Metro Weekly

Former Massachusetts superintendent alleges he was fired because he’s gay

Michael Devine claims in lawsuit that he was fired without cause for texting with a 21-year-old former student.

Massachusetts, gay, superintendent
A public school classroom – Photo: Shubham Sharan, via Unsplash.

A former superintendent of a Massachusetts school district has filed a lawsuit alleging that he was discriminated against and fired because he is gay, and that the circumstances surrounding his termination have made it impossible for him to find another job in an education-related field.

Michael Devine, the former superintendent of Hull Public Schools in Hull, Massachusetts, alleges breach of contract, defamation, civil rights violations, intentional infliction of emotional distress and other wrongs in his lawsuit against the school system, the town, and five school committee members.

The lawsuit contends, among other charges, that by firing Hull, the school committee infringed on his right to free speech, freedom of association, due process, equal protection under the law, his employment rights as guaranteed by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and violated the commonwealth’s law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Devine, a native of nearby Norwell who served as superintendent for three years after previously serving as principal of Hull High School for eight years, is seeking about $5 million in damages, primarily for lost wages and his diminished earning capacity, and has asked for a jury trial.

Stephen Kuzma, Devine’s attorney, told the South Shore newspaper The Patriot Ledger earlier this week that the firing stemmed from text messages Devine exchanges with a 21-year-old former student who lived in Florida. The communication was initiated by the former student — a fact the school district has not contested, as noted in the lawsuit.

According to The Associated Press, there was never evidence that the communication between the two was inappropriate, not that Devine violated school policy regarding staff and student communication, as the school committee alleged when it fired him last year. Police had also determined there was no criminal wrongdoing.

The school committee voted unanimously to fire Devine for alleged “personal misconduct” during a closed executive session last April, two months after Devine was placed on leave in response to a complaint about the texts between him and the former student.

The lawsuit notes that the student also communicated with a female employee of the school system, but no action was taken against her.

See also: Gay meteorologist accuses news station that fired him of anti-LGBTQ discrimination

Kuzma said at the time that the committee’s actions in effect ruined Devine’s reputation and made it harder for him to seek out other employment in the education field.

“There was nothing improper, illicit, illegal or unethical about a mutual communication between Mr. Devine and an adult who had graduated years ago from Hull High School,” Devine’s legal team said in a statement following his termination. “This was a flawed process from the beginning in which Mr. Devine was denied the opportunity to defend himself and the Hull Public School Committee refused to state the factual basis for terminating his contract. Mr. Devine never violated any policy which governed his conduct as superintendent.”

Kuzma also told The Patriot Ledger that the policies cited by the school committee that his client had allegedly violated didn’t have any provisions prohibiting communication with former students.

“How does any communication between two adults fall under school policy?” Kuzma remarked.

Hull Town Manager Phil Lemnios declined comment and deferred to the school committee and current superintendent when asked for comment by The Associated Press.

School Committee Chair Jennifer Fleming told The AP in an email that she would not comment on the lawsuit.

See also:

Tennessee transgender students sue Tennessee over law barring them from restrooms that match their gender identity

Oregon man threatens to stone Black city official for being a “gay sinner”

Anti-LGBTQ Republican who mocked COVID vaccines dies after contracting virus

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!