A former teacher from one of New York City’s most prestigious private grade schools has filed suit against the school, claiming he was abruptly fired in June 2016 as a result of “systemic” homophobia at the administrative level.
Alan Cohen, 63, has been an educator for more than 30 years and served as the assistant head and head of grades K-4 at Speyer Legacy School for about a year, the Huffington Post reports.
Established in 2009 by Malena Belafonte, the daughter-in-law of civil rights activist Harry Belafonte, the school costs upwards of $40,000 per year and exclusively admits “gifted children.”
Cohen claims in his suit that he was harassed by administration after his sexuality became common knowledge among staff, some of whom are also openly gay.
The harassment allegedly began when Barbara Tischler, the head of the school, met with him to discuss a report she received from the school’s psychologist that suggested he was gay.
After Cohen confirmed that he was gay, he claims Tischler unceremoniously declined to renew his contract for the following school year, saying he was “not a good fit” for the school. In turn, they hired someone Cohen says has “far less experience.”
“This, for me, is putting my integrity on the line,” he said. “This is about being very proud of who I am.”
However another Speyer Legacy School teacher who is openly gay told the Huffington Post that the school is “a wonderful place,” and that she’s never experienced mistreatment or disrespect.
“That’s an emphasis that they have,” she said. “It’s important that kids feel safe, and you can’t help kids feel safe unless the grown-ups feel safe.”