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Former assistant teacher sues IU over firing

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Apr 22 2013 11:12:48 PM CDT
EASTON, Pa. -

An assistant teacher who was injured on the job in 2010 is claiming in court that she was fired in February over a workman's compensation claim.

Karen Luise, of 308 Adrian Drive, Forks Twp., Northampton Co., filed a civil suit Friday in Northampton County Court against Colonial Intermediate Unit 20, 6 Danforth Drive, Palmer Twp., Northampton Co.

Luise says in her suit she was injured during a struggle on March 26, 2010, after she tried to take a hand-held device away from two students who were listening to music on it as they got off a bus and prepared to enter a cafeteria for a meeting.

One of the students, a 150-pound male, jumped on Luise's back while the other pushed her into a wall, causing "severe and shooting pain" in her back, the suit says.

A special education teacher, Patti Bowman, used a "trained restraining maneuver" to get the student off Luise's back and a school police officer handcuffed the student after chasing him down in the cafeteria, the suit says.

Luise continued to work in pain under a doctor's care and was placed on light duty, but over time the pain worsened and she filed for workman's compensation, which the suit says resulted in her firing on Feb. 13."

Luise's back injury is "permanent and debilitating," according to the suit.

Luise says in her suit that she had perfect attendance while she worked for the IU, and received positive performance reviews and was an above-average employee during the "vast majority" of her time there.

She says in her suit that her firing after filing for workman's compensation violates state policy, and that her termination also violates the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, because she could have continued to work had the IU had made "appropriate accommodations."

Luise is asking in her suit for the IU to rehire her and for back pay and benefits, as well as compensatory and punitive damages because of the IU's "reckless, outrageous [and] wanton ... behavior."

No dollar amount is listed in the suit.

WFMZ.com reached out to IU-20 solicitor John Freund and executive director Dr. Charlene Brennan, but calls for comment were not returned.