Buffalo school district suing Johns Hopkins University

Apr 20, 2017

The Buffalo Board of Education is suing Johns Hopkins University over fallout from the less than two years the Baltimore university was running two city high schools.

Buffalo Board of Education meeting held in the Common Council chambers Wednesday evening.
Credit WBFO News photo by Mike Desmond

The school board came out of an executive session Wednesday night and voted to file the suit. Members had moved from the Common Council chamber, where the bulk of the board meeting was held, and retreated to the regular board room for the closed-door session.

General Counsel Nate Kuzma said the lawsuit is complicated.

Hopkins pulled out early from running East and Lafayette high schools. Hopkins was the educational partnership organization. That means the university appointed one of its professors as the school superintendent for Lafayette and another for East.

"What's going on in the lawsuit is it's in relation to another lawsuit that was filed by an employee from one of those schools based upon the actions of Johns Hopkins University," Kuzma said. "Johns Hopkins has refused to defend and indemnify the district, which has cost us a sizeable amount in legal fees, and other costs in defending the matter."

Kuzma said the superintendent at Lafayette, Tamara Branch, refused tenure for an employee. She is legally allowed to do so, but the teacher sued. Hopkins has refused to defend its actions.

Kuzma said the district has spent $126,000 on legal fees - a key element in the lawsuit.

"Johns Hopkins should be paying for the cost of that," Kuzma said. "They have not and, pursuant to their contract with the district and the board, they had agreed to do so. And so their failure to follow that contract is going to result in us filing an action."

Kuzma said Hopkins has been repeatedly notified the suit would be filed if it refused to take over the case.