City schools seek to shed part of suit
District argues against relevance of claims by teacher v. superintendent.
An attorney for the Scranton School District filed a motion seeking partial dismissal of a federal lawsuit filed by a teacher who claims Superintendent Alexis Kirijan, ED.D., retaliated against him for his union activities and for criticizing her.
Steve Bartnicki filed suit last month against the district and Kirijan, alleging she violated his First Amendment right to free speech when she asked a priest to bar him from acting as a volunteer reader during Mass at his church. He also alleges he was denied a position as a soccer coach and honors class teacher.
In a motion filed Thursday, the district’s attorney, Joseph J. Joyce III, argues Bartnicki’s claims related to his church activities must be dismissed because Kirijan’s alleged action involves a private matter not related to her duties as superintendent.
According to the motion, federal law requires that an employee show a defendant caused his or her harm by abusing a position of authority relating to his or her workplace. It does not protect an employee from actions a defendant took outside of work.
In Bartnicki’s case, Joyce said Bartnicki acknowledged the conduct took place outside of the school setting.
“Dr. Kirijan’s comment was not, as a matter of law, an exercise of her statutory authority as a public school superintendent ... but rather unactionable private conduct,” Joyce says in the motion.
The motion does not seek to dismiss claims related to the soccer coach and honors teaching position. Bartnicki’s attorney, Cynthia Pollick of Pittston, will have an opportunity to respond to the motion. A judge will issue a ruling at a later date.
ROSENCRANCE Nineteenyear-old, charged in August incident, free on $100K bail.