A former part-time nurse at Avon Old Farms School is suing the school for firing her after she reported health clinic staff for writing unlawful prescriptions and pocketing pills.
In the Nov. 13 lawsuit, Avon resident Jennifer DeGumbia claims her supervisor, who was not identified in the suit, prescribed medications to herself and other staff in violation of school policy; violated regulations regarding the destruction of drugs; improperly took Xanax; and bullied students.
The lawsuit also alleges the boarding school for boys violated its own whistleblower protection provision in its handbook by terminating DeGumbia in June after she made several complaints about the alleged violations.
DeGumbia contends her supervisor routinely mailed medications home to parents when the medication should have been picked up; put Xanax in her pocket when it should have been destroyed; and ignored regulations regarding how drugs were to be destroyed.
Morgan Rueckert, a partner with Hartford’s Shipman & Goodwin, refuted DeGumbia’s claims in an email to the Connecticut Law Tribune Wednesday. Rueckert wrote: “Avon Old Farms School has received the complaint and denies the allegations unequivocally and completely. The plaintiff’s allegations were investigated and refuted, and it is unfortunate when unsubstantiated allegations are presented to the Law Tribune for publication.”
The health clinic’s policy states that “all unused, discontinued or obsolete medications [must] be removed from storage areas and either returned to the parent or guardian,” and “if the medication cannot be returned to the parent or guardian, the medication is to be destroyed in collaboration with the school nurse.”
The plaintiff was concerned that her supervisor was not disposing of medications properly and taking Xanax pills for herself.
The complaint lists several alleged instances of misconduct at the health clinic involving students, including the supervisor laughing and chasing a student to administer a flu shot. The supervisor allegedly said “don’t be a baby about it” before physically restraining the student to administer the shot.
During an outbreak of a public norovirus, the plaintiff alleges the supervisor sent several students “back to their dorm rooms even though they may have been suffering from vomiting and diarrhea, and been contagious, because it would be too costly to have them stay overnight.”
Jamie Sullivan, the attorney for DeGumbia, said Wednesday that students feared going to the clinic because of the reputation of the supervisor.
“The fact that they allowed this bully supervisor to create a hostile environment such as that students were afraid to go to the clinic was an outrage,” said Sullivan, a partner with Howard Kohn Sprague & FitzGerald in Hartford.
Sullivan said DeGumbia, who is currently employed as a nurse at another location, “is a decent and credible person who is hardworking and who a jury will believe and sympathize with.”
The lawsuit cites two counts: retaliation and breach of contract. Sullivan said it’s too early to say how much his client is seeking in damages, but said “it’s at least a six-figure case.”
“Avon Old Farms School clearly retaliated against this young woman who was just trying to do the right thing and had the interest of the students at heart,” Sullivan said,
Rueckert said DeGumbia’s claims will be refuted in court. “We will respond to the complaint through appropriate legal channels rather than in the media,” he wrote. “The Avon Old Farms Health Center employs a physician, psychiatrist, advanced practice registered nurse, five registered nurses and a licensed clinical social worker who provide excellent, comprehensive medical care to the students of Avon Old Farms School.”