A Washington Township Schools administrator has been accused of harassment by a Long Valley resident and father of a seventh-grader.
Shaun King filed a probable cause report with the Washington Township Municipal Court last week, alleging he had been harassed by Long Valley Middle School principal Mark Ippolito after a series of conflicts dating back to December of 2013.
Back in December, King’s daughter, Taylor, was accused by school faculty of cutting herself and required medical attention and a psychiatric evaluation. The incident led to a shouting match between King and Ippolito, the parent told Patch, and officers from the Washington Township Police Department were called to the school.
An evaluation of the teen’s cuts and psychiatric status by police officers and medical personnel at St. Clare’s Hospital revealed no intention to harm herself, King said, and the cuts were superficial as a result from spending time in a barn with horses.
In the time since, King says his daughter has been singled out at school – not by classmates or peers – but by faculty members.
“The teachers are treating me differently, and my friends have even noticed it,” Taylor King told Patch. The student said while walking through the halls one day, she overheard a guidance counselor speaking with another faculty member, with the administrator saying she didn’t care what the evaluations showed, she felt King was still “a cutter.”
“It’s hurtful,” King said. “It doesn’t make me feel safe there. I love school, but it’s hard to go there now.”
In mid-February, the seventh-grader was accused of sending a threatening text message to a friend, requiring police attention. The matter was resolved after both teens spoke with officers, Shaun King said, but it only made situation worse at the school.
When Shaun King spoke with Ippolito over the phone, the parent claims the principal gave him an ultimatum: have your daughter re-evaluated or she will face suspension for the texting incident.
King told Ippolito that because police cleared the matter, he’d be taking the situation to Superintendent Jeff Mohre, and that any further contact from the principal should go through the family’s attorney.
According to the police report filed by Officer Scott Myers, Ippolito attempted to contact King and his wife by phone and email several times over the next 36 hours, despite the request to only speak with the family’s legal counsel.
That’s when King, citing an unsafe environment for his daughter, took Taylor out of school and filed the harassment claim against Ippolito.
The student spent about a week at home and returned to class on Monday, March 3 after Mohre assured King no more singling out or targeting would come from faculty, the parent said.
King brought the situation to light at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting by making a statement during the public comments section. No one from the board engaged in an open dialogue with King, as is customary when a statement is made from the public that does not pose a question. Ippolito was in attendance and remains the principal at Long Valley Middle School.
King said he is asking the board for an outside, objective party to evaluate the situation, rather than administrators currently on staff.
"I'm not comfortable with my daughter in the school," King told the board. "I believe this situation was handled very badly, and there has been no accountability on the part of the school district."
A probable cause hearing on the matter is set for Washington Township Municipal Court on Thursday, March 6 at 4:30 p.m.