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Central Bucks School board member refutes claims made by law firm


A member of the Central Bucks School Board said accusations made against her by a school district-hired law firm to investigate claims of harassment against LGBTQ+ students are false.

Karen Smith, who is running for her third term on the school board, is referenced more than two dozen times in the investigation’s report, which was presented to the public during a special meeting April 20.

Michael Rinaldi, of the Duane Morris law firm, was the lead attorney conducting the investigation. He named Smith some 30 times in his report and mentioned her multiple times in his three-hour presentation.

Rinaldi accused Smith of withholding information about an email she sent to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in July 2022. He also alleged it was Smith’s email that initiated the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights investigation.

Through emails and a phone call with the education department’s Office of Civil Rights in Philadelphia, Smith documented that OCR did not receive her July 2022 letter until May of this year. Further, Smith’s correspondence indicates her email to the education secretary did not constitute filing a complaint against the district.

Dana Hunter, president of the CBSD, said, in an email, “Despite Mrs. Smith’s claims that she was not intending to file a complaint against the district, recent correspondence from OCR confirms that OCR docketed Mrs. Smith’s July 2022 email as a formal complaint, even assigning it a complaint docket number.”

A recent email from OCR to Smith, stated the July 2022 letter to Secretary Cardona was documented as a complaint because it wasn’t received in Philadelphia until nearly a year later in May 2023. “I understand that you did not wish to pursue a complaint and the purpose of your July correspondence was not to file a complaint with OCR,” wrote Melissa Corbin, a program manager with OCR Philadelphia, to Smith.

The voluminous report followed a months-long investigation funded by the school district to determine if claims of bullying, harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ+ students were valid. The accusations of a “hostile” environment for the students were lodged with the ACLU of Pennsylvania and are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Duane Morris reported that its investigation found no evidence of systemic mistreatment of LGBTQ+ students and a responsive staff should bullying occur.

Following the report’s release, the ACLU slammed the district-funded probe on Twitter calling its conclusions “worthless.”

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