In a July 8, 2016 lawsuit, a Learning Disabilities Teacher/Consultant accused the Spotswood Board of Education (Middlesex County) of retaliating against him for reporting what he called the Board’s “unlawful and unethical practices regarding the education of students with disabilities.”

In his lawsuit, Anwar Al-Najjar, who was employed by the Spotswood Board since October 2006, said that school officials cut his hours to punish him for objecting in 2014 to a disabled student being placed in a classroom by himself with no other classmates.  Al-Najjar said moving the student out of district and placing him in a classroom with other students would provide him with “the least restrictive learning environment” and that Spotswood officials’ treatment of the student “violated State and Federal law, rules and regulations.”  Despite his objection, he said that school officials assigned the student’s case to another member of the Child Study Team and “forced [the student] to attend school in a classroom by himself for most of the 2014-2015 school year. ”

He claimed that his objections regarding this student prompted Spotswood school officials to cut his summer work schedule from 24 to 10 days and refuse to hire him for other positions for which he was qualified.  He also claimed that two other teachers disagreed with district officials’ placement of the student and that both of them were terminated from employment.

Al-Najjar also claimed that he was “troubled” by an August 2015 phone call from Director of Special Services Chris Harry who directed him to place a student in the In-Class Resource Program.  Al-Najjar said that the student should have been placed in mainstream classes and that the student’s parents were not consulted about the placement.  He said that he angered Harry by meeting with the parents and then giving them Harry’s telephone number so that could call him “to express their displeasure” with the placement decision.

Al-Najjar said that he spoke about his concerns to Board President Dulce Branco-Rivera who told him to put his concerns in writing to Superintendent Scott Rocco.  Al-Najjar said that he declined to write to Rocco because he was fearful that the retaliation would escalate.

He claimed that by the Fall of 2015 the retaliation reached a point where his “working environment was intimidating, hostile or abusive.”  He said that on May 3, 2016, his Learning Disabilities Teacher/Consultant position was abolished even though the District is required by law to have somebody in that position.  Although Al-Najjar said that he was told that he could work until the end of the school year, he was placed on administrative leave on May 4, 2016 and prohibited from entering upon District property.

Al-Najjar’s lawsuit is captioned Al-Najjar v. The Board of Education of Spotswood, Docket No. MID-L-4026-16 and Al-Najjar’s lawsuit is being represented by Steven Siegler of Warren.

Update: The case settled in November 2017 with Al-Najjar receiving a $60,000 payment. Of the $60,000, $25,000 was paid by the Spotswood Board of Education while the remaining $35,000 was paid by the Board’s insurer, Summit Risk Services.  The settlement agreement is on-line here.

Al-Najjar’s claims are only allegations and the burden is upon Al-Najjar to prove his allegations at trial.

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]