Westport parent accuses school officials of retaliation

WESTPORT — A parent accused three district administrators of retaliatory tactics against him and his family during the Board of Education meeting Monday night.

Rahul Kale, a Westport parent, claimed three administrators acted in retaliation after he voiced complaints that the Central Office illegally shared privileged information about his child.

Kale said on Dec. 3 he met with Assistant Superintendent of Pupil Personnel Services Tina Mannarino to discuss the situation.

“I informed her the district had been violating Connecticut data privacy law by releasing students, including my daughter’s, private information. This included medical records to a consultant without a contract,” he said.

Without protection of a contract, Kale continued, a consultant was free to share students’ private information with anyone.

“I explained my daughter and I had been the subject of a threat six and a half years ago, so I was concerned about the district’s illegal release of students’ personal information,” he said, adding he did not threaten to sue.

Kale alleged former Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer, Director of Human Services John Bayer and Mannarino then had the Westport Police Department investigate him.

“I received a police report last Friday and I am incensed,” he said.

According to Kale, the day after he met with Mannarino, the three administrators met with police and said he was a danger to his two daughters.

“Thankfully our professional police saw through the Central Office’s abuse of power,” Kale said.

He then accused administrators of suspending his wife, Sandhya Kale, a speech pathologist at Kings Highway Elementary School, for 47 days. Kale said this came after an unspecified allegation was made to the Department of Children and Families about an incident at Kings in January.

Principal Mary Lou DiBella and four other Kings educators were placed on administrative leave due to the allegations and returned to the school in March, following a review. The district did not release details about those allegations.

“The central office used the allegations to suspend some, but not all of the people named in the allegations,” he said. “They then used the cover of those suspensions to suspend my wife, who is not even in the complaint as DCF records now show.”

Kale added the suspension cost the district $30,000 to hire a replacement for his wife.

“Central administration should not be allowed to use our children’s health and school records and baseless complaints to DCF as a sword to threaten parents if a disagreement arises,” he said.

Kale’s daughter, Reva, 17, said a complaint was filed to DCF that the nature of her father’s job was a threat to her and her sister.

“This could have resulted in us being removed from our home,” she said. “Do you know how scary that’s been?”

The Staples High School senior added Mannarino and Bayers broke her trust by releasing her records.

“I’m terrified by how they’re willing to have us taken away by our parents to have them cover up their own wrongdoings,” she said.

Board members did not respond to the allegations due to public comments being non-agenda items.

On Tuesday, Board of Education Chairman Mark Mathias said all concerns presented by the community are taken seriously.

“We have approved policies and procedures for handling concerns and I trust that the processes will yield a fair outcome,” Mathias said.