Washington Post: Md. public school teacher denies he told students all Muslims are terrorists

Md. public school teacher denies he told students all Muslims are terrorists

 

 
 
Prince George’s County school administrators are investigating allegations that an English teacher told students at Parkdale High School that all Muslims are terrorists who “will kill you.”

The teacher — Anthony Fonebi, who has been with the school system since 2003 — denied that he said anything derogatory, saying in an interview Friday that the situation was a misunderstanding and a classroom discussion was “blown out of proportion.”

The discussion came at the end of an 11th-grade class on Sept. 18, and students later reported it to school officials and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the country’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization. CAIR on Friday asked the school system to take disciplinary action against the teacher, to protect the students who spoke up from retaliation and to provide sensitivity and diversity training to the school’s faculty and student body.

“Our focus is making sure it doesn’t occur again,” said Jenifer Wicks, an attorney at CAIR.

Max Pugh, a spokesman for the school system, said the school system became aware of the alleged incident Thursday and immediately began looking into it.

CAIR alleges that a Prince George’s County teacher made derogatory remarks about Muslims in an 11th-grade class. See the letter.

“Prince George’s County Public Schools has a large international student population, and we value and embrace cultural diversity,” Pugh said in a statement. “All accounts of what happened in the classroom at Parkdale High School are being examined as part of the investigation, which will be completed soon.”

Parkdale High School has a growing Muslim population, and it has recently changed its policies to be more accommodating to those students. Former principal Cheryl Logan recently changed school rules to allow Muslim students who have parental permission and high grades a pass out of class every day to pray.

A Parkdale student who was in Fonebi’s class and heard the comments about Muslims said the situation began when two students were talking to each other about a boy who liked a Muslim girl. The student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fears of retaliation, said Fonebi interrupted the students. After a Muslim student told the boy jokingly that he could become a Muslim and marry the girl, Fonebi allegedly said the boy should never “be Muslim” and that “Muslims are dangerous. They are terrorists and they will kill you.”

Students who were in the class later told the principal and their counselors about the confrontation, the student said. They were allowed to transfer to another teacher’s class.

 Fonebi, reached by telephone Friday, said he never said anything negative about anyone. He said he reacted to the conversation between the two students, during which he said he heard a Muslim girl tell a Hispanic boy that he couldn’t date a Muslim girl that he liked.

Fonebi said the Muslim girl told the student:“ ‘I am dangerous,’ that ‘Muslims are dangerous.’ ”

“I told the boy if she says she’s dangerous, you should take her seriously,” Fonebi said, adding that he then tried to use the conversation as a teachable moment. “I said we have to learn not to generalize. I said Muslims are portrayed as terrorists and I said that is not true.”

He said he explained the situation to the principal at the time and that he was surprised to learn the incident had resurfaced as a CAIR complaint.

CAIR sent a letter Thursday to Parkdale Principal Tanya Washington, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery, Prince George’s County Schools Chief Executive Officer Kevin M. Maxwell and to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

The organization wrote that it believes the teacher’s “discriminatory statements were intended to provoke hatred and arouse suspicion and fear of Muslim students present in his class, as well as all Muslims in general, based on their Islamic faith. We are hopeful that you will agree that such invidious statements have no place in an academic environment.”

Earlier this year, an elementary school in Prince George’s County canceled a skit about immigration reform after a parent complained that the script, titled “The Uninvited Guest,” was offensive to immigrants.

The GW Hatchet: Alumna, local high school principal accused of racial discrimination

Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014 5:25 p.m.

Alumna, local high school principal accused of racial discrimination

This post was written by assistant news editors Eva Palmer and Jacqueline Thomsen

Angelique Simpson-Marcus, the Prince George’s County high school principal who allegedly harassed at least three former employees, may be one of GW’s most controversial local alumni.

Simpson-Marcus has earned two degrees from GW and is a part-time professor. This month, the president of the Prince George’s County NAACP chapter and a county council member have called for her to resign, the Washington Post reported.

That comes after a former employee at Largo High School accused Simpson-Marcus of discriminating against him and won a lawsuit in August against Prince George’s County Board of Education. Two other lawsuits from former employees detail how Simpson-Marcus, who is black, allegedly harassed them and made inappropriate comments about race to the teachers at the school.

Need some context? Here’s a breakdown of the facts.

A connection to GW

Simpson-Marcus was a doctoral student in education administration and policy studies in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, according to a GW Today article from 2009. She graduated in 2012, University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt said.

Her doctoral thesis looked at strategies that African American women could use to succeed as superintendents. Simpson-Marcus also earned an educational specialist degree from GSEHD in 2003.

A GW Today feature celebrated how Largo High School had met the federal standards set by the No Child Left Behind education reform act for the first time under Simpson-Marcus’ leadership.

The article described her “efforts and determination” to improve the school, and reports that her work “inspired students and staff to achieve.”

“She credits her GW education with paving the way for her professional success,” the GW Today article read.

Simpson-Marcus is a professional lecturer in educational leadership in GSEHD, Hiatt said.

She is not listed as teaching a course for the fall semester in the University schedule of classes.

Cases moving forward

Three lawsuits were filed against the Prince George’s County school board in 2011. The cases are now gaining traction after the August court decision and the call for Simpson-Marcus’ resignation.

Simpson-Marcus has not been fired from her job as principal of Largo High School.

Here are the specifics of each case:

Jon Everhart, who was an English teacher at Largo High School from 2003 to 2010, initially sued the school district for $5 million, claiming Simpson-Marcus repeatedly humiliated him in front of students and called him “poor white trash,” according to the court documents. He says that he was forced out of his job for being white.

Everhart won his court case in August, and will receive about half a million dollars from the school district, said his lawyer, Bryan Chapman.

Everhart was fired from the school after receiving two unsatisfactory job evaluations. He claims that his poor performance was because of daily harassment, according to the court documents.

Chapman said his client suffered from severe health problems because of the alleged daily harassment.

“The stress caused him to develop high blood pressure, and the high blood pressure ruined his health to the point where he developed heart problems,” he said.

Chapman added that the school district has filed an appeal against the court’s decision.

Ruth Johnson, who worked as a guidance counselor, claims the school moved her to a new office after she complained to the Prince George’s County school district superintendent that Simpson-Marcus made derogatory comments to her.

When Johnson asked why she was being transferred, Simpson-Marcus said, “You talked to my boss,” according to court documents.

The district later moved Johnson to a different school in the county, where the school superintendent suggested to the county that she be fired. She is works at Bladensberg High School, according to the court documents, and her case is set to begin pre-trial meetings this December, according to the court docket.

Tracey Allison worked as a secretary in Simpson-Marcus’s front office and claims the principal made offensive statements about her race and gender, including calling her “hood rat” and “ghetto.”

When Allison approached school district officials, she says she was ignored and developed severe stress and panic attacks because of the continued harassment from Simpson-Marcus. She transferred to another school in the district in 2010. Her case was settled out of court this summer, and the details of the settlement are sealed by a court order.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar declined to comment on the cases, citing the University’s policy not to comment on pending litigation.

Prince George’s County Public Schools spokeswoman Keesha Bullock also declined to comment, citing the district’s policy not to comment on pending or resolved cases.

Washington Post: President of Prince George’s NAACP branch demands Largo principal resign or be fired

President of Prince George’s NAACP branch demands Largo principal resign or be fired

By Ovetta Wiggins September 21 at 4:53 PM 

The president of the Prince George’s County branch of the NAACP is demanding that a high school principal who has been accused of harassing and bullying former employees resign or be terminated.

Bob Ross said he is joining county council member Mary A. Lehman (D-Laurel) in calling for Largo High School Principal Angelique Simpson-Marcus to be removed as head of the 1,100-student school.

In the past month, one discrimination case involving Simpson-Marcus’s alleged ill treatment toward employees went to trial and resulted in a $350,000 jury award. The school board recently reached an undisclosed out-of-court settlement in a second discrimination case.

“It’s time for her to go,” Ross said. “For the good of the system, it would be better for her to resign. . . . You can’t have a workplace where you are discriminating [against] employees, whether black or white.”

Jon Everhart, who won the $350,000 award, alleged that Simpson-Marcus, who was working as a physical education teacher at the Largo school in 2003, told students that “the only reason a white man teaches in P.G. County is that they can’t get a job elsewhere.” He filed a discrimination claim against Simpson-Marcus to the teachers’ union. He said she then targeted him, telling him that if she ever became principal, he would be the first person she would fire.

When Simpson-Marcus returned to the school as principal in 2007, Everhart said, she told his students and their parents that he “was a bad teacher . . . poor white trash . . . and would be fired,” according to his lawsuit. Everhart was fired in 2010 and then filed the lawsuit.

In an e-mail response to a letter Lehman sent last week, Prince George’s schools chief Kevin M. Maxwell, who has not personally commented on the cases, criticized the council member for taking a public stance.

“I’m disappointed that you chose to rely on one single source to frame your thinking on the situation,” he wrote. “My hope is that you would know to seek all the facts, perspectives and information before taking such a bold stance on an issue.”

Simpson-Marcus did not respond to a request for comment.

The school system has argued that the charges against Simpson-Marcus are false, describing her as an effective leader who “has made great contributions to Largo High School and the education community in the D.C. area for almost 10 years.”

Lehman and Ross said they were dismayed by the school system’s response.

“If a white principal were accused of such outrageous, racist behavior, he or she would have been terminated — and rightly so,” Lehman wrote. She wrote that the principal should be fired immediately and that top school officials “should publicly denounce racism in all its ugly forms.”

Ross agreed.

“If it was a white principal doing the same thing, the community would be screaming bloody murder,” he said.

Ross also questioned the logic of the school system’s defense of Simpson-Marcus.

“They basically said because she’s doing a good job, it’s okay to harass,” Ross said. “That’s the statement that annoyed me. A good job doesn’t excuse her behavior.”

Ross, who has been monitoring the case since several black former employees lodged complaints a few years ago, said he called school system officials Thursday after consulting with Lehman. He plans to submit a formal letter to Maxwell soon.

In Lehman’s letter, which was sent Thursday, she said she is embarrassed for the county and its school system and “appalled by the school system’s defense of the pattern of blatantly racist behavior” by the Largo High principal.

Everhart was one of several Largo High employees who made allegations of harassment. Some who filed lawsuits said they were mistreated for vocally supporting Everhart.

Prince George’s County Board of Education Chairman Segun Eubanks said the school system, which has appealed the Everhart award, looks forward to the legal process to fully take its course.

He said the recent settlement and jury award do “not mean we were wrong or that [the case] had validity. Hopefully in time a lot more of the details will come out about why the case didn’t have merit.”

Eubanks said he couldn’t comment on those details.

Washington Post: Maryland principal accused of bullying members of her staff

Maryland principal accused of bullying members of her staff

By Ovetta Wiggins September 12 at 7:43 PM 

When a Prince George’s County high school launched an anti-bullying campaign four years ago, students pledged to support anyone being harassed, to report instances of bullying and to treat others with respect.

But former Largo High School employees allege that while the students were learning how to create a friendly environment, one of the worst bullies was the school’s principal.

In interviews and in legal actions filed against Principal Angelique Simpson-Marcus, the former employees said that Simpson-Marcus routinely belittled and berated staff, derided teachers and secretaries and made inappropriate comments about white teachers. Simpson-Marcus, who is black, continues to run the 1,100-student school in Upper Marlboro.

The Board of Education defends Simpson-Marcus as an effective school leader, a school system spokeswoman said.

The alleged ill treatment at the school has resulted in multiple lawsuits against the Prince George’s school system. One discrimination case was decided last month when a U.S. District Court jury awarded a former English teacher $350,000. Another lawsuit is slated to begin Tuesday and a third is pending.

Several black teachers said they were told by Simpson-Marcus not to associate with the white teacher, Jon Everhart. When they did, they said, they also became targets.

“She was pushing for the kids to be kind to one another and I just thought, ‘How could you say that?’ and, ‘You are a bully?” said Venida Marshall, a former English teacher who is black and is one of 10 employees who made allegations of harassment in a 2010 lawsuit against the school system. She refused to adhere to Simpson-Marcus’s order not to have lunch with Everhart. “I thought it was a travesty,” she said.

A judge instructed plaintiffs in the joint 2010 lawsuit to file separate cases, said Bryan Chapman, Everhart’s attorney, who filed the joint lawsuit. Many of those cases were dismissed because employees did not file timely Equal Employment Opportunity complaints or because their complains were not based on discrimination; two of the remaining cases are scheduled for trial.

Simpson-Marcus declined this week to comment on the allegations, referring questions to Keesha Bullock, a school system spokeswoman. Bullock said the Board of Education has filed a motion to set aside the verdict in Everhart’s case.

In court papers, the school system calls Everhart a “failure as a teacher,” explaining that he was fired for a “legitimate non-retaliatory reason.”

“We believe the allegations against Ms. Simpson-Marcus are false, and to that end the Board of Education is vigorously defending against them in court,” Bullock wrote in an e-mail. “Ms. Simpson-Marcus has made great contributions to Largo High School and the education community in the D.C.-area for almost 10 years. Some of the best successes at Largo High School occurred under her leadership.”

Later this month, the school system heads back to court to defend against the 2010 allegations, which also focus on claims that the Largo High principal harassed staff members.

Several former employees said they were upset to learn that the principal remains at the school despite the jury’s findings in Everhart’s case. Simpson-Marcus started her seventh year as principal when school opened for classes two weeks ago.

Tracy Allison, a secretary who worked in Simpson-Marcus’s office, said she was harassed because she showed respect to Everhart, who the principal allegedly called “poor white trash,” and to another white teacher who Simpson-Marcus referred to as “Bozo.”

According to Allison’s lawsuit — which is scheduled to be heard beginning Tuesday — Simpson-Marcus retaliated against her by calling her “chicken head, bird, hood rat and ghetto.”

After Allison complained to Simpson-Marcus’s supervisor, the harassment continued, causing Allison stress and panic attacks, according to the lawsuit. She transferred to another school in August 2010.

In his lawsuit, Everhart alleged that Simpson-Marcus, who was working as a physical education teacher at the school in 2003, told students that “the only reason a white man teaches in PG County is that they can’t get a job elsewhere.”

He filed a discrimination claim against Simpson-Marcus to the teachers’ union. He said she then targeted him, telling him if she ever became principal, he would be the first person she would fire. When she returned to the school in 2007 as the principal, Everhart said Simpson-Marcus told his students and their parents that he “was a bad teacher . . . poor white trash . . . and would be fired,” according to his lawsuit.

Before Simpson-Marcus became principal, Everhart received stellar evaluations, according to his lawsuit. After she took over, his performance evaluations were unsatisfactory.

The jury ruled in Everhart’s favor on the discrimination claim but it sided with the county school board on Everhart’s claim of a hostile work environment. Everhart’s attorney has requested a partial new trial regarding the finding on the hostile work environment claim.

Simpson-Marcus said in a previous interview that the allegations are baseless. She declined to comment on the reason for Everhart’s termination, but said the complaints of ill treatment and retaliation were “unfounded.”

“I never said any of those things,” Simpson-Marcus said in an interview after the court decision in August. “I don’t use that kind of language.”

Some of Everhart’s former colleagues said Simpson-Marcus transferred Everhart to an unruly ninth-grade class and told the students that if he failed them their grades would be changed.

Bullock said she could not comment on specific allegations made against the principal because “our policy is to not comment on any ongoing or pending litigation.”

Vallie Dean, a former business education teacher, said the principal liked to embarrass Everhart.

“She would get on the [school-wide public address] system and say, ‘Mr. Everhart, report to Principal Simpson-Marcus’s office,’ ” Dean said. She said students in her class would laugh and talk about how Everhart, who was once named the school’s Teacher of the Year, was going to be fired.

Dean said she and others complained to supervisors but they received no help.

“She would say, ‘I’m the principal of Largo High School,’ ” Dean said. “It was like she had carte blanche to do whatever she wanted to whoever she wanted without any consequences.”

Meanwhile, those who came to Everhart’s defense said they were ostracized.

“I was just sad,” Marshall said. “People wouldn’t sit next to me. I had to wind up accepting my colleagues didn’t want to be targets, too.”

Federal Jury Decides That Prince George’s County Public Schools Can Be Held Liable Under Title VI For Race Discrimination and Retaliation.

Jon Everhart will have his day in court.

On February 28, 2014, a federal jury, at the Greenbelt, MD federal courthouse, issued a verdict that means Prince George’s County Public Schools can be found liable under Title VI for race discrimination and retaliation.  Specifically, the jury decided that Prince George’s County Public School received federal assistance, starting in 2009, which had the primary objective of providing employment.  In 2009, PGCPS, which has a annual budget of approximately $1.7 billion, received $140 million in federal stimulus funds which it used to avert laying off hundreds of teachers and other school workers.

The verdict allows Jon Everhart’s $5 million race discrimination/retaliation lawsuit to advance to trial.  The trial is scheduled to begin on July 15, 2014.  Mr. Everhart, a white English teacher, alleges that he was racially harassed by Principal Angelique Simpson-Marcus of Largo High School, who is African American.  The standard of prove under Title VI is the same as under Title VII,  except Title VII has a cap on damages of $300,000 while Title VI has no cap on damages.

Mr. Everhart was hired by PGCPS and assigned to Largo High School in 2003.  From 2003 until 2009, Mr. Everhart was a popular teacher who taught English literature and received perfect job performance evaluations from several Largo High School principals.  In the fall of 2007, Principal Simpson-Marcus became the principal of Largo High School.  In 2009 and 2010, Principal Simpson-Marcus gave Mr. Everhart unsatisfactory job performance evaluations which resulted in his termination in June 2010.

In 2003, students informed Mr. Everhart that Ms. Simpson-Marcus, then a physical education teacher, told her gym class: “The only reason a white man teaches in PG County is that they can’t get a job elsewhere.”  Mr. Everhart filed a union grievance against Ms. Simpson-Marcus alleging racial harassment.  Shortly thereafter, Ms. Simpson-Marcus told Mr. Everhart that if she ever became principal, he would be the first person she would fire.

In the summer of 2007, Ms. Simpson-Marcus became the principal of Largo High School.  Beginning in the fall of 2007, Principal Simpson-Marcus told Mr. Everhart that she would fire him and take away his teaching certificate as “payback” for a time when white principals mistreated black teachers.  Principal Simpson-Marcus called Mr. Everhart “poor white trash” and “white bitch” to his face and made similar comments about Mr. Everhart in the presence of  his students.  Principal Simpson-Marcus told Mr. Everhart that he needed to transfer to a white suburban school, which she referred to as “Whiteville”.  Mr. Everhart observed Principal Simpson-Marcus harassing other white teachers as well.

PGCPS would not allow Mr. Everhart to transfer to another school.  In 2009, Mr. Everhart became depressed and his blood pressure rose to dangerous levels.  Mr. Everhart complained about Principal Simpson-Marcus to anyone who would listen.  Principal Simpson-Marcus retaliates against African American teachers and staff who speak up on Mr. Everhart’s behalf with threats and racial and sexual name-calling, such as, “black bitch” and “black ass”.  The jury verdict also allowed two of these African American plaintiffs to go forward with their race discrimination lawsuits against Principal Simpson-Marcus.

Mr. Everhart, and other working on his behalf, complained verbally and in writing about Principal Simpson-Marcus’s racial harassment to school board officials, including former Superintendent William Hite.  Despite these complaints, PGCPS never conducted an investigation and never took corrective action against Principal Simpson-Marcus.  During his final two years, Principal Simpson-Marcus repeatedly wrote up Mr. Everhart and gave him negative job performance evaluations which lead to his termination in June 2010.

Title VI allows relief for employment discrimination when “providing employment is a primary objective of the federal aid”.  Venkatraman v. REI Systems, Inc., 417 F.3d 418, 421 (4th Cir. 2005); Trageser v. Libbie Rehabilitation Ctr., Inc., 590 F2d 87 (4th Cir. 1978) (“…employment is a primary objective of the federal aid”).  Title VI applies even if the plaintiff is not the ultimate beneficiary of federal financial assistance, such as, a student.

34 C.F.R. § 100.3(c) Employment practices states:

§ 100.3 Discrimination prohibited. (c) Employment practices. (1) Where a primary objective of the Federal financial assistance to a program to which this regulation applies is to provide employment, a recipient may not (directly or through contractual or other arrangements) subject an individual to discrimination on the ground of race, color, or national origin in its employment practices under such program (including recruitment or recruitment advertising, employment, layoff or termination, upgrading, demotion, or transfer, rates of pay or other forms of compensation, and use of facilities)…

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Public Law III-5, states in Section 3(a)(1) that the purpose of the Act  includes “To preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery.”  The Act states the following:

SEC. 3. PURPOSES AND PRINCIPLES. (a) STATEMENT OF PURPOSES.

The purpose of this Act includes the following:

(1) To preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery.

Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire

www.baclaw.com

Washington Post: Judge allows discrimination suit against Prince George’s schools to move forward

Posted at  04:55 PM ET, 04/24/2012

TheWashingtonPost

Judge allows discrimination suit against Prince George’s schools to move forward

By

It appears the winner of the first round in a legal battle against the Prince George’s Board of Education is a group of plaintiffs who have alleged discrimination by school leaders.

A federal district court judge ruled recently that more than a dozen lawsuits filed against the school system can be recognized as Title VI claims, which means in part that the lawsuits can move forward without a damage cap.

Some past and present system employees allege in the lawsuits that they were discriminated against because they are female, white, African, or  light-skinned African American. The school system has denied all the accusations.

The school system had argued that the cases should have been filed under a different statute – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – which would have meant that the complaints would have been investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The commission decides if a lawsuit is warranted and caps the damages at $300,000.

Bryan Chapman, the plaintiffs’ attorney, argued that Title VI was applicable because the alleged incidents occurred when the school system accepted federal stimulus money in 2008. The lawsuits are seeking between $5 million and $10 million.

In his opinion, Judge Peter J. Messitte writes: “Section 601 of Title VI provides: ‘No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.’”

The board asked for the claims to be dismissed, arguing that the primary purpose of the federal funds was for educational services for students, not to create or retain jobs. The court disagreed.

Chapman said he was not surprised by the judge’s findings.

“There is a sense of relief, but not surprise,” he said. “I question their judgement on allowing this to get to this point. There will be more claims on individual hostile work environments.”

The school system said it would continue to fight the suits.

“The Court’s ruling requires the plaintiffs to prove their cases on the merits,” Briant Coleman, a school spokesman said in an e-mail. “And we intend to strongly defend against each case that has been filed.”

The lawsuits largely stem from complaints against Largo High School and its principal Angelique Simpson Marcus.

Chapman said Simpson Marcus would call secretaries names, such as “chicken heads” and “hood rats.”

The teachers said they were also mistreated for supporting Jon Everhart, a white teacher, who said he thought Simpson Marcus wanted to fire him because of his race.

By | 04:55 PM ET, 04/24/2012

Federal Court recognizes Title VI (race discrimination and retaliation) claims against the Board of Education of Prince George’s County.

On April 9, 2012, a Maryland federal court issued an opinion that recognizes Title VI (race discrimination and retaliation) claims against the Board of Education of Prince George’s County, because the school board received federal stimulus funds.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects people from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in employment and employment practices in programs or activities receiving Federal financial assistance.

From 2009 to 2012, the Board of Education of Prince George’s County was the recipient of over $100 million in federal assistance under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and the Education Job Fund.  Ten pending lawsuits against the Board of Education of Prince George’s County allege race discrimination and retaliation by the school system.

§2000d Prohibition against exclusion from participation in, denial of benefits of, and discrimination under federally assisted programs on ground of race, color or national origin

No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Title VI, like Title IX, also encompasses claims of retaliation.  Jackson v. Birmingham Bd. Of Educ., 544 U.S. 167 (2005); Preston v. Virginia, 31 F.3d 203 (4th Cir. 1994).

For plaintiffs, Title VI has advantages over Title VII:

1) Under Title VI, the plaintiff need not file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before fiing a lawsuit in federal court.  Under Title VII, the plaintiff is required to file a complaint with EEOC as a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit in federal court.

2) Under Title VI, depending on the state, the plaintiff could have three years in which to file a lawsuit in federal court.  Under Title VII, the statute of limitations for filing a complaint with EEOC is generally 180 days.

3) Under Title VI, there is no stated limit on damage awards.  Under Title VII, compensatory and punitive damage awards are capped at $300,000.

A word of caution:  In private actions, Title VI requires that the defendant receive “actual notice” and exhibit “deliberate indifference”.  These requirements severely restrict the use of Title VI in private actions.

Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire

www.baclaw.com

Washington Post’s Blog: Paperwork piles up in Prince George’s teacher discrimination cases

Posted at  05:56 PM ET, 11/01/2011

Paperwork piles up in Pr. Geo’s teacher discrimination cases

By 

Is there something systemically wrong with the way Prince George’s school system is training its leaders?

That’s the case attorney Bryan Chapman has been trying to make for nearly a year, through flooding the district courts with lawsuits against the school board alleging that the principals and other supervisors have run amok.

He is representing angry employees, of the past and present, who claim discrimination for being a woman, or white, or African, or a light-skinned  African American. The school system has denied all the accusations.

The judge already dismissed the idea of filing one case that encompasses all the complaints. By August, Chapman had filed lawsuits on behalf of 16 staff members, alleging the system violated the Civil Rights Act. Since then, he’s filed four more. Four of the cases have been heard in the federal district court in Greenbelt over the past two weeks, the most recent on Monday.

Three of the four cases have been dismissed, with Judge Peter J. Messitte instructing Chapman to add more detail to his lawsuits.

So far, both the school system and Chapman are voicing confidence they will succeed. Here are their perspectives in a debate that threatens to cost the system millions:

Chapman’s view: Typically, employee discrimination cases are filed under a part of the Civil Rights Act that caps damages at $300,000. Chapman’s biggest victory so far is that the judge has not yet thrown out the idea that the system’s acceptance of federal stimulus dollars in 2008 allows for them to be sued under a different statute of the Civil Rights Acts, giving clients the ability to seek damages beyond $300,000.

Chapman is also relieved that the judge has not yet dismissed the cases outright, but rather given the option to file them again, with amendments.  That means there’s still an opportunity for his clients to reap big dividends from the struggling system — most are asking for damages in the range of $5 million to $10 million.

School system’s perspective:Abbey G. Hairston is representing the school board. She’s arguing that the judge’s call for Chapman to refashion the lawsuits only proves the cases are shaky.

Chapman has already refiled two of the four cases that have been heard so far, and Hairston plans to argue that those cases should be dismissed as well.

As for the 13 cases waiting to be heard, she’ll be making a similar argument that they are poorly constructed and are based on improper interpretation of the Civil Rights Act. She is also arguing that the clog of paperwork will ultimately damage a financially fragile school system by forcing it to spend money that could be used in classrooms.

// By | 05:56 PM ET, 11/01/2011

P.G. Gazette: Employees sue Prince George’s school board for discrimination.

Published: Thursday, August 25, 2011
Employees sue Prince George’s school board for discrimination by Abby Brownback
Staff Writer

Hearings in the cases of 16 employees of Prince George’s County Public Schools who are suing the school board for $5 million each, alleging they faced discrimination and hostile work environments, are slated to begin Oct. 18 and continue into November in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

Eleven of employees work or worked at Largo High School.

The cases show “a pattern of this type of thing going on throughout the school system,” said Bryan A. Chapman, the Washington, D.C.-based lawyer representing each of the plaintiffs.

In each complaint, the plaintiffs describe discrimination, intimidation and retaliation from superiors in county high schools based on race, age, national origin or their support for another teacher.

“We plan to vigorously oppose each lawsuit as we do not believe any of them have merit,” Briant Coleman, the school system’s spokesman, wrote in an email to The Gazette. “These cases are not an indicator that PGCPS has a problem with discrimination lawsuits. Given that there are 18,000 employees, lawsuits filed by 16 individuals is not a flood.”

Five of the cases name the Prince George’s County Educators Association, a union, as a co-defendant.
Christopher Feldenzer, a Towson-based attorney representing PGCEA, said the union denies the allegations. Feldenzer has filed motions to dismiss each of the cases.

Many of the cases can trace their origin to Jon Everhart, a white man who taught English at Largo High starting in 2003. Then a gym teacher and now the principal, Angelique Simpson-Marcus made racially derogatory comments about Everhart, Chapman said, and moved him from teaching upper-level English classes to freshman classes.

Three former Largo High secretaries filed lawsuits alleging Simpson-Marcus called them graphic and offensive names such as “hood rat” and “chicken head.”

Other school employees allege they were harrassed by Simpson-Marcus for supporting Everhart, Chapman said.

Simpson-Marcus referred a request for comment to Coleman.

Thirteen of the complaints were filed as a single case Nov. 22 in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, but Judge Peter J. Messitte dismissed the case, telling Chapman to file them individually, which he did in May.

In addition to the 11 cases involving Largo High, five other cases have been filed by employees who worked at Bladensburg High School, Central High School in Capitol Heights, Crossland High School in Temple Hills, DuVal High School in Lanham and Laurel High School.

Greenbelt-based Thatcher Law Firm LLC, which is representing the school system, did not return a call for comment by Tuesday morning.

Josephat Mua, who was the information technology coordinator at Laurel High, said he observed in 2008 teachers failing to sign the required contracts to check out equipment and the improper use of school-based funds to purchase computer equipment. When he complained to the school system’s internal audit department, he was demoted to the position of IT coordinator for six elementary schools.

Laurel High Principal Dwayne Jones declined to comment.

At one of the elementary schools to which Mua was assigned, Columbia Park Elementary School in Landover, he said he allegedly found the Principal Michelle Tyler-Skinner selling jewelry out of an empty classroom. When he complained, Mua, who is originally from Kenya, said he was reassigned to a job as a help desk technician, where he received calls from people who called him an “[expletive] Nigerian.”

“I let them get away with it at Laurel,” he said. “This time I decided to go up to them.”

A call to Tyler-Skinner was not immediately returned Tuesday morning.

Employees are familiar with the administrative procedure for filing complaints about alleged discrimination, Coleman wrote, and the procedure will not change for this school year.

abrownback@gazette.net


© 2011 Post-Newsweek Media, Inc./Gazette.Net

The Washington Post: Prince George’s school board faces a flood of discrimination lawsuits

Prince George’s school board faces flood of discrimination lawsuits

By , Published: August 14

A light-skinned science teacher in Prince George’s County says he didn’t get promoted because his supervisor prefers dark-skinned teachers. An African immigrant in the information technology department says he has been mocked by African Americans.

And there are two teachers who say a young black principal forced them out because they are in their 60s and white.

It’s not unusual for a board of education to face a handful of employee discrimination cases at any given time. But the Prince George’s school board now faces 16.

“Honestly, this is unusual,” said Abbey G. Hairston, a lawyer whose firm represents the county’s Board of Education. “I’ve been practicing 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this. And I wish I hadn’t.”

Representing the plaintiffs in all 16 multimillion-dollar cases is a lawyer who is quickly building a reputation as the go-to attorney in the county for disaffected school system employees. Bryan Chapman said he’s using the cases to make a larger point about the Prince George’s education system.

“What we’re seeing across the board is that when people have complained about discrimination, they suddenly become targets of the system,” Chapman said. “And their supervisors are then doing things to throw them out.”

The Prince George’s County Education Association, the teachers union, is named as a co-defendant in five of the 16 cases; the suits allege it did not do enough to address the teachers’ complaints.

Hairston chalks up the allegations to vindictive employees and a lawyer who is “trying to make a name for himself and filing cases willy-nilly.” She has filed motions to dismiss all of the cases, which are scheduled to be heard between September and November.

Still, the suits raise questions about leadership during a time of reform. Both sides agree that most cases resulted from measures by school leaders to try to rein in their schools’ problems in an age of heightened accountability. However, the staff members lodging the complaints say leaders have been unprofessional and ran amok.

In the past eight months, the cases have generated almost 1,000 pages of legal documents.

They stem from a set of complaints at Largo High School. Chapman got involved after a teacher met him while filing a harassment complaint. The teacher then gathered others, mostly from Largo High, at Jasper’s restaurant to explain their case.

The faculty members said that their principal, Angelique Simpson Marcus, routinely called her secretaries names, such as “chicken heads,” “ghetto” and “hood rats.”

The teachers also say they were mistreated for vocally supporting teacher Jon Everhart, who said he thought Simpson Marcus wanted to fire him because he is white.

Everhart said Simpson Marcus told students she would change their grades to ensure that every student passed his class. Also, many of the teachers said, Simpson Marcus said that “the only reason a white teacher would teach in P.G. is that they can’t get a job somewhere else.”

Simpson Marcus did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment. The school system denied the allegations.

In November, Chapman filed a lawsuit in federal District Court in Greenbelt on behalf of Everhart and a dozen others who had allegations of harassment.

In April, Judge Peter J. Messitte dismissed the case but encouraged Chapman to file cases one by one.

Typically, employment discrimination suits are filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Employees must first file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The commission investigates the claim, then determines whether the individual has a right to sue for damages, capped at $300,000.

Only six of Chapman’s clients have a “right-to-sue” letter.

Chapman is also arguing that the school board violated other parts of the Civil Rights Act that state that organizations receiving federal funding cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin or — in a separate statute — sex. In these cases, there are no caps on damages.

The school system’s liability, he argues, results from its acceptance of federal stimulus dollars in 2008 — around the time of the incidents. All of the suits are in the $5 million-to-$10 million range.

The school system says Chapman’s move is an attempt “to be clever and seek more damages” for cases that should be filed under Title VII.

As he was building the cases involving Largo High, Chapman got calls from more employees in different situations.

Josephat Mua, a Kenyan immigrant, said that his colleagues generated a hostile work environment by calling him “Zamunda,” after the fictional African country in the movie “Coming to America.”

Angela Sator said she and other women were bullied by an assistant principal at Bladensburg High School.

Sally Rogers, who also worked at Largo High, says that she was deliberately given poorly performing students for her Latin classes, then chastised for not being able to get them to perform. She said she became so fearful of the principal that the sight of her made her shake.

“I don’t think I can ever teach again,” Rogers said. “I didn’t want to believe it, but I really felt that I was being discriminated against. And I couldn’t come up with any other reason than the fact that I was older and I was white.”

 

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