Teacher blacklisted for seizures suing NYC DOE

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Jennifer Fermino said:
An epileptic former public- school teacher is suing the city's Department of Education, claiming he was "blacklisted" after repeatedly suffering seizures in front of students.

Peter Burkhart, who taught in Queens at PS 151 and IS 10, is asking for at least $6 million in the suit filed in Manhattan federal court.

He admitted in his court papers he suffered seizures every couple of months, "during which various dis-inhibition gestures, utterances and behaviors were exhibited."

After a grandparent complained that he'd exhibited "inappropriate behavior" during one seizure, the DOE launched a probe, which culminated with Burkhart being banned from teaching, according to the suit.

Burkhart alleges it was solely because of his epilepsy. He said he appealed to DOE, but was ignored.

He had quit the middle school shortly before being banned and had been trying to get work in one of the city's high schools.

A spokeswoman for the city's Law Department said she hadn't seen the suit.

I just can't

get over the stupidity of people like the grandparents. OMW. :noevil: This just gets my goat. For the livin' love of Pete. Have they never heard of the word discrimination or had it used against themselves or a family member?? Geez Louise...........:ponder:

I'll get off my soapbox now.......:soap:
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I hope he wins, too. But, I also can see why people who don't understand epilepsy would act so STUPID and look at it as they do!! Let's always look at incidents like this one as an opportunity to EDUCATE the ignoramus!!!!

Plain ignorance!!!

Another school system who is ignorant toward epilepsy when there is so many education programs that could be implemented to help educators and children with epilepsy! He deserves to win that case. Now we will see if the new ADA laws will work in favor of epilepsy!
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Makes me thankful that my school district is so cool. They've always been very understanding and supportive when I've had seizures at school.
Does anyone know what this "innappropriate behavior" was? If it was something like removing her clothes I can understand her being removed from the classroom (though in a case like that she should have been given another position in the district with the same pay that didn't have her in contact with children)
Being a guy who went through a difficult lawsuit, I can tell you the only way he will win is if he has our support. Sure, an article in the paper is great, but everyone will forget, and he will be forced to settle for next to nothing. With all of the discrimination that takes place in this country, we have yet to have that big media story, and that is what we all need. It will allow all of us to show that this is common practice, and will open up the eyes of most of the public. We should not be hoping he wins, we should be hoping we all win.

I am writing this after I just learned that the Senate passed a new ADA that will supposedly help people with epilepsy in the workplace. I am completely skeptical, and think this will just be another useless piece of paper in a few years. It is a nice gesture, but that is all it is.

I think the real problem is the public doesn't know what epilepsy is, and a piece of paper will not help. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think a lot of us would rather not have to deal with discrimination lawsuits ( take it from me, they are way too difficult) and would rather just be left in peace. Well, by not informing the public what epilepsy is, how are we going to be left in peace?
Hi Everyone,
While I don't have epilepsy I am a type I juvenile diabetic. I am also a teacher who collapsed at work years ago. Sometime when juvenile diabetics experience a very low blood sugar they might do things that are preceived as being drunk due to slowed reflexes etc. I asked for a transfer to another school due to this and was denied one. I attempted to sue and lost. A lot of the problem, is that those of us with epilepsy or diabetes look fine on the outside so no one sees us as having a disability. Epilepsy has always been something which is close to my heart because it is also a serious disease which everyone thinks they understand but unless they have, they cannot.
I was an excellent teacher in the inner city and now 4 years later I have not been offered one job. I rarely have job interviews, if I do and am offered a position, all of a sudden the employer disappears, won't return ,emails or phone calls. The teacher in this newspaper article needs all of the support he can get. Once you sue a school district, that is it. They have their ways of making someone's life miserable. He may never work again, unless he goes into another career.
Carrier's right....

....for suing the district, the teacher will probably never teach in the classroom again. However, if he's lucky he'll be able to get a job in a consulting firm, or perhaps a museum. But then again, if he wins 6 mil, he won't need to work if he lives modestly.
But shouldn't the focus not be on this one teacher, but for all teachers to make sure something like this doesn't happen again? Look, I hope this guy wins 6 million, and if he does, he won't have to worry about working. However, what happens if he wins his settlement? Would this prevent other school districts from doing the same thing again? My guess is probably not, because without publicity, it will not be another check that is signed.
Actuallly, you'd be surprised Santa. The last thing any school district wants...especially now, is to be sued. They jump through as many hoops as is necessary to avoid it. And trust me, administrators keep an eye on lawsuits like this one.

Yes, I would imagine that school districts hate being sued, but I can't imagine this is the first time a teacher has sued a school district ( in fact, I know it is not). I just think people feel they can fire us and mistreat us because they know it will take a lot of effort to file a lawsuit. My own lawsuit, which I filed in hopes of putting an end to this nonsense, almost killed me.

Maybe I am being unrealistic, but I just think if we had a strong relationship with the media, and was able to bring this stuff to light ( one article in the paper won't do anything) it might let other management know how serious epilepsy is.

By the way, just a silly thought: That school where this teacher got fired from. Do you think it would be possible to find out if they teach their students the proper first aid for a seizure victim?
Honestly, I've never taught in a school where first aid was taught to every student.

and I agree Santa, as far as media is concerned. NO school district wants bad PR. :) The problem is, most people think epilepsy is incredibly rare. Why? Because Hollywood only shows epilepsy as full blown tonic clonics. Let's face it, our disorder is just not very sexy. Even though the CDC says 1 in 100 Americans has epilepsy, very few average Americans knows this. Let's face it, asthma, diabetes, and erectile disfunction get more press than we do. :) I meet with at least one set of parents every year who I have to suggest that they might want to make an appointment with a neurologist because their child stares off into space and won't come out of it for at least 30 sec. to a minute.
But why isn't there enough media? ( now for a statement that most people will not like)

I look at the whole Natalie Halloway case ( the missing teen in ARuba). Last year, in tape, the kid Joran admitted that this girl had a seizure, and he freaked out. He didn't know what to do.

Well, what if it was her having a seizure that caused him to panic, and who knows, decide to get rid of the body ( again, I have no idea what happened, but watching that tape, there is no way he made that seizure up)

Here we have the biggest news story in the world, and the media refused to mention the possiblity that a seizure played a big part. I would think we could use this story as a way of educating people, and let them know how common it is for people to freak out. Now, I have no idea how Joran was brought up, but lets just say he was going to a Church where they preach that people with seizures are possessed by the Devil? Now, could we blame Joran for not helping a possessed individual? People might think that is a stretch, but why? MAybe I am biased because I was Santa in Aruba last year, but man, those people were so friendly, and I just think all the media, for calling that silly boycott of Aruba, should really question themselves. I mean, the media really doesn't like us ( see comment by Al Roker) yet when one of us goes missing, they not only don't talk about the seizure, but wants to punish a whole island. We missed the boat on this one, and I am still trying everyday.
Santa, I understand where you're coming from but I don't think that we'll get more media coverage until we're not ashamed of our disorder, or feel the need to hide it. Just look at the postings here at CWE. Some are very comfortable with their epilepsy while others haven't told even family members yet. I don't know whether we need more media first or more acceptance first. It's a chicken and egg question. Do I wish more people knew about epilepsy? You bet. Can I do anything to spread the message? You bet. In fact, every semester, I tell all of my students about epilepsy, the different types of seizures, as well as how to help someone having a seizure. I'm doing what I can. And I guess that's what I would suggest to everyone. Do what you can to spread the message. Eventually it WILL get out there.
Ya know, this is so incredibly intriguing to many people who do not have epilepsy. We are mysterious and yet we can appear normal. We live in our own small culture like the deaf community. And, we have the option to behave and look like anybody else. For me, I know I'm different from most 'normal' people.

It's a mutual effort. I have to break out of my comfort zone to bring up epilepsy even though it risks friendship. And others have to think of us as people, not some freakish and unusual enigma. It's so hard to speak out about epilepsy. I prepare myself for rejection. I'm not disappointed because my expectations are low.
It would have been better for the school district to work with the teacher. They could have allowed him and others to educate the students on what Epilepsy is, what the seizures may look like, and what to do when a seizure happens. Once people understand, they don't freak out as much.
Well, if I didn't have epilepsy myself, I guess I wouldn't know what to think either but people should walk to their computer, sit down and type "Epilepsy" into Google before they fly off the handle. There's no excuse for ignorance when you have the world's most powerful library at your fingertips.

Granted, it's probably a bad idea anyway for an epileptic to be teaching young children. But they're treating the guy as though he does it on purpose. This isn't a pervert exposing himself for kicks.
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