A Civil Rights lawsuit filed in 2012 by Liam Kahn against the Onteora Central School district has been settled, with terms undisclosed. Kahn, a gay former student of the district, explained in the suit that he endured bullying while attending the Middle/High School, and that became so difficult he was forced to drop out in 2011, alleging that officials did very little to quash it. He was due to graduate in 2012. Kahn sued, seeking compensatory damages against the district and punitive damages against High School Principal Lance Edelman and Assistant High School Principal Jessica Robertson. Both district officials and Kahn are locked in to an agreement not to discuss details of the settlement.
During a phone conversation, Kahn confirmed that he was unable to comment on the settlement but expressed relief that it was over. “I’m moving on with my life and I wish Onteora the best,” he said.
In an email statement, Onteora Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Spiegel McGill offered no comment relating specifically to the settlement. However she did write, “Please know that if the District paid any money in settlement, the district’s Board would have had to pass a resolution authorizing the expenditure of district funds, and that no such resolution has been passed or is anticipated.” She also noted that the State Education Department conducted an investigation into the alleged Civil Rights violations. “At the conclusion of that investigation, the Office of Civil Rights found that there was not any evidence to support a claim that the district had failed to properly respond to any alleged acts of discrimination or bullying perpetrated against any student at the district,” McGill wrote. The complaint, filed by two students including Kahn, was made to the Office of Civil rights for one school-year, during the 2010/2011. Kahn’s lawsuit spanned five years. McGill was not working for the district during the five years in which these alleged incidents took place.
Kahn was unable to offer an opinion on how the district may have moved forward with any anti-bully programs or changes to the school. “I’ve not observed any changes at Onteora, I felt it was best to just leave, it was in my best interest and it was time to step back and take a deep breath and get on with my life.” He was surprised to learn that Robertson was no longer Vice Principal and has returned to her initial job as High School math teacher. “No, I was unaware of it,” he said, “I only wish her the best and since then I’ve learned compassion and to look at what’s important in my life.”
Since leaving Onteora, Kahn earned his GED, is currently attending Ulster Community College full time and readying himself to transfer to a four-year university. He’s been accepted to two schools and is waiting to hear back from eight others before he makes a decision on where to go. Kahn said his area of focus will be with International Relations, hoping one day to work for the federal government in Washington DC. He also acts as Deputy Supervisor for the Town of Woodstock.