A special education teacher who formerly was a principal and vice principal in the Charles County public school system recently filed a $1 million lawsuit against the school board, Superintendent Kim Hill and Deputy Superintendent Amy Hollstein.
Bryan Chapman, a Washington, D.C., attorney, said the lawsuit was filed April 21 by Timothy Rosin. That followed Verniece Rorie’s $500,000 lawsuit against the same entities on Nov. 2. Chapman represents both Rorie, who was also a principal, and Rosin.
On Monday, April 26, Chapman said the two “complaints are intertwined. They are clearly linked.”
Both worked at Gale-Bailey Elementary School in Marbury when a playground incident occurred Oct. 29, 2019, that resulted in one fourth-grade boy being charged with fourth-degree sexual assault and second-degree assault of three fourth-grade girls, according to the suit.
The boy allegedly told the girls in graphic language that he wanted to have sex with them and grabbed a girl’s hands, the suit states.
The students were part of a group of three boys and three girls — all 10 years old — who were playing monster tag, according to the suit. “While pretending to be monsters, both the boys and the girls made comments that were inappropriate by adult standards,” the suit states.
All three boys were suspended from school, and the one who was charged was transferred to another school. The girls came back to school for one day to fill out some forms, but didn’t return afterward, Chapman said.
“There’s something racial about it to cause parents to react the way they do,” Chapman said, referring to the different races of the children. He noted that the parents, one in particular, pressured to have the principal and vice principal removed. In addition, “these parents put a lot of pressure on [Hill] and the central office to not let the students come back to school. I believe race is playing an element in that.”
Rosin, 59, said he was suspended without pay for five days following the incident, accused of not following procedure, given a “litigation hold letter” from a school attorney that was never rescinded and transferred to work as a special education teacher at John Hanson Middle School and then to F.B. Gwynn Educational Center, which is where Rorie was also transferred. Both were demoted, and Rorie became a vice principal.
In the suit, Rosin says that he lost $32,000 a year in pay because of the demotion. In addition, he was also demoted from principal to vice principal at Indian Head Elementary School on May 7, 2018, before he was assigned to Gale-Bailey. Rosin said he had “effective” ratings or higher before the reassignment.
Rosin — who is white — claimed denial of due process, defamation, breach of contract and emotional pain and suffering and asked for a jury trial. Rorie is Black. Chapman said that Rosin initially was treated better than Rorie, and was told that he would be transferred to another vice principal position, but was ultimately demoted.
“The degree of discipline each [fourth-grade boy] received was in accord to the Charles County Public School Code of Student Conduct,” the suit states, noting that Rosin relied on advice from Linda Gill, executive director of school administration, and Kathy Kiessling, Title IX coordinator, for his actions in responding to the incident.
Although the girls’ parents expressed displeasure with two boys being allowed to return to the school, they had not done anything that justified being transferred, according to the suit.
“How can you control what 10-year-olds do on a playground?” Chapman asked. He said that his clients were scapegoated to appease the parents. “There’s no way you could foresee or prevent what happened.” He noted that Hill and Hollstein said his clients would undergo retraining in response to the playground incident, but that didn’t happen.
Rorie’s suit mentions the disparate treatment the then-principal at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School, Kenneth Shroeck, a white man, received in 2017 after a teaching assistant and coach, Carlos Deangelo Bell, who is Black, pleaded guilty to numerous charges of sexual exploitation of minors. Shroeck was transferred to an administrative position and was not disciplined nor demoted.
Rorie is now asking for $1 million in an amended complaint filed this week.
“We got a motion to dismiss [from the school board’s attorneys] a couple of days ago,” the lawyer said last week.
In other news, school system spokeswoman Katie O’Malley-Simpson said in an email on Monday that Hollstein is retiring June 30, along with Hill, who earlier said she was leaving at the end of the school year.