Norwich School District releases Notice of Claim

NORWICH – In response to a request made by The Evening Sun under the Freedom of Information Law, the Norwich City School District released a copy of the notice of claim filed by Thomas Knapp on Aug. 19.

The eight-page document names not only the district, but also Superintendent Gerard O’Sullivan and the board of education as respondents.

In the filing, Knapp alleges the school district discriminated against him “for a perceived mental disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other state and federal anti-discrimination and civil rights laws.”

The notice also states Knapp’s claim that the respondents “deprived [him] of procedural and substantive due process” and “furthered, encouraged and created the false impression/perception that [he] was mentally disabled from performing his regular permanent duties as High School Principal.”

In support of these items, Knapp cited a meeting held at the office of the superintendent on May 27 where he was “suspended indefinitely” pending a section 913 examination. This statute of the New York State education law allows the board of education to require teachers and school staff members “to submit to a medical examination ... in order to determine the physical or mental capacity of such person to perform his or her duties.”

The notice of claim also alleged that a falsified medical leave request form caused pay during the initial period of his suspension to be deducted from his accrued sick time.

The filing includes further allegations that Knapp’s suspension “created a false and unsavory impression/perception” of his character and that despite the fact that he had been banned from school property, he was asked to appear at certain events such as graduation.

Knapp also cited the superintendent for reneging on a promise to recommend the high school principal for early tenure. He further stated that he had “lost employment opportunities in other districts” due to the damage done to his reputation.

At the conclusion of the notice of claim, Knapp demands a “name clearing hearing” and that “the respondents adjust these claims.” He gives notice of his intention “to commence legal actions and proceedings on these claims, if they are not adjusted.”

Superintendent O’Sullivan has released the following statement regarding the notice of claim: “The Norwich City School District is unable to comment on the allegations of Thomas Knapp. While Mr. Knapp is free to make any public claim of any kind or nature, Mr. Knapp knows that both state and federal law, as well as school district procedures, prohibit myself and the school board from commenting on an ongoing personnel matter. Mr. Knapp has spoken of litigation against the district and as a result it would be inappropriate to address any of his claims in the media. We can be certain that the judicial forum will provide us the opportunity to fully air any and all details and facts.”

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