Barker Central School Superintendent Robert Bouldin and Elementary School Principal Roselyn Morgan served four School Board members Wednesday with a notice of their intent to sue the trustees in federal court.
The notices of claim were triggered by a controversy over allegations that third-grade teachers were asked to erase wrong answers by their pupils on last May's statewide Pupil Evaluation Program reading test.
Two of the district's four third-grade teachers have denied that they were asked to falsify the tests, but the other two say the request was made.
Wednesday night, after a closed-door session lasting two hours and 25 minutes, the board voted, 4-2, not to release a report on the case by Buffalo attorney Richard Wyssling.
Board President Merrill S. Bender said another meeting is set for 7 p.m. Oct. 28. He said the board might then release a statement on the report, rather than the report itself.
The votes against releasing the report came from the four trustees named in the lawsuits planned by Bouldin and Mrs. Morgan: Bender, board Vice President James R. Fisher, Douglas K. Lewis, and Priscilla Whitford.
They are accused by Mrs. Morgan of defamation, violation of civil rights, intentional infliction of emotional distress, violation of tenure rights, and age discrimination. Bouldin's claim charges the four trustees with inflicting emotional distress, deprivation of property and liberty interests, and breach of contract.
Bender declined comment on the legal action.
Bouldin told reporters before the vote that he hoped the board would yield to what he called "public pressure" to release the report. Five speakers made that request during the meeting.
Bender said the board was advised by Buffalo attorney Nicholas J. Sargent, who handles the board's personnel and labor matters, that the report was intended to remain confidential. During the executive session, the board also discussed Sargent's recent bill of $12,523, which it later voted, 6-0, to pay.
Trustee Randall Atwater, who along with Margo S. Bittner voted to release the report, said it "exonerates" some people involved in the case. Lewis disputed that interpretation.
Mrs. Morgan, in her legal brief, zeroed in on Bender, accusing him of making "malicious, false and defamatory remarks" charging her with "unethical, illegal and criminal conduct."
She said Bender made the allegations while addressing the district's staff Sept. 3, at a Sept. 4 board meeting, and at a Sept. 12 Parent-Teacher-Student Association meeting. Among the statements she accuses Bender of making is one claiming Wyssling's report "confirmed that the principal had done something wrong." Mrs. Morgan, 58, also said Bender "is conducting a campaign to force her retirement."
Atwater said testing instructions from the state Education Department say pupils may be assisted with the "mechanics" of filling out the answer form. He said there is "room for interpretation" on what that means and suggested it could mean telling a pupil to erase completely a partially erased mark on the answer sheet if the pupil wants to change an answer.