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The Malverne Union Free School District, Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Hunderfund and retired Malverne High School Principal Mr. James Brown received a unanimous verdict in their favor by a federal jury in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Central Islip on Dec. 8. The jury rendered a complete verdict for defendants in the case brought against them by plaintiff Betsy Benedith.
Ms. Benedith sued the district, the superintendent and the retired high school principal claiming discrimination against her on the basis of her race and the creation of a racially hostile work environment.
The jury was asked to determine whether the School District and its administrators’ actions violated plaintiff’s constitutional rights. The jury unanimously found the defendants did not terminate her employment on the basis of her race. The jury also unanimously found Ms. Benedith was not subjected to a racially hostile work environment.
Ms. Benedith’s case is the last of three cases originally brought in one action by Betsy Benedith, Kenneth Smith and Sherwyn Besson. Benedith and Besson are former employees of Malverne, while Smith is currently a math teacher at the middle school.
On Aug. 15, 2014, the Honorable Arthur D. Spatt severed the three cases and dismissed several of the claims.
On Dec. 9, 2015, following a trial, a jury unanimously found in favor of the School District, Superintendent Hunderfund and Assistant Superintendent Rose Linda Ricca on Mr. Smith’s claims of discrimination.
On March 16, 2016, following a trial, a jury unanimously found in favor of the School District, Superintendent Hunderfund and Principal Vincent Romano on Mr. Besson’s claims of discrimination and retaliation.
The Benedith case was tried in three days before United States District Judge Joan M. Azrack. Joshua S. Moskovitz, Esq. and Lance A. Clarke, Esq. of New York City represented Ms. Benedith. Malverne and its administrators were represented by Melissa L. Holtzer and Susan H. Odessky of Sokoloff Stern, LLP of Carle Place, New York.
Dr. Hunderfund stated, “On behalf of the Malverne Board of Education and the entire school-community, we are gratified that we can now continue to move forward, together, for the benefit of all children in our care. These unanimous court decisions provide a testament to the integrity and fairness of the Malverne School District”