New York high school principal investigated after teacher said he was sexually harassed

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After a Lower East Side high school principal was accused of sexually pressing his groin against a teacher’s leg at a staff holiday party, an Education Department lawyer asked witnesses to help him “prepare a defense”, according to the archives.

John Colin, a specialist teacher at Lower Manhattan Arts Academy, has filed a sex discrimination complaint with the state’s Human Rights Division against his boss, principal Derek Premo.

Premo approached Colin and two teachers at Pianos, a tavern on the Lower East Side where the December 19, 2019 rally was held.

Premo pressed his groin against Colin’s leg, under the bar-height table – and kept it there for the entire 20-minute conversation, the complaint says.

“It was very uncomfortable because I could feel his penis on my leg, and he was pressing his face very close to mine. . . VERY uncomfortable, ”said Colin.

“Then he started telling me how he and her husband liked to party,” Colin wrote, adding that Premo emphasized the word “party” and “looked me straight in the eye when he said it. “.

Director Derek Premo is accused of pressing his groin against John Colin’s leg.
lomahs.nyc

Colin named the two fellow teachers as witnesses, saying he discussed the incident with them the next day.

He postponed filing a complaint during the pandemic, while working remotely, but did so this year after feelings of unease resurfaced at a seminar on sexual harassment.

Weeks later, DOE attorney Sari Goldmeer Rella wrote a letter to both witnesses citing the complaint and saying she needed help “to prepare a defense.” She asked them to call her.

In the letter, reviewed by The Post, Rella also told them not to discuss the matter with Colin, and added: me. “

This raised eyebrows at Brooklyn College and CUNY Grad School education professor David Bloomfield.

“They appear to be inappropriately using their witness oversight authority to suppress evidence in the state’s investigation,” he said. “They can’t prevent an employee from speaking to an investigating authority. They apparently use their influence on teachers to protect themselves.

DOE spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon wouldn’t say if Rella is defending the DOE or Premo, or both.

Lower Manhattan Arts Academy real estate at 350 Grand St. in Manhattan.
A lawyer for the Department of Education told witnesses not to discuss the case.
Helayne Seidman for NY Post

“Harassment of any kind is not tolerated at DOE, and we are fully investigating this disturbing allegation, while fully cooperating with the state’s investigation,” she said.

Colin, 56, retired this summer, saying in his complaint he feared reprisals from Premo and Superintendent Vivian Orlen.

Premo could not be reached for comment.

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