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Thursday, April 17, 2014
Malverne moves to end suit
(Page 2 of 2)
Herald file photos
Dr. James Hunderfund, left, Malverne’s superintendent of schools, and Sherwyn Besson, one of three former staffers who is suing Hunderfund and other school officials for racial discrimination.

Steven Morelli, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said he thinks that a summary judgment against them is “unlikely,” though he understands that anything can happen when a judge plows through hundreds of pages of motions and exhibits.

The defendants “created a hostile work environment, subjected [the plaintiffs] to an atmosphere for adverse acts and treated them disparately because of their race and good-faith opposition to discriminatory practices,” the suit reads.

“After discovery ended in early August, the district moved for a summary judgment, and we responded,” Morelli said this week. “They also tried to sever the cases so that it becomes three separate cases instead of the one we filed, but I don’t see the judge allowing that. I don’t anticipate that we will hear anything back for a few months, because the judge has to look at all the papers for three plaintiffs. I’m glad that I don’t have to read all that paper.”

In recent papers filed with the court in opposition to both severing the case and the summary judgment, Morelli wrote, “While the claims amongst the plaintiffs do differ to some degree, they all prove the pattern and practice of discrimination instituted by the named defendants. For example, it is undisputed that defendant Hunderfund was directly responsible for plaintiff Smith’s transfer to the middle school, plaintiff Besson’s excess and plaintiff Benedith’s termination. All three allege that their transfer, termination and excess were based either on race, or in retaliation for protected speech.”

Morelli concluded, “When the time comes that we go to trial, I anticipate that we will be successful. We are patiently awaiting our day in court.”

School district officials declined to comment.

“We hope to send a message,” Morelli said. “We hope that the school district will take notice and do something about this.”

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