Dearborn schools paid to settle lawsuit

By Ed White

Associated Press Writer

DETROIT (AP) -- A wrestling coach who claimed he lost his job at a suburban Detroit high school because of his Christian beliefs settled the lawsuit for $24,500.

Gerald Marszalek also received $500 from Dearborn Public Schools in June in exchange for waiving any claim of age discrimination. The details were obtained this week by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act.

Marszalek, 65, was a coach at Fordson High School, where Muslim students are a majority. He said his troubles with the principal began in 2005 when a volunteer assistant, the Rev. Trey Hancock, introduced some wrestlers to Christianity during a camp away from school.

Marszalek's contract wasn't renewed in 2008 after 35 years. The Dearborn district had denied any discrimination and said the coach was an at-will employee who reported to the principal, Imad Fadlallah.

The district admitted no liability and said it settled the case only to "eliminate the ongoing costs associated" with the litigation, according to the agreement obtained by the AP.

Fadlallah, described as a devout Muslim, recently left as Fordson principal under Michigan's enhanced retirement program for school employees. In August, two award-winning teachers filed a lawsuit accusing him of harassment because they're not Muslim.

In an interview Tuesday, Marszalek acknowledged the settlement amount wasn't much. He said he closed the case based on advice from his lawyers.

"It's over. He's gone," Marszalek said of Fadlallah. "Hopefully they will be more careful. The wrestling program went down the dumper."

He said he wanted to coach just one more season and retire.

"It's been a bitter pill to swallow," Marszalek said.

A message seeking comment was left with Fadlallah's lawyer.

Published: Thu, Oct 7, 2010

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