Westport principal placed on leave following arrest

WESTPORT — Coleytown Middle School Principal Kris Szabo has been placed on administrative leave, following her arrest for allegedly slapping a man during a parking dispute in Southbury.

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In an email to parents Wednesday morning, Bedford Middle School Principal Adam Rosen said Szabo was placed on leave pending a review of the incident. Szabo was arrested on Nov. 27 for slapping a man during an argument in a parking lot on Main Street South in Southbury, police said.

Though the arrest occurred last week, the Southbury resident was not placed on leave until Wednesday, one day after the arrest was publicized.

According to police, Szabo, 49, struck a 71-year-old man multiple times after he verbally confronted her for parking in a “no parking” area.

Szabo was arrested and charged with second-degree breach of peace. She was released on a $500 non-surety bond and is scheduled to appear in state Superior Court in Waterbury on Dec. 11.

“Please know that the safety of our students remains our top priority as we address any concerns in our school,” Rosen wrote in a statement.

Rosen was not available for further comment.

Interim Superintendent of Schools David Abbey said Wednesday the district is investigating the incident and was not aware of the arrest until it was publicized on Tuesday.

Szabo has been an educator for more than 25 years and was hired as principal of Coleytown in 2004. She has been working at Bedford as a “principal on special assignment,” while remediation work is completed at Coleytown.

This isn’t the first legal issue Szabo has faced in recent years. Coleytown Middle School and Szabo were also the focus of two investigations in 2017 for allegedly failing to address rampant bullying in the school.

The investigations were opened by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in response to two claims, one alleging racial and sexual discrimination and the other sexual discrimination.

One complaint alleged the discriminatory act was among hundreds of bullying incidents.

On Feb. 8, 2018, a lawsuit was filed by two Westport parents against the Board of Education, Szabo and Elliott Landon, the schools chief at the time.

The suit claims a student reported a bullying incident in March 2016 to Szabo and requested to speak to a guidance counselor, but was denied.

According to the lawsuit, the student was allegedly assaulted by four other students. According to the complaint, Szabo said the student “should ignore those crap kids and not let them get to him.”

The suit says Szabo failed to investigate the student’s claims, or if any investigation was conducted, it was inadequate.

“Szabo failed to exercise a reasonable degree of care and was negligent in failing to conduct an investigation regarding the bullying reports,” the complaint reads.

In April 2016, the suit claims the student was again bullied and called a discriminatory term, and Szabo again denied the child’s request to speak to a guidance counselor.

When the student then requested to speak to a parent and was denied, the suit alleges Szabo grabbed the student’s arm and shook it with force.

“As a direct, legal, and proximate result of Szabo’s actions, omissions and her breach of duty, the plaintiff suffered physical, emotional and economic damages in an amount to be proven at trial,” the complaint reads.

It’s unclear if Szabo was placed on leave when the lawsuit was first filed or if she faced any disciplinary action.

The family is seeking compensatory and punitive damages exclusive of interest and cost. The court case is ongoing and a hearing is scheduled for Dec. 16.

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com, includes previous reporting by Chris Marquette