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

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Gazette: School employees sue over alleged discrimination

Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010

School employees sue over alleged discrimination

Teachers and secretaries, past and current, claim Largo High’s black principal treated them unfairly

A dozen current and former Prince George’s County Public School employees recently filed a multi-million lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the school system and the Prince George’s County Educator’s Association, alleging racial discrimination at work.

The $50 million mass action lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt Nov. 22 by 12 former and current county school teachers and secretaries against the Prince George’s County Educator’s Association and Prince George’s County Public Schools.

The lawsuit alleges that Largo High School Principal Angelique Simpson-Marcus, a black woman who took the job in 2007, has targeted white teachers because of their race and in an effort to force the white teachers out of the school and black teachers and employees who stood up for them.

The lawsuit also alleges that Simpson-Marcus exhibited inappropriate language — including name-calling — and attempted to fire or transfer some employees.

Simpson-Marcus said in an e-mail Friday that she was referring questions to county schools.

Darrell Pressley, a Prince George’s County Public Schools spokesman, said Friday that county schools have received a copy of the lawsuit but because of pending litigation he cannot comment.

Two of the 12 plaintiffs are current employees at Largo High; eight are no longer at Largo High; one is a teacher at Central High School in Capitol Heights; and one is a teacher at Crossland High School in Temple Hills, according to the lawsuit.

Ten of the 12 plaintiffs are black and two are white, according to the lawsuit. Two of the plaintiffs are men and 10 are women.

Largo High English teacher Venida Marshall, 64, of Suitland said Friday that she stands by everything written in the lawsuit.

“I totally support and back everything that is in the lawsuit,” said Marshall, a black woman who has been at Largo since 2006.

Darlene Ball-Rice, 49, of Upper Marlboro said Monday the discrimination that Simpson-Marcus is alleged to have committed against blacks and whites and mostly older staff members became worse when some people spoke in defense of others.

“If you speak up about it, she works on having you transferred out,” said Ball-Rice, who is no longer at Largo High. “It seems that anyone that we defended… then you became her target.”

Nicole Turner, 48, of Landover, a secretary at Largo, and Vallie B. Dean, 66, of Upper Marlboro, a business education teacher at Largo, both declined to comment. Both women are black.

Marshall, Turner and Dean are three of the 12 plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit.

Bryan A. Chapman of the Law Office of Bryan A. Chapman in Washington, D.C., who is the attorney representing the 12 plaintiffs named in suit, said he foresees an “indefinite number” of others also filing lawsuits, but did not know when.

“Each person’s experience is different and unique — it tells of a common theme,” Chapman said. “It seemed to be a goal to eliminate these white teachers from [Prince George’s] County public schools.”

The lawsuit also names Jimelatice Gilbert-Thomas with the Prince George’s County Educator’s Association, who was to have advocated for a white, male teacher at Largo High who was allegedly harassed by Simpson-Marcus. According to the lawsuit, Gilbert-Thomas allegedly only pretended to advocate for the white, male teacher because she was attempting to recruit Simpson-Marcus to join Gilbert-Thomas’ home-based communication business.

Chapman said he expects a response from the school system in mid-December, about 20 days after the lawsuit was filed.

Donald Briscoe, president of the Prince George’s County Educators Association, did not immediate returns calls or e-mails for comment Monday.

eskalski@gazette.net

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