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Central Bucks School Board Members Not Keen to Mediate Discrimination Suit, Email Shows

(This article first appeared in Broad + Liberty)

A class action discrimination suit against the Central Bucks School District appears to face long odds for a possible settlement or a mediated resolution, meaning it could go to trial and drag out for months, if not years.

That forecast is based on an email sent by one of the primary litigants to the majority Democrat members on the board scalding them for signaling they weren’t interested in a quick resolution — one that would almost certainly require the district to cut a multi-million dollar check.

Rebecca Cartee-Haring, a teacher in the district and one of the primary drivers behind the lawsuit, began her January 9 email by writing, “I have spoken with my attorney, Ed Mazurek about the 45 day delay and your desire to litigate these cases.”

“I would like to pass on that a few of us already know that [CBSD board lead counsel] Mike Levin responded to Ed’s email about possible settlement, or discussions or mediation with three words: ‘They’re not interested.’”

“To say that we feel hurt unheard, invalidated and cast aside, is an understatement. Many of us worked diligently to support all of you as candidates- we supported you because you said you were running on compassion and common sense,” Cartee-Haring wrote.

Cartee-Haring’s husband, Rick Haring, is one of the Democrats recently elected to the board. That relationship caused political opponents of Haring to claim that if his candidacy were successful, any work or decisions around the suit would be an inherent conflict of interest in one of the most serious matters confronting the board.

The email reveals an early fracture to the forces that united to dislodge a Republican majority on the board that controlled the board from 2022 to the end of 2023 in one of the largest and most important school districts in the commonwealth.

The suit, originally filed in 2020, alleges the district paid men better than women and made biased decisions in favor of men for a number of years.

Requests for comment to several of the Democrat board members were forwarded to Levin.

“The School District has been and remains committed to providing employment and advancement opportunities for all staff without regard to gender. The District will not tolerate discrimination against men or women, and values all its employees,” Levin said.

“In this case, tens of thousands of pages of documents have been provided to Plaintiffs’ counsel illustrating that men and women have been treated the same. If the evidence had suggested anything else, we would have responded accordingly. Further, the practices at Central Bucks are entirely consistent with the practices at school districts across the Commonwealth. The School Board will not litigate the case in the media but will continue to vigorously defend its commitment to non-discrimination in Court,” Levin concluded.

Requests for comment to Cartee-Haring and her attorney were not returned. Request for comment to the three Republican members of the board as well as to previous Republican members of the board were also not returned.

The suit was originally filed in 2020, but was refiled in 2022 after a judge granted the case class-action status. According to an article from the Bucks County Courier Times, more than 300 teachers have signed on as plaintiffs.

Broad + Liberty obtained Cartee-Haring’s email from an anonymous source, but verified its authenticity through other sources.

In another legal case pending before the board, a much more formal indication of what’s likely to happen next has been announced.

In a court filing last month, an attorney for the district told a court that the district was likely to settle with teacher Andrew Burgess in a suit Burgess brought against the district in 2023.

Burgess was the center of the storm through most of the two years Republicans controlled the board after they took control in the wake of the 2020 pandemic.

The middle school teacher was suspended in May of 2022 for what he claims was retaliation by the administration for his defense of LGBT students. The administration said Burgess had hid complaints of bullying of some of those students in order to gin up a controversy that could be used against the Republican board majority.

“In short, the new Board majority has a substantively different view of the events set forth in Plaintiff’s Complaint than the old Board majority,” the board’s attorney said in the filing.

“As such, the new Board majority is sincerely interested in exploring a settlement to resolve the matter.”

Central Bucks School Board Member Blasts Litigants’ Settlement Demand

Central Bucks School Board member Jim Pepper gave a fiery speech at the Oct. 10 meeting.

At issue are equal pay cases brought by teachers Rebecca Cartee-Haring and Dawn Marinello. Marinello’s case is now a class action with some 360 female teachers on board. Cartee-Haring’s husband, Rick Haring, a Democrat, is running for a seat on the school board next month.

Pepper, a plaintiff’s lawyer, blasted teachers suing the district and its lawyer for pressing the district to settle the cases for $120 million, money he said the district does not have “sitting around.”

Pepper noted that CBSD’s attorney, Michael Levin, told the board that based on the facts, the district would prevail.

“First off and most importantly, the district’s lawyer has said unequivocally there has been no unlawful discrimination in our district,” said Pepper. “None.”

“People think that once a complaint is filed, that is the end of the story… That is not how our legal system works,” said Pepper. There is discovery (where each side turns over evidence) and then motion practice, he said, before a trial would begin.

“This is what I do for a living,” said Pepper. “Strange (for) a party to settle before discovery is concluded. Before summary judgments are filed. Such demands are a sign of weakness. If you think you have a good case, you put it on.

“The district has the legal right and the obligation to  vigorously defend itself,” Pepper continued, noting the settlement requested “equates to one-third of its annual operating budget.”

“If the board flips, they will settle. Period,” said Pepper. “But who’s going to pay? The district? What is the district?”

Under Act 1, school boards cannot raise taxes by more than four percent unless the district qualifies for exceptions, so it would need to ask the voters for approval. Pepper said taxes would need to be raised 50 percent.

Levin said the district would have to sell property, lay off staff, and cut programs to satisfy the plaintiff’s demands.

In a social media post, Marinello called that scenario “a fear tactic to the largest degree.”

“Furthermore, they conveniently neglect how Central Bucks School District has $1.4 billion in real estate holdings,” she said.

“Do these people know what sits on this real estate? Schools and playing fields, parking lots,” Pepper said. “The plaintiffs have suggested we mortgage the properties.”

In a July 27 court filing, plaintiffs’ lawyer, Ed Mazurek, suggested if the board changes from Republican to Democratic control, it would likely settle the case.

“That presents the potential for newly elected board members to constitute a majority supporting settlement. Indeed, even if all five candidates who would be new to the board are not elected, those who could combine with current members who are not running this year and will remain on the board to support settlement,” Mazurek wrote in the filing.

School Board President Dana Hunter, a Republican running for reelection, told DVJournal that Mazurek met with the Democratic candidates to find out if they would settle, but the five Republican candidates refused to meet with him.

Haring has said he would recuse himself from voting on whether to settle his wife’s case, but it would be likely to be settled if Marinello’s is.

In an email to DVJournal, Cartee-Haring said, “My case was not part of the settlement demand. CBSD did not allow me to opt into the collective action. I did not send a demand letter, nor did Ed Mazurek send one on my behalf; my concern has always been the fact that Dana Hunter did not brief the entire board on the cases even when a federal judge directed (Superintendent) Abe Lucabaugh to do so.”

Asked about that, Hunter said the legal filings list both cases together as the plaintiffs. However, she noted Cartee-Haring has filed several lawsuits against the district, starting with one regarding a coaching contract not being renewed. She demanded $750,000 for a $7,000 to $8,000 extracurricular job. Another one alleged the principal at Central Bucks West, where she teaches English, retaliated against her, Hunter said.

As for the board not being briefed on the case, Hunter asked how Cartee-Haring would know since briefings on legal matters occur in executive session unless “someone is releasing confidential information.”

Hunter added all board members were trained on what is or is not allowed. That included a mandate not to communicate with someone suing the district.

Tim Daly filed right-to-know requests and received emails from board member Tabitha Dell’Angelo showing she and Cartee-Haring exchanged several emails regarding the case. DVJournal obtained those emails. Dell-Angelo did not respond to requests for comment. She is not running for reelection.

In one message between the pair dated Aug. 28, 2022, Dell’Angelo wrote, “And I have never even gotten one update about your case in my position as a school director.”

Cartee-Haring responded, “Thank you! I believe the district is going to appeal the judge’s decision to the 3rd Circuit…so the fight continues.”

“We have multiple candidates saying to settle, including Mrs. Haring’s husband, Rick Haring, saying to settle,” Pepper said.

“In the past year, we’ve seen people threatening to burn this district down, incessant attacks, lies, smears, threatening children, my children, endangering children. And last month, the coup de grace: violence,” said Pepper.

At the September meeting, Dell’Angelo’s husband picked up a chair and appeared ready to throw it at Daly before someone intervened.


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