2008-02-29 / Front Page

Judge Flunks Pleener City Lawsuit

By Howard Schwach

ABrooklyn judge has thrown out a lawsuit brought by former Beach Channel High School principal Barbara Pleener, who claimed that she was fired because she is white.

Pleener was removed from the local high school in 2003, after civic leaders and students picketed outside the school and created disorder within the building over her dismissal from the school of a popular black assistant principal, Claude Monereau.

She was later fired by School Chancellor Joel Klein. Her suit against the city alleged that she was fired in retaliation for her action against Monereau and because Region Five Superintendent Kathleen Cashin caved in to community and parental pressure to replace her with a black principal.

Judge Allyne Ross ruled, however, that "there is nothing to suspect" that Pleener's dismissal was tied to race. The judge added that Pleener, who took sick leave for the remainder of the year and then retired, could have contested her removal through procedures set up by the Department of Education, but failed to do so.

Pleener was appointed to Beach Channel High School in September of 2003 to replace a black principal, Cheryl Hold, who was under fire for forcing out many students who were not making progress towards graduation.

Monereau had lobbied hard for the principal position, meeting with local politicians, the NAACP and even The Wave, asking the paper for its editorial support.

When he did not get the principal position, Pleener said later, he tried everything he could to "undermine" her position as principal.

According to papers filed for her lawsuit, she filed a complaint against Monereau in September, claiming that he was "insubordinate" and that he was attempting to undermine her authority.

Monereau was removed from the school and reassigned to the Region Five office in Ozone Park.

On October 15, the Far Rockaway chapter of the NAACP, an organization in which Monereau is a longtime member, held an emergency meeting. "This is outrageous," NAACP President Ed Williams told a New York Post reporter at the time. "Mr. Monereau is a pillar of the community. The principal has to go."

The day after the meeting, a large group of parents, students and community activists, including Williams, gathered in front of the school, urging that students stay out of school until Monereau was appointed as principal.

At lunchtime, dozens of students left the building in support of Monereau, and a number of small fires were set in the building.

Pleener's lawsuit alleged that students, "at the urging of others, walked out of class, triggered fire alarms and acted disorderly."

Shortly thereafter, Pleener was removed by Cashin and replaced with David Morris, a black educator who remains at the school today.

Monereau was reassigned to Middle School 53 in Far Rockaway, where he is still the principal.

Pleener's lawsuit asked for unspecified damages for violating her civil rights and defamation.

Pleener could not be reached for comment.

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