New Haven Teacher Files Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

Feb 6 2017

As it appeared on NBC Connecticut

By Justin Schecker

A New Haven teacher is suing the Board of Education over what she calls inadequate accommodations for her disability.

“I was walking when I first started here,” Paula Langlois said.

But six years later, the fifth grade teacher needs a wheelchair to get around.

“I have multiple sclerosis and it is now secondary progressive,” Langlois said.

In December, Langlois filed a lawsuit in Superior Court against the City of New Haven Board of Education because she’s finding it difficult to get in and out of the Fair Haven School.

“She’s excelling in her field and she doesn’t have equal access to her workplace,” Langlois’ attorney, Amada DeMatteis, said.

The school shares a parking lot with a New Haven Free Public Library. On the library side, there is a clearly marked blue and white handicapped spot. Langlois is asking for the same proper signage where she parks her van for work.

“I don’t have enough space,” she said. “People park up to two inches next to me and I can’t let my ramp down.”

In addition to wanting a wider parking space with better drawn lines, there is the issue of accessing the building after 5 p.m.

“Her handicapped accessible door locks and she cannot get back in the building,” Dematteis said.

Langlois said she often sticks around into the evening for lesson planning and after-school activities.

“If I forget my phone, if I forget my purse,” she said. “I can’t climb the stairs to get in to the building.”

Langlois is hoping the school district will make the changes so her disability doesn’t get in the way of her passion for teaching.

“As long as I have my mind I’m not going to stop working just because my legs don’t want to work right now,” Langlois said. “That’s not fair.”

The New Haven school district does not have a public information officer for the rest of the school year.

“School district officials are aware of the lawsuit however, it is the policy and practice of New Haven Public Schools to withhold comment on matters involving pending litigation,” City of New Haven Director of Communications Laurence Grotheer said in a statement.

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