Queens Principal Reassigned After Sexual Harassment Lawsuits Totaling $600,000

A Queens highschool principal accused of sexual harassment and discrimination in a number of lawsuits, which have value New York City greater than $600,000 to settle, has been reassigned.

Howard Kwait, principal of John Bowne High School in Flushing since 2006, was reassigned on Friday after Richard A. Carranza, the newly appointed colleges chancellor, reviewed the lawsuits in opposition to Mr. Kwait, in response to Toya Holness, a Department of Education spokeswoman.

Mr. Kwait was transferred “to a central office where he will be closely supervised and will no longer be permitted to manage other employees,” Ms. Holness stated in a press release. “Schools must be safe, welcome and inclusive environments for all students and staff, and we will do everything in our power to hold employees accountable for meeting these standards.”

Mr. Kwait couldn’t be reached for remark.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has come below scrutiny not too long ago for the dealing with of sexual harassment circumstances throughout metropolis businesses, particularly on the Department of Education. The metropolis has admitted that it has no consistent system to track sexual harassment complaints against employees, making it tough to investigate the full variety of complaints in addition to how workers in substantiated circumstances had been disciplined.

Over all, metropolis businesses settled 32 sexual harassment circumstances from 2014 to 2017 and paid out $four.7 million, in response to information launched in April. Over that interval, 1,312 sexual harassment complaints had been lodged, 221 of which had been substantiated.

At the Department of Education, 471 sexual harassment complaints had been filed from 2014 to 2017, seven of which had been substantiated. In 249 cases — greater than half of the Department of Education’s circumstances over that interval — the person who made the sexual harassment grievance withdrew it. City officers stated they might not clarify why.

Mr. de Blasio has been outspoken in assist of the #MeToo motion, however when requested in regards to the variety of sexual harassment complaints on the Department of Education, he stated the company suffered from a “hyper complaint dynamic.”

That meant, Mr. de Blasio stated, “that on many fronts we get a certain number of complaints that are not real.” Shortly after making these remarks, Mr. de Blasio tried to make clear his statements, saying that those that make complaints deserved to be believed.

“The bottom line is anyone who comes forward will be believed and we’re going to make sure every complaint is fully investigated,” Mr. de Blasio stated on Friday throughout his weekly look with Brian Lehrer on WNYC.

Several assistant principals made accusations in opposition to Mr. Kwait, who earned $157,000 a 12 months because the principal of John Bowne High.

In one lawsuit, the steerage counselor Lauren Prettitore accused Mr. Kwait of rubbing his physique in opposition to hers, saying that he would carry out oral intercourse on her if she achieved a excessive commencement charge and saying that he want to see her and one other feminine instructor have intercourse.

In an e mail despatched to the college, he referred to as Ms. Prettitore and 4 different ladies the “five star lesbian club,” in response to the lawsuit. She stated the Department of Education did nothing to behave on her complaints. That case was settled in September for $130,000.

In June 2015 town settled two circumstances in opposition to Mr. Kwait for a complete of $275,000. In one of many circumstances, Sally Maya, an assistant principal, accused Mr. Kwait of discriminating in opposition to her as soon as she turned pregnant. In the opposite, Maria Catenacci, additionally an assistant principal, stated she was topic to “repeated sexual advances” by Mr. Kwait.

In 2013, town paid $200,000 to settle a lawsuit from the assistant principal Miriam Zambrano-Lamhaouhi, who accused Mr. Kwait of discriminating in opposition to her when she turned pregnant.

In a unbroken lawsuit, Mr. Kwait is accused of retaliating in opposition to Marc Einsohn, additionally an assistant principal, who questioned Mr. Kwait’s alleged request to inflate scholar’s grades.

“The case has nothing to do with sexual harassment and we believe the allegations have no merit,” Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesman for the New York City Law Department, stated about Mr. Einsohn’s lawsuit.

In 2013, Mr. Kwait was fined $four,500, ordered to take sensitivity coaching and had a letter positioned in his file.

The assessment of Mr. Kwait’s file is a part of a unbroken effort to look at how the Department of Education “can tighten procedures and hold employees accountable,” Ms. Holness stated.

The metropolis has additionally introduced it would spend $5 million to extend the variety of investigators on the Department of Education to 18 from seven. Once a future lawsuit is filed, metropolis businesses will switch their investigation to the Law Department, which is able to share its findings from the case, permitting disciplinary proceedings to maneuver ahead, stated Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio.

Jonathan A. Tand, a lawyer who represents Mr. Einsohn and who has sued the Department of Education on behalf of different purchasers, stated the lawsuits in opposition to Mr. Kwait are proof that the division has a difficulty with transparency and doesn’t absolutely examine sexual harassment and discrimination complaints.

Mr. Kwait is “one of those guys who I can’t figure why it took so long to remove from his position,” Mr. Tand stated. “They seemed to look the other way until given no choice.”

David C. Bloomfield, professor of schooling legislation at Brooklyn College, stated that the Department of Education paperwork makes reporting and investigating sexual harassment tough and complicated, however that town must be doing higher.

“Mayor de Blasio inherited a system that has long existed, but it’s up to him — especially in light of the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up movement — to be a step ahead and not a step behind,” Mr. Bloomfield stated.

Follow Jeffery C. Mays on Twitter: @jeffcmays.

William Neuman contributed reporting. Elisa Cho contributed analysis.


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