School News

What will happen to former BMS principal?

School board still hamstrung by ongoing litigation


Residents returned to the scene of the crime last week, requesting information on the status of former Baldwin Middle School Principal James Brown, who was reassigned eight months ago after being found guilty of inflicting emotional distress on a former Baldwin School District employee.

Residents, discussing the issue at a Jan. 27 school board meeting at the middle school, were disappointed to learn that ongoing litigation involving the district — which filed for an appeal after the May 7, 2009 guilty verdict — still prevents school board trustees from commenting or taking any action beyond what was done last May, when they ordered Brown temporarily reassigned to the Baldwin District Office.

"Unfortunately, we are at the same place we were several months ago," said School Board President Mary Jo O'Hagan. "Until there is an adjudication of that appeal, we cannot go further."

Trustees said they understood residents' frustration about Brown still being paid as a district employee, but explained that he is being kept busy with assorted duties at the District Office. "We don't have a situation where a person is sitting home collecting money," O'Hagan added.

Though former BMS interim assistant principal Jack Lenson was tapped to serve as interim principal once Brown was reassigned, the board does not have the option to name an official replacement because of ongoing litigation. But district officials said that business is running smoothly under Lenson.

Last May, a federal jury ruled that Brown made deliberate attempts to inflict emotional distress on Cheryl Farb, the former dean of students at BMS, after Farb filed complaints against Brown in 2003, alleging that the then-principal made a series of sexual- and gender-based comments to her. The jury also found the Baldwin School District guilty of retaliation for terminating the employee in 2004, after district officials ruled that Farb's complaints were unsubstantiated. Farb was awarded a $5 million settlement, which is covered by the district's insurance.