Former Port Chester schools official files lawsuit after racist … – The Journal News

Port Chester’s former school board president who was removed from office following an investigation into racist Facebook posts is now suing the district in federal court.

Thomas Corbia, who was been involved with the Port Chester-Rye Union Free School District in some capacity for several decades, claims that he had a First Amendment right to engage with the racist posts. Though the posts were not authored by Corbia, he had been accused of endorsing or sharing them; Corbia initially claimed his Facebook account had been hacked.

What did the social media posts say?

In his lawsuit, Corbia emphasized he did not write the posts, but he did not deny he may have shared them, and called the posts “protected speech.”

One post referenced a “white privilege card” and how “it hasn’t done a damn thing for me.”

“No inheritance, no free college, no free food, no free housing, etc,” the post went on. “I may even be willing to do an even trade for a race card.”

A comment on the post bearing Corbia’s name responded approvingly, saying “You are the f******* best and whoever doesn’t like that post, well they know what they can do.”

The USA Today Network reached out to Corbia’s attorney Mario DeMarco for comment.

Calls for Corbia’s ouster: Many call for Port Chester school board president to resign over racist Facebook post

So do these posts in this case count as “protected speech,” as Corbia asserts? Bennett Gershman, a constitutional law professor at Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law, says no.

“The school board can only use what a person is saying to assess their qualifications, their fitness, their ability to be on the school board,” he observed. “The school board has a duty to ensure that they’re not seen as endorsing or supporting or having anything to do with racist garbage.”

How did the school district handle Thomas Corbia’s removal?

Corbia was tried in an administrative hearing in March 2021 on charges related to the posts. Though the posts were central to the case, the charges most directly concerned an alleged failure to cooperate with the board’s investigation. The hearing officer ultimately determined that Corbia “willfully, intentionally, and wrongfully impeded an investigation” into his conduct.

A separate committee tasked with investigating the incident called Corbia’s hacking claim “dubious.”

The school board ultimately concurred with the hearing officer’s report and removed Corbia from his school board seat the following month. In February 2022, the state Education Department rejected Corbia’s challenge to his removal.

What else did Thomas Corbia’s lawsuit say?

The lawsuit cited the killing of George Floyd and subsequent social tensions “particularly regarding the issues of race” as concerns that existed around the time of Corbia’s ouster, but stopped short of explicitly linking them to his removal.

Corbia’s wife is also a named plaintiff in the lawsuit. She claimed that the board’s removal of her husband caused her to lose the companionship of her husband, a legal strategy that drew skepticism from Gershman.

These so-called “loss of consortium” claims typically require some sort of loss of a relationship, Gershman noted.

Together, the Corbias are seeking at least $38.5 million in damages from the school district. In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez said that “the District has not yet been served with any complaint by Mr. Corbia, so we cannot comment until such time as our attorneys have a chance to review his allegations.”

Asher Stockler is a reporter for The Journal News and the USA Today Network New York. You can find him on Twitter at @quasiasher or send him an email at Reach him securely:


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