A class action discrimination suit against the Central Bucks School District appears to face long odds for a possible settlement or a mediated resolution, meaning it could go to trial and drag out for months, if not years.
That forecast is based on an email sent by one of the primary litigants to the majority Democrat members on the board scalding them for signaling they weren’t interested in a quick resolution — one that would almost certainly require the district to cut a multi-million dollar check.
Rebecca Cartee-Haring, a teacher in the district and one of the primary drivers behind the lawsuit, began her January 9 email by writing, “I have spoken with my attorney, Ed Mazurek about the 45 day delay and your desire to litigate these cases.”
“I would like to pass on that a few of us already know that [CBSD board lead counsel] Mike Levin responded to Ed’s email about possible settlement, or discussions or mediation with three words: ‘They’re not interested.’”
“To say that we feel hurt unheard, invalidated and cast aside, is an understatement. Many of us worked diligently to support all of you as candidates- we supported you because you said you were running on compassion and common sense,” Cartee-Haring wrote.
Cartee-Haring’s husband, Rick Haring, is one of the Democrats recently elected to the board. That relationship caused political opponents of Haring to claim that if his candidacy were successful, any work or decisions around the suit would be an inherent conflict of interest in one of the most serious matters confronting the board.
The email reveals an early fracture to the forces that united to dislodge a Republican majority on the board that controlled the board from 2022 to the end of 2023 in one of the largest and most important school districts in the commonwealth.
The suit, originally filed in 2020, alleges the district paid men better than women and made biased decisions in favor of men for a number of years.
Requests for comment to several of the Democrat board members were forwarded to Levin.
“The School District has been and remains committed to providing employment and advancement opportunities for all staff without regard to gender. The District will not tolerate discrimination against men or women, and values all its employees,” Levin said.
“In this case, tens of thousands of pages of documents have been provided to Plaintiffs’ counsel illustrating that men and women have been treated the same. If the evidence had suggested anything else, we would have responded accordingly. Further, the practices at Central Bucks are entirely consistent with the practices at school districts across the Commonwealth. The School Board will not litigate the case in the media but will continue to vigorously defend its commitment to non-discrimination in Court,” Levin concluded.
Requests for comment to Cartee-Haring and her attorney were not returned. Request for comment to the three Republican members of the board as well as to previous Republican members of the board were also not returned.
The suit was originally filed in 2020, but was refiled in 2022 after a judge granted the case class-action status. According to an article from the Bucks County Courier Times, more than 300 teachers have signed on as plaintiffs.
Broad + Liberty obtained Cartee-Haring’s email from an anonymous source, but verified its authenticity through other sources.
In another legal case pending before the board, a much more formal indication of what’s likely to happen next has been announced.
In a court filing last month, an attorney for the district told a court that the district was likely to settle with teacher Andrew Burgess in a suit Burgess brought against the district in 2023.
Burgess was the center of the storm through most of the two years Republicans controlled the board after they took control in the wake of the 2020 pandemic.
The middle school teacher was suspended in May of 2022 for what he claims was retaliation by the administration for his defense of LGBT students. The administration said Burgess had hid complaints of bullying of some of those students in order to gin up a controversy that could be used against the Republican board majority.
“In short, the new Board majority has a substantively different view of the events set forth in Plaintiff’s Complaint than the old Board majority,” the board’s attorney said in the filing.
“As such, the new Board majority is sincerely interested in exploring a settlement to resolve the matter.”
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use his encrypted email at email@example.com. @shepherdreports