City schools seek to shed part of suit

Dis­trict ar­gues against rel­e­vance of claims by teacher v. su­per­in­ten­dent.

The Times-Tribune - - BRIEFLY - BY TERRIE MOR­GAN-BESECKER STAFF WRITER Con­tact the writer: tbesecker@timessham­rock.com; 570-348-9137; @tmbeseck­ertt on Twit­ter BARTNICKI KIRIJAN

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.

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