Two female co-workers have accused Public School 97 special education teacher, James Gonzalez, of sexual harassment in a new lawsuit.
“I woke up scared to go to work every day,” she said. “I knew he was going to ask me to have sex with him again and he’d get angry when I refused.”
When the harassment allegedly began in November 2014, Gonzalez approached Francis from behind and pressed himself against her leg. When they were assigned to co-teach a second grade class in September 2017, the harassment got even worse.
Michelle Francis, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, claims that Gonzalez made numerous sexual comments and continuously propositioned her in the classroom from 2014 until 2018. She said that she reported the incidents to the principal, but nothing was done to stop the harassment. Francis was even targeted for retaliation with negative performance reviews.
The lawsuit claims that Gonzalez told Francis that he wanted to lick her all over her body, wanted to perform a sexual act on her and asked her if she wanted to have a threesome with him and his wife.
After Francis told Gonzalez that his behavior was making her uncomfortable and that she wanted him to stop, he became angry and spiteful toward her.
Francis said that the harassment she has endured has caused her to lose sleep and miss work. She is currently seeing a therapist to deal with her depression.
Francis’ lawyer, Ria Julien, said that Francis was victimized by Gonzalez and by a school system that fails to punish harassers.
“Nobody should have to suffer sexual harassment at work,” said Julien. “But it was just tolerated and there was no way in which he was punished or disciplined.”
A second female teacher at PS 97, who has chosen to remain anonymous, backs up Francis’ allegations and said that she was also sexually harassed by Gonzalez. She said he asked her to do a threesome and said he wanted to perform oral sex on her for hours.
She said she never informed school administrators about the harassment because she didn’t think they would do anything about it.
“The DOE covers things up and allows them to stay on the job,” she said. “They settle lawsuits but the person is still there.”