Monday, April 20, 2009

Teacher accepts $2,000 to settle civil case against Barrington School District

This is a follow-up to my earlier posting regarding the $200,000 civil settlement reached in 2008 between nine former Barrington middle school students and the Barrington school district arising out the girls' claims regarding a "sexually hostile environment" at the Woodland School.

Today, I learned that Richard Morgenroth, the teacher who the girls' claims engaged in sexual harassing conduct, settled his own suit against the Barrington school district in February 2008. In his complaint, Morgenroth claimed that the girls conspired with former superintendent Nelson Maloney and teacher Mary Spaeth to communicate false allegations against Morgenroth. According to Morgenroth's suit, these "false, grossly negligent and exaggerated allegations" were reported to the police, causing him to endure a three-day trial which ended in his favor. In his suit, Morgenroth also accused some of the girls and their parents of referring to him as a "Jew Bastard" and that discrimination played a role in the way in which he was treated.

Morgenroth's lawsuit and the settlement agreement are on-line here. Information on the girls' lawsuit is here.

None of the Morgenroth's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The entry of the settlement agreements does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the School District, any of its employees, the girls or their parents. All that is known for sure is that the Barrington School District and its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Morgenroth a total of $2,000 than take the matters to trial. Perhaps Barrington's decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, it's possible that Morgenroth's claims were true and Barrington wanted to avoid being embarrassed or embarrassing the girls at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

ABOUT ME AND WHY I'M POSTING THIS.

I chair the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project which seeks to increase governmental transparency and accountability, particularly at a local level. As part of my work, I routinely check civil court cases where at least one of the parties is a government agency or official. Most often, these settlement agreements are never revealed to the public. I post them on-line because I believe that civil settlements, regardless of amount, may be of interest to citizens and taxpayers. For more information on the Libertarian Party, go to http://www.njlp.org

John Paff
Somerset, New Jersey