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Mandarin Meltdown III: Former New Rochelle Schools Mandarin Teacher Loses Defamation Case

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Mandarin Meltdown III: Former New Rochelle Schools Mandarin Teacher Loses Defamation Case

October 08, 2016 - 16:17

Hui Altman

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NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Talk of the Sound reported several years ago on the rather curious case of Hui Altman, a former Mandarin language teacher who was terminated by the New Rochelle School District in 2012. It would be an understatement to say she did not react well to being terminated by the District. She allegedly threatened to kill herself. Police were called and she was removed from Ward Elementary School, She did not return to work after the incident.

As a result of our reporting (see links below), Altman attempted to hire a private investigator to investigate this reporter. During a phone call, and in subsequent foul-mouthed rants in emails, Altman threatened to file a lawsuit against Talk of the Sound for defamation. That did not happen and the statute of limitations has since passed.

Altman did bring a defamation lawsuit against the City School District of New Rochelle, Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak and Reza Kolahifar, former Assistant to the Superintendent for Human Resources.

She also filed a federal discrimination lawsuit, pro se, against the City School District of New Rochelle, Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak and Reza Kolahifar, former Assistant to the Superintendent for Human Resources.

We recently came across a Motion of Summary Judgement in the case, from 2014. The Motion by the District to dismiss the case was granted in part, on the issue of age discrimination.

In an opinion handed down by District Judge Nelson S. Roman of the United States District Court, Southern District New York on June 19, 2014), the Court stated:

On March 29, 2012, Plaintiff appeared in Kolahifar's office to meet Kolahifar and Mendez as requested. According to Plaintiff's 50-h hearing testimony, Kolahifar told Plaintiff they were not going to give her tenure and that she was terminated. When Plaintiff asked Kolahifar why, he said to "ask Juan Mendez"; when she asked Mendez, he said, "You don't prepare for your class," an assertion which Plaintiff contested. Plaintiff asked Mendez how he could do this to her, since she had a mortgage and a child in college. At some point, Plaintiff told Mendez he was inconsistent, as he would say she was an "upstanding teacher" and a "great teacher" but he would also "say bad things about" her. Also at the meeting, Plaintiff received a letter from Organisciak stating that he intended "to recommend to the Board of Education . . . that [her] employment be terminated and [her] appointment with the [District] discontinued . . . effective June 30, 2012." According to Plaintiff, Kolahifar stated that he wanted Plaintiff to be professional and finish the job until the last day of school. She asserts that she exclaimed to Mendez, "If anything happened to my career, you are responsible! You are a sick man! I hate you!" Mendez affirms that she said, "in sum and substance, `when I kill myself, it will be on your conscience' while making a slashing motion with her finger across her throat."

Plaintiff left the meeting and, after attempting to meet with another Assistant Superintendent, proceeded to the school where she was to teach her next class. She ended up speaking with the principal in his office. While there, police arrived and said someone at the District's office called and reported that Plaintiff had said she wanted to kill herself. Police apparently threatened to handcuff Plaintiff if she did not agree to go to the hospital, while Plaintiff insisted she did not need to go and instead wanted to talk to her husband. Plaintiff testified that when she called her husband, police grabbed her phone and spoke with Plaintiff's husband, then would not let Plaintiff speak with him. According to the police report, eight officers and an ambulance responded to the call, and Kolahifar told police that Plaintiff had become "emotionally upset and stated `when I kill myself it will be your fault!' . . . [and had] made several remarks about harming herself”. EMT workers stated that Plaintiff's "abnormal blood sugar level. . . and blood pressure medication . . . was a possible cause of [Plaintiff s] behavior." Plaintiff proceeded to the hospital voluntarily in an ambulance and was released soon thereafter.

There is a footnote which reads “The incident was the subject of a local internet blog post, as well as a state court proceeding for defamation in which summary judgement in favor of Kolahifar and the District was recently denied, see Altman v. New Rochelle Pub. Sch. Distr. No. 51159/2013, Slip Op. at 3 (Sup. Ct. Westchester Cnty. Mar. 25, 2014. The state court action is distinct from the instant discrimination action.

This is the first we became aware of the defamation lawsuit or that one of our articles was an exhibit in the case

October 14, 2015, the New York State Supreme Court found for the City School District of New Rochelle, Richard Organisciak and Reza Kolahifar and against Hui Altman, the defamation case was dismissed.

The federal case also revealed that Altman had lied on her job application — yet another example of a failure of the New Rochelle Board of Education to do proper background checks (see our reporting on Freddie Dean Smith).

On April 16, 2012, Plaintiff arranged to meet Kolahifar at a school to retrieve her belongings. Kolahifar handed Plaintiff another letter from Organisciak informing her that her effective date of termination would be June 1, 2012, instead of June 30, 2012, as previously stated in the March 29, 2012, letter. This change was purportedly due to "information about [Plaintiff's] termination from the Croton-Harmon School District," a job which Plaintiff did not include on her resume or job application. On April 17, 2012, Organisciak reported Plaintiff's failure to include the Croton-Harmon job on her application and resume to the State Education Department Teacher Discipline Unit, raising a question as to Plaintiff's moral character. Defendants proffer minutes of a Croton-Harmon School District board meeting held February 22, 2010, wherein the board voted to terminate Plaintiff's employment as a Mandarin teacher effective immediately.

Our past articles are here:

Mandarin Meltdown: New Rochelle School Teacher Taken Out of Ward School on a Stretcher After Hysterical Outburst at City Hall

Mandarin Meltdown II: Former New Rochelle Schools Mandarin Teacher Threatens Legal Action Against Talk of the Sound

GO WORK IN CHINATOWN: Former Mandarin Teacher Claims New Rochelle Schools Superintendent Made Racist Remark, Files Notice of Claim for Defamation