Former High School guidance counselor Michael Tweed, 40, from Plainview, is suing the Glen Cove School District in response to what he claims was retaliation for his participation as a whistleblower exposing testing and grading scandals in 2013.
Tweed filed the lawsuit on July 7th in the Eastern NY U.S. District Court, claiming his Constitutional rights were violated as a result of the retaliation. Tweed, and his attorney Arthur Scheuermann argue that Mr. Tweed’s speech activity–”reports of criminal conduct” are protected free speech under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. “Mr. Tweed’s speech did not disrupt the operation of the district, but rather ferreted out corruption occurring at the highest levels in the District,” the suit says.
The Plaintiff is requesting that the Court orders Tweed reinstated with back pay and benefits, along with $3 million in punitive damages and reimbursement of legal costs and fees.
Tweed’s recollection of events leading to his termination is laid out in the lawsuit. The Plainview resident was appointed Coordinator of Guidance and Pupil Personnel Service in 2011, the year he joined the record. The suit says Tweed joined the guidance department when “it was in disarray”, as three had held the title in the six years preceding.
The filing describes an impressive record as Coordinator. Tweed’s solicitation efforts brought a record number of visitations by colleges and universities to the High School. He recruited more students to register for the PSAT and SATs, and as a result the District saw “a significant spike in the number of students applying to college and [an increase] in the number of colleges each student applied to for admission.”
After his first year, then-superintendent Joseph Laria said that Mr. Tweed “was an extremely effective administrator” and Assistant Superintendent Michael Israel concluded “this was a very good year!” in his evaluation. Samantha Dipaola, 17, who will attend Georgetown this fall, spoke in support of Tweed at a recent school board meeting. Citing an open-door policy, she said, “he was a great support for us.”
But an ambitious record of reform appears to have lead to Tweed’s fallout with the district. In the spring of 2013, Tweed cooperated in an investigation into testing irregularities and grade-fixing with “expressed assurance he would be free of retaliation as a whistleblower.” An independent investigator was hired, with whom Tweed cooperated.
Soon, Tweed says he heard that “district officials and employees as well as some PTA representatives, some of whom had relationships with members of the Board, were trying to find who was cooperating with the investigation.” It was around that time that Tweed’s cooperation was improperly divulged by “one or more board members” to people in Glen Cove. He was told that certain board members were “furious” that he had cooperated in the investigation. That summer, Superintendent Joseph Laria was resigned, believed as a result of cooperating with the investigation.
After being denied tenure, Mr. Tweed was identified as a whistleblower in the media. Since, the suit says he has sought employment unsuccessfully, despite “several promising interviews”. The suit says “this is a part of the District’s attempt to blacklist Mr. Tweed in retaliation for exposing corruption.”