THREE RETIRED Philadelphia School District teachers have filed a federal lawsuit against the School Reform Commission, former chairman Bill Green, the city and other parties for allegedly violating their constitutional rights during an SRC meeting.
The trio - Ilene Poses, Lisa Haver and Barbara Dowdall - say the violations occurred during a Feb. 18 meeting at which commissioners voted on charter-school applications, according to the suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. The plaintiffs are members of the advocacy group Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools.
The Feb. 18 meeting was contentious, with four people arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, and the plaintiffs were not allowed to display signs opposing new charter-school approvals, the suit says.
Representatives from charter operator KIPP, however, were allowed to distribute and wear T-shirts in support of KIPP schools, the suit says.
The suit also claims that a school police officer named as a defendant, John Augustine, illegally went into Haver's shopping bag without permission and swiped all the protest signs inside.
"Without cause or justification, and at least in part in retaliation for the exercise of the plaintiff's First Amendment rights and to chill the exercise of those rights, the defendants seized the plaintiffs, confiscated their signs and violated the plaintiffs' liberty interests," the suit says.
A school district spokeswoman said the district would not comment on pending litigation.
Green told the Daily News that he hadn't read the lawsuit, but added that "any suggestion that I or any member of the SRC did anything inappropriate is incorrect. We will let the trier of fact decide."
Poses, 63, of Mount Airy, told the Daily News yesterday that she was "manhandled and dragged" from the building by Philadelphia cops because she questioned why she had to remove a sign hanging from her neck, which she refused to remove.
Poses said that she had been "minding my own business" in the "overflow" room when a city police officer told her she had to remove a 20-by-14-inch sign from around her neck.
"I didn't understand why I couldn't have a sign with my opinion on it," said Poses, who worked for the district for 35 years. Two officers grabbed her, threatening her with arrest, she said. They let go of her outside of the building.
"I couldn't believe they were treating me like a criminal."