Teacher Fired for "Screaming" Emails Awarded $337,000 in Lawsuit
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A former Palm Beach County teacher who has been embroiled in disputes with her school district since 2009 was awarded $337,000 in a lawsuit against PBCSD for firing her over passionate emails.
This latest -- and most costly mishap -- began when Paula Prudente, a Palm Beach teacher since 1978, said her asthma was aggravated when she was given a dusty, termite-infested portable classroom at Boca's Spanish River High back in 2011.
"They put a woman who they knew had a pulmonary condition in the most toxic place in the Palm Beach County School District," says Sid Garcia, Prudente's attorney. "They were doing everything they could to make Prudente quit or retire, which she didn't want to do."
School officials said the air quality was acceptable, but Prudente couldn't stand it and wanted out. As for transferring to a different classroom, Garcia says the school blocked any effort do let that happen.
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Instead, Prudente, who was making the maximum teacher salary of $71,745 per year, was moved to a basic office job in the district's transportation department. And that didn't please her at all.
"I am a skilled teacher and did not request to be assigned to answer telephones in the bus department," Prudente said in a 2012 statement, the Sun Sentinel then reported.
The next year, Prudente got canned for sending what school officials describe as abusive and threatening emails and voice messages. In a school document about whether to continue her employment, the veteran pedagogue's emails were described as "a bewildering set of vitriolic directives, awkward references to herself in the third person, and head-turning claims."
Garcia says that's an exaggeration.
"They fired her for sending 'screaming' emails in all caps," Garcia says. "It's absurd to fire a teacher with more than 30 years of experience and many commendations for sending emails with a little too much punctuation."
The jury agreed and awarded Prudente $337,000 for lost wages, benefits, and damages over the firing. But this might not mark the end of the war between the teacher and the district. Not only does PBSCD plan to appeal but Prudente still wants a job, though that might prove difficult since her teacher certification has been taken away amid the battles with the school district.
Prudente first made headlines for sending political emails to her coworkers during the 2008 presidential election. The teacher, an avid Republican, was critical of the future commander in chief, and she ignored warnings to quit politicking during work hours, which is against the rules.
The email kerfuffle earned Prudente a ten-day suspension.
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E-mail him at Ray.Downs@browardpalmbeach.com.
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