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Central Bucks teacher suing school district for alleged retaliation


A Central Bucks middle school teacher said the school district and its superintendent retaliated against him after he supported a LGBTQ+ student.

Andrew Burgess, who taught social studies at Lenape Middle School for 14 years, filed a federal lawsuit last week alleging his civil rights were violated when the district suspended him last year then abruptly moved him to a different school and a different grade.

The school district’s attorney, Jeffrey Garton, said Monday he has not seen the complaint and that the matter is being handled by the district’s insurance carrier.

The difficulty began when Burgess, who was known to support LGBTQ+ students, advocated for a trans student who came to him after the youth and their family had reported many instances of bullying to the district but the targeted harassment continued, the lawsuit claims.

At the student’s and family’s request, in March 2022, Burgess filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Two months later, Burgess was suspended and publicly escorted from the Doylestown Borough school.

He was later reassigned to Unami Middle School to teach seventh graders. Burgess said his class size was larger than others and the curriculum was different, as he had previously taught older students.

During a May 2022 school board meeting, the district’s superintendent, Abram Lucabaugh, denied Burgess was suspended for helping an LGBTQ student. “That narrative is categorically false. No district would deign to take such action against an employee.”

In the 37-page lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania, Burgess asserts CBSD and superintendent Lucabaugh violated the First Amendment and Title IX when they allegedly retaliated against him for his “speech and for reporting discrimination on the basis of sex.”

In a press release, Burgess said, “When a struggling student came to me, I did what we should want any teacher to do. I advocated for that student, as I had for numerous students in the past. That’s why teachers get into this work, to support, guide and nurture our students.”

The lawsuit says the district wrote to Burgess, saying, he failed to “follow the proper protocol so that the administration could address and rectify these bullying conditions. “Indeed,” the letter said, “your actions may have been responsible for the continuation of the bullying suffered by the student.”

The school district is currently being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education, following a complaint from the ACLU of Pennsylvania that alleged Central Bucks created a “toxic and hostile” environment for LGBTQ + students.

The school district announced a special meeting April 20 to review a report from the Duane Morris law firm, the company it hired to investigate the ACLU complaint.

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