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Students: Shen teacher's rant, not sexuality, was real reason for suspension

Students: Shen teacher's rant, not sexuality, was real reason for suspension

Teacher claimed efforts to dismiss her hinged on talk about her same-sex marriage
Students: Shen teacher's rant, not sexuality, was real reason for suspension
Shenendehowa Central Schools entrance on Route 146 in Clifton Park is pictured.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ/DAILY GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

CLIFTON PARK -- Students at the Shenendehowa Central School District are taking issue with a suspended teacher's claim that the district is working to terminate her because of her sexuality.

Tammy Crump of Gansevoort filed a notice of claim this week reserving her right to sue the school district for around $2 million.

Her attorney, Kevin Luibrand, said the district's efforts to remove her from her job violate a district policy that allows teachers to talk to students about their families and personal lives.

Crump, who has been with the district for approximately 17 years, teaches American studies and advanced placement language and composition. She has, according to the notice of claim, "an unblemished teaching record."

Crump teaches 11th grade students.

Luibrand argued in the notice of claim that Crump was targeted specifically because of her sexuality, saying any heterosexual teacher would be allowed to speak freely about a spouse without facing consequences.

But several of Crump's students said a classroom rant about an article published in the high school newspaper was the real impetus for the district's action.

Logan Belak, now a senior at Shen, took advanced placement language composition last year with Crump and was in class during the incident.

Previous: Teacher alleges Shen tried to fire her over sexuality, Oct. 17, 2018

The article that sparked Crump's lecture, Belak said, was called "Five Books English Teachers Force You To Read," a satirical take on works of literature included in the curriculum.

According to Belak, Crump spoke for 13 minutes about the article.

In an audio recording -- allegedly of the incident -- distributed by students on social media, a person can be heard calling the article an example of "anti-intellectualism, complete narcissism, and basically idiocy."

An audio recording, allegedly of the incident, provided by students:

"She just grabbed copies of the school paper and spent a class on it," Belak said of the incident. "It wasn’t even related to the lesson."

According to the audio, when some students attempted to point out the piece was satire, the person they identified as Crump can be heard immediately dismissing their opinions.

Multiple Shen students have posted the audio on their social media accounts. Other students reached by The Daily Gazette confirmed Belak's version of events.

Belak does not believe Crump's sexuality was a factor in her suspension.

"I’ve heard people say she did violate some of her contract by speaking too much of her personal life, but I doubt it has anything to do with being gay," Belak said. "There’s many other openly gay teachers in the school; she’s not the only one."

Belak did not know specifically how many students took the audio to school district officials, but the district soon began bringing in students to talk about it, he said.

According to the notice of claim filed by Crump, the district began formal charges to terminate her in June. The incident, according to students, occurred in the spring of the 2017-18 school year.

The notice of claim states the school targeted Crump for discussing her wife with one or more students in class.

She also discussed her father, whom she allegedly described as a "manly man," and the fact that she "could not wait for happy hour."

Crump intends to sue the district for $650,000 in lost income, $33,000 in lost benefits, $500,000 in lost retirement funds, $126,000 in retirement benefits and $600,000 for emotional distress and attorney fees.

Crump's yearly salary at Shen is $73,672, according to a database that lists teacher salaries in New York state.

On Thursday, an employee of Luibrand's confirmed that the office had received a copy of the audio that has been circulating, but that person could not comment on it.

According to district spokeswoman Kelly DeFeciani, Crump is still employed by the district and is tenured, but is in the midst of a hearing process.  

"A 3020-a hearing is a legally confidential proceeding and the district cannot comment on the matter at all," she said. A 3020-a hearing is a process school districts must undergo to fire a tenured teacher, per New York State Education Law.

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