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Central Bucks settles lawsuit; delays full-day K, grade realignment


In a 5-1 vote, the Central Bucks School Board Tuesday approved a settlement with a teacher who said he was retaliated against for his support of LGBTQ+ students.

The federal civil rights lawsuit awarded Lenape Middle School teacher Andrew Burgess $100,000 for pain and suffering, said school board president Karen Smith Wednesday. The district’s insurance company paid $350,000 in attorney fees, while the district paid its $75,000 deductible, Smith said.

“I am hopeful that this can be an opportunity for Central Bucks to develop a greater institutional courage, to treat all staff members with respect, and to create safe school environments for all students,” said Burgess, in a statement. “I stand in solidarity with everyone fighting back against this national campaign to harm trans children and intimidate educators.”

The board’s sole Republican member, Jim Pepper, a practicing attorney, opposed the agreement.

“I understand the pressure the defendant is under,” he said. “But, not one deposition was taken. That’s exceedingly problematic. This resolution causes me great concern.”

However, Pepper noted, “I share some of your concerns and the fiduciary responsibility to settle this.”

Board member Rick Haring was absent.

Following the vote, Smith said, “We are happy to have this dispute behind us and welcome Mr. Burgess back in the classroom in the CB district. We are all feeling that while the resolution of your lawsuit may legally end the conflict, it does not take away the pain you had to endure as a result of questionable findings about you and the public presentation by the Duane Morris law firm.”

On April 20, Duane Morris held a presentation, which followed the previous school board’s initiation of a $1.75 million internal investigation into claims the district created a “toxic and hostile” environment for LGBTQ+ students.

During the videotaped meeting, a Duane Morris attorney repeatedly said Burgess violated Central Bucks policy when he supported a student and their family’s filing of a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Smith said the video has been removed from the district’s website, as has the Duane Morris report.

Burgess was twice suspended last school year as the controversy continued.

“There was no opportunity to win this case after the Duane Morris presentation,” said Smith Wednesday. “We’re very pleased to settle this.”

The district is continuing its probe into the Duane Morris investigation as well as an inquiry into the more than $700,000 resignation settlement the previous board made with former district superintendent Abram Lucabaugh, Smith said.

The board announced Tuesday the district is delaying by one year a major grade realignment plan and a full-day kindergarten program.

The wide-ranging changes will be implemented in the 2026-2027 school year, the board unanimously agreed.

“This will give us more time to get it right,” said Smith.

Under the reconfiguration plan, elementary schools will hold students in kindergarten through 5th grade, while middle schools will include 6th grade through 8th grade. High schools will house students in 9th grade through 12th grade.

Full-day kindergarten will be provided at the district’s 15 elementary schools. The district will pilot full-day kindergarten next year. Participating schools will be named in November, after the district knows its enrollment numbers, said interim superintendent Jim Scanlon.

“It will be a very comprehensive plan,” Scanlon added.

There is a $12 million one-time cost for the needed high school renovations and $9.9 million in ongoing expenses, officials said.

Several school directors apologized for postponing the widely supported changes.

“I am sorry to make you wait for full-day kindergarten,” said director Dana Foley.

Smith said “It was a very difficult decision. We’re truly sorry.”

The board president added it was Lucabaugh who determined that the grades could be realigned starting in 2025-26 school year but “he did not have the data to support his claim at the time.”

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