A portrait of President Bush has led to the filing of a federal lawsuit, after a New York schoolteacher says she was ordered to remove the image from a display of U.S. presidents and ultimately was forced to resign her position.
Jillian Caruso, 26, of Suffolk, N.Y., is suing the Massapequa Union Free School District in Long Island for unspecified damages along with reinstatement to her position at Birch Lane Elementary School.
Caruso claims she was forced to quit by principal Joyce Becker-Seddio, who happens to be the wife of state Assemblyman Frank Seddio, a Brooklyn Democrat.
In her complaint filed in U.S. District Court and published on the Smoking Gun website, Caruso alleges she was retaliated against by Becker-Seddio for her efforts on behalf of the Republican Party, including volunteering at the 2004 GOP convention, and her membership in the Republican National Committee.
Her suit states that in the fall of 2004, Caruso had posted in her classroom various pictures of U.S. presidents, including George W. Bush.
When the principal saw the photo on the wall, she “became outraged and insisted that the picture be removed,” according to the complaint.
She also says Becker-Seddio threatened if Caruso did not resign, she would have her probationary appointment rescinded, leading to a poor recommendation that would make it difficult for her to teach again.
Caruso says her rights to free speech and free association were violated, and Becker-Seddio’s actions were “performed with malice and without justification or excuse.”
On its website, the school says since its inception in 1955, “the Birch Lane community has prided itself on its ability to foster unity and community spirit.”