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Scammon Elementary principal removed from school

A principal at a Northwest Side elementary school that was the subject of a federal lawsuit over the school’s dismissal of eight pregnant teachers has been relieved of her position.

Scammon Elementary School Principal Mary Weaver told the Chicago Sun-Times that three Chicago Public Schools officials came into her office Monday and told her she was being sent home.

“They came into my office, they sat down, they said they were giving me a letter and they are reassigning me to my house, and that I would continue to get paid but I was not to report to work, not to go on school property,” Weaver said Tuesday.

Weaver, who said she makes about $147,000 annually, said she was told she had two hours to clean out her personal items from her office. She was then told to hand in her building and office keys and her CPS ID. She said her access to her CPS email account was cut immediately.

“I told them, ‘I am 4-year contract principal at a Level One school’ and that they did not have the authority to do that,” said Weaver, who said she nevertheless planned to abide by CPS’ wishes.

Weaver said she plans to seek legal advice.

“CPS has high standards for its school leaders, and the District has determined a change in leadership at Scammon Elementary is in the best interest of students and staff,” CPS spokesman Michael Passman said in an emailed statement. “The District has appointed a highly-qualified leader to serve as Scammon’s interim principal, and we are working to ensure a smooth transition at the school.”

CPS had paid out $280,000 to settle a lawsuit with Scammon teachers who claim they were fired because they became pregnant. Eight teachers fired from Scammon from 2009 to 2012 will split the settlement, which includes back pay and $222,500 in compensatory damages, according to terms of the agreement reached earlier this month.

CPS admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement with the U.S. Department of Education but will have to revise discrimination policies and complaint reporting systems and submit the changes to the department for review.

At the time, Weaver denied any bias against pregnant teachers and blasted the settlement.

“When CPS told me they were considering a settlement, I told them I would not be quiet,” said Weaver, who said she filed a discrimination complaint after going on maternity leave more than a decade ago.

“I’m tired of being the scapegoat. This is a predominantly female-based organization. It’s just a natural assumption that you have a woman [of] whatever age, they’re going to have children. That’s just the way it works and we embrace it.”

The lawsuit, filed by the Department of Education on behalf of the teachers, alleged that Weaver targeted teachers who took pregnancy leave and gave them bad evaluations and, in some cases, fired them. The school system’s attorneys denied any pattern of discrimination.

The federal complaint alleged that five Scammon teachers who became pregnant in 2009 and 2010 received worse evaluations from Weaver after announcing they were pregnant, and they were fired over non-preganant teachers who received worse ratings.

Weaver said 25 teachers were laid off from Scammon that year as part of citywide staff cuts, and the majority of elementary school teachers are women. Weaver said she warned CPS officials that the five teachers were on or had said they were going to go on maternity leave.

In a brief statement issued at the time of the settlement, CPS said that “Chicago Public Schools is fully committed to promoting inclusive work environments free of discrimination or mistreatment. We are taking steps to bolster training and policy awareness to ensure every school and office in CPS is a welcoming environment.”

Contributing: Lauren FitzPatrick