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Former Wauwatosa teacher suing district, unable to take extended leave to care for ill partner

A former Wauwatosa School District teacher filed a lawsuit against the district, saying he was discriminated against based on sex and sexual orientation. 

John Ravenola, a former physical education teacher and coach, requested to use his paid sick days to care for his fiancé, Deborah, who was diagnosed with cancer. 

According to the complaint, the school district had a policy that allowed married couples and unmarried same-sex domestic partners to use sick leave time to care for their partners. 

Although Ravenola was not married, he was hopeful the district would make an exception. 

“I was confident the school would give me the time off I needed to be able to take care of her," said Ravenola.

But Ravenola said he was initially denied the use of his accumulated sick leave days to care for her. But later, he was allowed to use two weeks of paid time off because of the state family medical leave act. 

According to the complaint, the district told him that once the time ran out, he would no longer be eligible to use his paid leave time to care for Deborah. Ravenola argues he should have the same rights as a marriage or same-sex domestic partnership to take care of his partner. 

In a printed statement, Wauwatosa School District said "there are factual and legal elements of the case that the District strongly disputes and denies, and we believe those facts will be made evident in court. "

Ravenola said the district gave him options to either retire or get unpaid leave.

“I couldn’t have abandoned her, I mean how could I live with myself to abandon my fiancé: someone I had been with for 10 years to make ends meet. I couldn’t have done that," said Ravenola. 

After his fiancé's diagnosis, he said getting married was not an option because of the insurance and her pre-existing condition. He decided to retire and take care of her, but shortly after he finalized his retirement she passed away a few days later. 

Ravenola is hoping to get compensation since he was forced to retire early. He is requesting a jury trial to settle the case. 

"The last thing I thought I'd ever have to do is sue a school district that I worked for for 17 years," said Ravenola. 

Wauwatosa School District full statement below:

"We firmly believe in the importance of protecting the integrity of a case through the court process and, as such, it is the District's practice that we do not discuss pending litigation. With that said, there are factual and legal elements of the case that the District strongly disputes and denies, and we believe those facts will be made evident in court. The Wauwatosa School District is committed to equal opportunity employment practices and does not discriminate in employment on the basis of sexual orientation or any other protected classification."

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