NHP woman claims boss groped her at Queens school

NHP woman claims boss groped her at Queens school
A guidance counselor alleges she was sexually harassed by her boss at the Humanities and the Arts High School school in Queens in a lawsuit filed against her bosses and the education department. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

A New Hyde Park woman filed a lawsuit Monday against her former supervisors at a Queens school and the New York City Department of Education, alleging that her boss groped her and masturbated in front of her.

Sandhya Thomas, 53, claims that Humanities and the Arts High School Assistant Principal Ghandi Moussa sexually harassed her between 2013 and 2017 as he served as her direct supervisor in her position as a guidance counselor, according to court documents filed in Brooklyn federal court.

Along with the Department of Education, Moussa and Principal Kayode Ayetiwa are individually named in the suit.

Efforts to reach the Department of Education were unavailing.

Education Department spokesman Douglas Cohen told the New York Post that the city is reviewing the suit.

“These allegations are deeply disturbing and there is absolutely no place for sexual harassment in our schools,” Cohen told the Post. “We take all claims of misconduct extremely seriously and will ensure appropriate follow-up.”

Efforts to reach Moussa were unavailing. There was no listed number to contact Ayetiwa.

The suit alleges that when Thomas reported the harassment, Ayetiwa brought charges against her, tried to get her fired and relocated her to a moldy storage closet.

Thomas was suspended without pay for six months on May 2 after the results of a 3020-a hearing, which allows tenured teachers to be removed with just cause, according to the suit.

The suit alleges that the findings of the hearing officer were affected by false testimony and evidence created by the Education Department.

Moussa came to the school in 2013, and Ayetiwa came in 2016.

Before 2013, Thomas had “no issues with her performance and was annually rated satisfactory,” according to the suit.

Moussa would allegedly “make Thomas stand closer to him, using that as an opportunity to touch her or brush up against Thomas’s arms, breasts, buttocks and other body parts,” according to the suit.

When Thomas told Moussa not to touch her, he would not comply, according to the suit which claims this alleged behavior happened once a week on average.

In January 2016, Thomas reported the harassment to her union and then Principal Rosemarie Omard; following an interview with the Department of Education about her report, Moussa was removed as Thomas’ supervisor, according to the suit.

Ayetiwa, upon taking over as principal, “did not honor this” and didn’t “keep Moussa away from Thomas or prevent him from supervising her,” the suit alleges.

In May 2017, during a meeting before others came into the room, “Thomas observed Moussa begin to rub his genitals over his pants while starting at Thomas’ breasts, masturbating in front of her, while moaning,” the suit alleges.

According to the suit, Thomas didn’t report the alleged conduct to Ayetiwa for fear of retaliation because he had placed Moussa back as her supervisor.

The following June, Thomas’ union reported the alleged conduct to Superintendent Elaine Lindsey, who directed Ayetiwa to remove Moussa from “any supervisory role over Thomas,” according to the suit.

Less than a month after Thomas reported the further alleged sexual harassment, she was served with the 3020-a charges, according to the suit.

In September 2017, Thomas was suspended from her position and Ayetiwa allegedly required Thomas to remain in a room with broken chairs and no heat; upon Thomas’ complaint she was placed in a dusty, moldy storage closet, according to the suit.

In May, she was suspended without pay following her 3020-a hearing, according to the suit.

Thomas is represented by attorney Thomas Ricotta. Efforts to reach Ricotta were unavailing.

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