An East Hartford high school principal claims in a lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court that Superintendent Marion H. Martinez along with the school board violated his first amendment rights, then retaliated against him for trying to advocate for the security of his students. Paul Spencer Clapp, the former principal of the Connecticut International Baccalaureate Academy, claims in the lawsuit that Martinez quashed the schools request for a full-time security guard in the schools annual state grant application.
According to the lawsuit, Clapp submitted the grant application, May 19, more than two weeks before it was due. On that same day, the schools grants administrator called Clapp to request “detailed back-up” for four of the line items, including “justification for a full-time security officer.” Clapp claims he replied in a one-page memo in which he included the fact that a student was assaulted at the school during the previous year. There is a security guard stationed at the front desk, but since the guard is rotated and shared with East Hartford High School security staff there are times when there’s no security in the school. CIBA is connected by a walkway to East Hartford High School with its approximately 2,300 students. Last year security staff lobbied the school board hard to increase their numbers saying that there weren’t enough of them to cover what amounts to the size of Rentschler Field’s UConn Football stadium. According to the lawsuit, Martinez responded herself almost immediately on May 19 with “a terse memo to cut three line items, including the full-time security officer, without any guidance or direction to Clapp on the amount of the budget decrease for any of the three lines items.” On the following Monday, May 23 Martinez directed Clapp to “make the changes that she wanted, and to deliver the grant to her no later than May 30.” The next day, May 24, Clapp responded to Martinez’s directive in an email which said her “directive to cut the security officer position I believe could potentially endanger the safety of staff and students.” Clapp also noted that the cut would have a serious impact on the program and operation of the school, and to “do so without consulting the Board of Governors could be a violation of the state statutes governing the operation of state-funded magnet school.” It was this same day, Clapp, a member of the administrators union, initiated a grievance in order to get Martinez to explain her directive. “Shortly after receiving the grievance Martinez responded via email stating that she is scheduling a date ‘to discuss this and additional concerns I have concerning your performance’,” the lawsuit states. On June 19 Martinez formally responded to Clapp’s grievance, which had been elevated to level 2 by the union. At this time Martinez “denied harassment of Clapp but made concessions and further stated that “no repercussions will be taken against Mr. Clapp as a result of the filing of this grievance’,” the lawsuit states. On June 21 Martinez scheduled a performance review which was continued to July 6. At the July 6 meeting Martinez presented Clapp with a three-page memo entitled, “Continued Concerns” and a one-page memo titled “Submission of CIBA Grant.” The memo concluded Clapp had been insubordinate and “effective immediately, I am transferring you to the middle school as an assistant principal,” Martinez concluded, according to the lawsuit. Martinez did not return calls for comment Friday. According to recent media reports, Martinez was described by the school board as brusque, abrasive, and defensive in her most recent evaluation, however, she was also praised for her work ethic. The school board voted 8-0 with one abstention to approve a 5 percent raise bringing her salary up to about $145,000.