A former Connally High School math teacher who was fired in 2011 is suing the school district for failing to paint his classroom a soothing yellow, among other things.
Lieu Tran, who engaged in a tug-of-war with the Pflugerville school district over the color of his classroom, its lack of a computer printer and other issues, blames the school district for causing his stress to skyrocket, which resulted in a series of panic attacks and ultimately cost him his job, the lawsuit says.
Tran faced felony charges last year after he told an Austin police officer that he had thoughts of killing his supervisors at the school. In the lawsuit, Tran blames the district’s refusal to provide his requested accommodations for his poor performance and the eventual loss of the teaching job he held for five years. The lawsuit filed Feb. 19 claims the district had a responsibility to provide Tran accommodations, under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Tran currently is not teaching and his teaching certificate is inactive.
Tran’s attorney, Chris Schulz, says Tran is “a nice guy” who grapples with the same issues as many people with bipolar disorder.
District officials said Monday they had not received a copy of the suit, and would not comment about it.
In the lawsuit, Tran says his problems with the district started in 2010, when he was moved into a new classroom. Unlike the room he’d been teaching in, the new room did not have yellow walls or its own printer. Tran’s schedule was also changed so he could not have the classroom to himself during planning periods, according to the lawsuit.
For a year, Tran asked for the district to paint his new room, give him a printer and rework his schedule, raising concerns about his mental health, but district officials refused, according to the lawsuit, saying he needed to provide documentation of his bipolar disorder. Tran’s doctor and psychiatrist each wrote the school a letter agreeing with his requests.The district eventually gave Tran his own printer, but never painted the walls or adjusted his schedule, according to the lawsuit.
The school documented incidents in which Tran exhibited stress and anger and gave him a negative performance evaluation, the lawsuit says.
In March of 2011, school officials told Tran his contract would not be renewed for the next school year, according to the lawsuit. The followingmonth, the school apologized for the delay of Tran’s accommodations and offered to remedy the situation soon, the lawsuit said.
Tran’s mood plummeted, and his legal problems began. In April, he asked a friend for a ride to a hospital because he was distressed about the impending loss of his job and was thinking about shooting his supervisors at work, according to court testimony.
A nurse called a police officer and when Tran repeated what he had told the nurse, he was charged with threatening to harm the school’s principal and assistant principal.
A judge later ruled that those statements could not be used against him because Tran was suffering a severe mental breakdown at the time he made them. The charges were dropped.