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Former Pegasus teacher with HIV files lawsuit

Matthew Edmondson, who says he was harassed and pressured to resign, seeks damages against H.B. private school.

June 15, 2012|By Mona Shadia

A lawsuit has been filed against the Pegasus School in Huntington Beach by an HIV-positive teacher who claims he was harassed and then forced to quit under threat.

Science teacher and Irvine resident Matthew Edmondson is accusing the head of the school and its middle school director of discriminating against him, creating a hostile work environment and verbally abusing him, among other work-related violations. He is demanding a jury trial.

Edmondson's allegations were denied by Head of School John Zurn, who said Pegasus will defend itself. Zurn said he could not comment on the details of the case because the school is being sued.

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"Not only was I forced out of an almost 10-year career, my students really suffered," Edmondson said in a prepared statement. "We were halfway through the year, in the midst of an exam and other work. "We both lost a lot — I lost my job and health-care benefits, they lost their teacher during a busy time in the school year."

Edmondson was first hired by the private pre-kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school in 2002 to teach sixth- and seventh-grade science. He left in 2006 to teach at a private Catholic school in Texas and was recruited to return to Pegasus by the school's then-middle school director to teach eighth-grade science.

In October of last year, Edmondson's doctor switched his HIV medication.

The medication had side effects that caused him muscle pain, numb or cold feelings in his arms and legs, headache, stomach pain and nausea, among other symptoms, the lawsuit said. Edmondson was forced to call in sick, but never exceeded the 10 days he was allowed by his contract.

The lawsuit acknowledged that Edmondson sometimes got to his classroom a few minutes late because of extended visits to the restroom, but stressed that he remained committed to his students and the school.

Most of the school staff and administration knew of his HIV status, but it never became an issue until Zurn and middle school director Joseph Williamson, who are fairly new to the school, began discriminating against him for having the disease and for his sexual orientation and then forced him to quit, according to the lawsuit.

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