Gloucester teacher files lawsuit claiming she was fired for raising concerns about safety, asbestos

GLOUCESTER , MASS. (WHDH) - A former performing arts teacher at a Gloucester middle school is suing school officials after she says she was unfairly fired for raising several concerns on social media about school conditions — including the possibility of an asbestos contamination — and policies that she disagreed with.

Jessica Linquata, a former teacher at O’Maley Innovation Middle School, said she was informed that her contract of employment with the school would not be renewed shortly after she expressed concerns on her private Facebook account about classroom safety following a tragic shooting at Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February that left 17 students dead, according to the complaint.

The complaint also says she repeatedly raised concerns about the possibility that the school was contaminated by asbestos while she was working while pregnant. Linquata claims she was ordered by school officials to remove a section of crumbling paneling in her classroom by herself.

Linquata’s lawyers said she messaged Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken on Facebook about the issue and soon after her class was relocated to a different classroom while the potential asbestos sources were removed.

Then, after posting a message suggesting parents should hold their children accountable for low grades rather than blaming teachers, Linquata claims she was informed that school officials were launching an investigation into whether she had violated the department’s social media policy.

“When Ms. Linquata’s students learned of her termination, they immediately engaged in political activism and circulated petitions to have her reinstated,” the complaint reads. “Ms. Linquata had no part in this activity. Rather than encourage this civic-minded behavior, however, Defendants forced Ms. Linquata to tell the students to be quiet, even going so far as to threaten the academic reputation of her niece, a student at O’Maley.”

The suit, filed in federal court in Boston on Aug. 28, is seeking declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and damages.

School officials have not yet responded to requests for comment.

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