Stafford Schools Superintendent Accused of Harassment, Retaliation in Lawsuit

By David Biggy | Jan 08, 2020

Stafford Township, NJ — Shortly before the Stafford Township School District’s Christmas break, a lawsuit filed in Superior Court of Ocean County claims Superintendent George Chidiac sexually harassed and retaliated against Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction Jenny Graf. According to the lawsuit, filed on Graf’s behalf Dec. 12, Chidiac allegedly contacted Graf 28 times during the early-morning hours of June 9, 2018, sending several “incomprehensible and non-work related text messages” before Graf finally answered her cell phone at 2:03 a.m. The suit alleges Chidiac “begged desperately for Plaintiff to come and meet him at a bar,” among other things, including contacting her the next day via text message, asking, “Can you take a call?” and that she went to Chidiac’s office the following Monday, June 11, to request that he stop his behavior.

The suit also claims, “After Plaintiff rejected Defendant Chidiac’s repeated sexual advances and admonished him for his obsessive behavior, Defendant Chidiac began to subject Plaintiff to a torrent of retaliation.” Such alleged actions included stripping Graf of job responsibilities and committee assignments, bringing up potential termination at school board meetings and discriminating against her after learning she was pregnant, the suit claims.

Later in 2018, an independent educational consultant hired by the Stafford Township Board of Education – also named as a defendant in the lawsuit – investigated an affirmative action complaint by Graf against Chidiac to substantiate the series of text messages and phone calls made on June 2018. The consultant confirmed the inappropriate behavior, but did not substantiate Graf’s claims of pregnancy discrimination and harassment, according to a December 2018 letter from school board attorney Ari D. Schneider to Graf.

Chidiac, who has been the district superintendent since July 1, 2013, declined to comment about the incidents or legal action against him following the board’s reorganization meeting on Monday, Jan. 6, citing his attorney’s recommendation not to speak about it. Earlier in the day, board President Walter Jauch said he was not permitted to speak on the board’s position because it is a personnel matter and involves active litigation. Following the meeting, Schneider said the board likely will not make any statements about the situation going forward.

Graf, who remains employed by the district, is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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