When 80-year-old kindergarten teacher Lillie Leon complained to the administration at P.S. 117, in the Briarwood section of the New York borough of Queens, about the distance that she had to travel to accompany her 25 students on bathroom breaks, she was fired for "insubordination."
Receiving notice a week ago, Leon responded this week with a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court alleging age discrimination. Her hope is to recover her job.
"I was expected to bathroom all of the children, boys and girls, at the same time, which is impossible. I really think it was an entrapment," Leon said in an interview with the New York Post.
In interviews, Leon expressed further frustration with the logic of placing an octogenarian teacher in a classroom that has no bathroom nearby. Instead, she was forced to escort all of her charges through the school's cafeteria when nature called for any of the 25.
"Teaching is my passion," she told the New York Daily News. "But I was put in a position where it was almost impossible for me to safeguard the safety of the children."
Leon, who has walked with the help of a cane since 2006, has for years requested to be transferred to first grade so as to be responsible for students more accustomed to taking care of their own bathroom business.
The Department of Education asserts that Leon shirked her duties when she simply stopped responding to bathroom break requests, according to CBS News.
In her lawsuit, Leon also discloses details of the psychological examination that she was forced to endure on the orders of the school's principal. She referred to the experience, put in place to see if she was up to the job, as "humiliating."
Leon has been a teacher since 1978, and before that worked in the banking business, according to a report in the New York Daily News. She is also a grandmother of four. Her current salary, the tabloid reports, is $100,049 a year. Thirty-four years into her teaching career, Leon said that her only hope was teach for one more before retiring.
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