NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A kindergarten teacher with a squeaky clean record for more than 30 years says she was fired simply because she’s old.
The 80-year-old woman wants her job back, so she’s suing New York City, reports CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez.
Lillie Leon said she’s spent the last 34 years of her life enlightening young minds as a teacher for the city’s public schools.
“No one values the caliber of work that I have performed for those 34 years. It’s like they kicked you to the curb,” Leon said Wednesday.
Leon was fired from P.S. 117 in Queens, and will be spending the school year here at home. According to the New York State Department of Education she was let go in part, for not escorting her kindergarteners to the bathroom — a job requirement.
But Leon thinks she was canned because she’s 80 years old. She’s suing the city for age and disability discrimination.
“I feel like they wanted to force me to retire, by giving me hardship assignments,” Leon said.
The Department of Education filed a complaint accusing Leon of insubordination and neglect of duty. It claims Leon, who struggles to walk with a cane, refused to take her 4- and 5-year-old students to the bathroom.
Leon said she asked the school to assign her to teach first graders, where students wouldn’t need her supervision for bathroom breaks. But Leon said her request was ignored.
Instead, Leon said she was assigned to a kindergarten classroom without a bathroom, forcing her to take on a physical challenge.
“Every time someone has to go to the bathroom she has to take the entire class,” attorney Stewart Karlin said. “It was educationally unsound … and it’s also a safety issue.”
A state arbitrator disagreed and sided with the education department, but Leon is appealing to get back in the classroom.
“That’s one issue that was never raised, her ability to teach,” Karlin said.
“Knowing that I won’t be able to be in the classroom will be heartbreaking,” Leon added.
Leon said she won’t give up her fight. The Department of Education declined to comment on this case.
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