Washington Post: Prince George’s schools sued over alleged discrimination

Prince George’s schools sued over alleged discrimination by principal Angelique Simpson Marcus

By Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 23, 2010; 6:23 PM

A group of current and former Prince George’s County school employees has filed a lawsuit against the school system, alleging that a principal engaged in systematic discrimination against white teachers and the African American teachers and staffers who came to their defense.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt on Monday, alleges that Angelique Simpson Marcus, the principal of Largo High School, has targeted white teachers because of their race, and the African American teachers and employees who stood up for them, since she became principal in 2007. The lawsuit alleges a pattern of name-calling, derogatory language and attempts to transfer or fire employees who displeased her.

Simpson Marcus referred comments to a spokesman for the Prince George’s County schools Tuesday. The spokesman, Darrell Pressley, said, “We have not been served with a complaint, therefore we’re not in a position to provide any substantive comment at this time.”

Filing the lawsuit were two white teachers and eight African American staff members, among them teachers, secretaries and a guidance counselor. Two of them are still at the school. The others were laid off or transferred to other schools. Two other teachers joined the lawsuit but do not teach at Largo High School.

The lawsuit alleges that Simpson Marcus made derogatory statements about one white teacher, Jon Everhart, based on his race, and that she criticized and harassed both him and another white teacher, Sally Rogers, and assigned them to teach remedial courses that were not their specialty. The principal told students and parents that the teachers were bad and that they would pass the class regardless of the grade given by the teacher, the suit alleges. Rogers remains at the school as a Latin teacher. Everhart, 61, was fired based on unsatisfactory evaluations in August.

“To my face she said that the only reason that a white person gets a job in Largo is because they couldn’t get a job somewhere else,” Everhart said Tuesday. He said he lost his teaching certificate and his pension, was evicted from his apartment and is now substitute teaching in Ohio. “She told me that ‘by the time I’m done with you, you won’t be able to get a job anywhere,’ ” he said.

The lawsuit alleges that Simpson Marcus also targeted African American teachers, secretaries and a guidance counselor who advocated on behalf of the white teachers. Secretaries were subjected to a variety of crude sexual insults, the suit alleges. Other teachers and the guidance counselor were insulted based on their age and physical condition, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also names the Prince George’s teachers union. The staff members allege that the union employee in charge of defending them against discrimination, Jimalatice Thomas-Gilbert, refused to give several of them the forms to file grievances. They also say she was attempting to recruit the principal to join a home-based direct-selling network that would have benefited Thomas-Gilbert financially.

Neither Thomas-Gilbert nor Donald Briscoe, the head of the teachers union, responded to e-mails and phone calls Tuesday.

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