A Williamsville School District teacher asked a judge Tuesday to waive a deadline and let him file a late lawsuit contending that the district smeared his name and reputation.
But in a ruling from the bench, State Supreme Justice Joseph Mintz denied the teacher's request and dismissed the claim against the district.
Mill Middle School teacher Ronald S. Benson claimed that Principal William Grobe defamed him by telling two parents that his conduct toward a student "borders on sexual harassment." The alleged incident occurred in March 1998 but Benson did not file the suit until a year later. By law, Benson needed to file within 90 days of the incident.
Benson has also filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming that two female employees discriminated against him because of his gender. He and his attorney, Stafford D. Richie, are awaiting a response and by law cannot take further action until hearing from that agency.
"(Benson) has been injured in his good name and reputation as a teacher, has suffered great pain and anguish, and has been help up to ridicule and contempt of his friends, acquaintances, parents of his students and the public generally," the claim said.
Benson, who has taught in the district for 32 years, sought unspecified damages against the district and Grobe.
It all started when a 10-year-old boy told his parents that he didn't like Benson and wanted another science teacher. The child said Benson had told him he had beautiful blue eyes. Benson said in a statement to the district that he used the boy's eyes as an example of adaptation for a science lesson.
Benson alleges that Grobe told the parents that his conduct "borders on sexual harassment" and hurt the teacher's reputation.
The boy was ultimately removed from Benson's class along with four other boys.
The district paid the Board of Cooperative Educational Services to investigate and BOCES found no basis for Benson's complaints, said Adam W. Perry, the district's attorney.
The whole incident cost the taxpayers more than $30,000 last year. Benson was on sick leave for about four months last school year, said Thomas Ramming, assistant superintendent for human resources.
Benson's salary last year was $73,465. The district could not immediately say how much it cost to hire a substitute teacher to replace him.
Benson is returning to work this year at Mill Middle School, Ramming said.