured that their parents would be spoken to.
On October 15th, 2022, the school board agreed to let the daughter attend a different school, and around this time, attempted to file a harassment, intimidation, and bullying complaint.
Anti-Bullying Specialist Joseph Ramano allegedly sent her a letter to file the complaint in December, but backdated it to October to make it appear to be a timely response.
Additionally, the state sent the BOE a letter on October 3rd, 2022 indicating that Jenine Blair could not return to teaching until her criminal case concluded, and despite complaining at multiple school board meetings, nothing was done to resolve the matter.
The case was dismissed and the charges were expunged on January 24th, 2023 and her lawyer asked board counsel if she could now be reinstated.
“As soon as we receive the Order, Human Resources will be in contact with Jenine Blair concerning her reinstatement to her substitute teaching position,” Robert Pruchnik, general counsel for the district, allegedly replied.
While an official from the state Department of Education told Fernandez in a February 10th email that Jenine Blair’s charges were dismissed, she remains suspended and no one at subsequent school board meetings addressed her concerns, the court filing says.
Furthermore, Jade Blair began working as a food service worker on February 2nd, 2022 and began working as a custodian on August 15th of the same year.
However, after December 22nd, she was not scheduled to work, and a January 12th, 2023 letter from her supervisor, Henry Bednarski, said he was recommending her termination due to “overall job performance.”
She asserts, through the lawsuit, that this was the first time she had ever been disciplined, something she complained about at subsequent school board meetings after she had been fired.
Jade Blair also allegedly interviewed for 33 other positions within the district and was not considered for any of them.
On September 23rd, 2023, she argued that she had been let go due to her mother’s conflict with the district and she was finally able to return to a pier diem position the following month, according to the court filing.
She also said that she received a negative job performance review after being hospitalized for a week, and despite a doctor’s note, her job performance was deemed “unsatisfactory” for calling out for a week.
The lawsuit states that the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination were both violated.
As a result, the plaintiffs are seeking a declaration from the court that these practices were illegal, that the BOE’s conduct outlined here is forced to cease and desist, equitable reinstatement and back pay is issued, expunging any disciplinary files, costs of suit, attorneys’ fees, and any other relief the court deems just and equitable.
Fernandez said that the district does not comment on pending litigation.