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ACLU hits Central Bucks with a new complaint

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In a new complaint, the Pennsylvania ACLU is accusing the Central Bucks School District administration and its retained lawyers of “misleading the public” in a 151-page report that refuted the ACLU’s earlier findings of a “widespread culture of discrimination” against LGBTQ students.

Additionally, the complaint claims the district’s suspension of middle school teacher Andrew Burgess was retaliation for his support of a transgender student.

According to the federal filing, the ACLU and Burgess state he was suspended for violating a board policy that did not exist at the time and that the attorneys investigating the matter never spoke to the student or his family. Both would have corroborated Burgess’s account, the complaint states.

Burgess filed his own lawsuit against CBSD in April, stating he was targeted for his support of a transgender student who was being bullied and harassed at Lenape Middle School. Burgess filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights on behalf of the student, although the district, in its April 2023 report said it did not know of such a complaint being filed, despite evidence to the contrary, the ACLU said.

While the school district claimed Burgess did not get the student’s parents’ permission to file the Office of Civil Rights complaint, the filing included a consent form signed by the teen’s mother, the ACLU suit says.

The school district did not respond to a request for comment on the complaint.

The attorneys the district hired to conduct the investigation suggested in an April 20 public presentation that it was Burgess — not the district — that violated school policy because he failed to report an incident of bullying to the administration, opting instead to file a complaint with the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.

“The evidence and circumstances suggest that Mr. Burgess believed that, if he brought to light supposed widespread unaddressed bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students and convinced a federal agency to investigate such matters, the school board would cave to the inevitable criticism and bad press,” said lead attorney Michael Rinaldi during the April 20 session.

By putting his political beliefs above students’ concerns and not reporting their experiences to school officials, Burgess failed in his responsibilities as a teacher, said Rinaldi.

The new ACLU complaint maintains that account is false and that Burgess and the student went to the district several times with their concerns.

“Time and again, the district’s attorneys and administrators went out of their way to sully the reputation of an upstanding, wonderful teacher,” said Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, in a statement.

“They even went so far as to put on a show trial for the community in April, further damaging Andrew’s professional credibility. What they’ve done here is illegal retaliation,” Walczak said.

Burgess has been suspended with pay twice, first in May 2022 before being reassigned to a different school and again in April 2023 after the release of the district’s internal investigation. He remains on suspension, the ACLU said.

The lawsuit asks the court to reinstate Burgess at Lenape Middle School, where he had taught since 2006, and all references to disciplinary actions against him be removed from his personnel file. The suit also asks CBSD and its superintendent Abram Lucabaugh to pay damages to Burgess.


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