Donald Howerton v. Board of Education of Prince George’s County: Federal judge allows white maintenance supervisor’s case to go to trial on claims of 1) failure to promote, 2) hostile work environment, and 3) retaliation.

August 20, 2015

United States District Court Judge Theodore D. Chuang’s Memorandum

Jury trial is scheduled for April 5, 2016.


Don Howerton is employed by Prince George’s County Public Schools.  The majority of Prince George’s County Public School System employees are African American.  Mr. Howerton is Caucasian.

From 1998 through June 2013, Mr. Howerton’s annual job performance evaluations were stellar.  His job performance has consistently been rated “outstanding”.  In the comment section of his 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 annual job performance evaluations, the evaluator wrote: “Mr. Howerton has a positive attitude and works well with others in striving to meet department goals”; “Mr. Howerton has a positive attitude.  He has gained the respect of his supervisors and co-workers”; “Mr. Howerton has gained the respect of his supervisors and co-workers”; and, “Mr. Howerton has earned the respect of co-workers and senior leadership”, respectively.  Mr. Howerton worked well with his co-workers and supervisors, most of whom are African American.

Failure to Promote

On March 23, 2012, despite being prequalified and placed on the list of applicants to be interviewed by Human Resources, Carl Belcher, who is African American, refused to interview Mr. Howerton for the Facility Coordinator position (Grade 28).  Mr. Belcher said he had someone else in mind.  And, an African American candidate was selected for the position.

On March 28, 2012, Mr. Howerton told Mr. Belcher that he had complained to his union about not being interviewed for the Facility Coordinator position.

On August 8, 2012, Mr. Howerton contacted his union and filed a grievance against Mr. Belcher.


On August 28, 2012 Mr. Belcher stopped Mr. Howerton in the hallway in front of other employees and openly questioned him about his grievance.  Mr. Belcher’s tone and demeanor were threatening.  When Mr. Howerton began to answer, Mr. Belcher turned his back on Mr. Howerton and said “Oh, I know how to handle this now, I got you now”.

On September 5, 2012, Mr. Howerton met with Acting Chief Operating Officer Monica Goldson concerning his grievance against Mr. Belcher.  Mr. Belcher and Mr. Howerton’s union representative were also present at the meeting.  Mr. Howerton told Ms. Goldson that Mr. Belcher was discriminating against him, that he was concerned about retaliation, and that he was seeking legal advice.

Ms. Goldson never initiated an investigation and no corrective action was taken against Mr. Belcher.

On January 10, 2013, Mr. Howerton filed a race discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Mr. Belcher.

On February 15, 2013, Mr. Howerton met again with Acting Chief Operating Officer Monica Goldson concerning his grievance against Mr. Belcher.  Again, Mr. Howerton complained to Ms. Goldson that Mr. Belcher was retaliating against him and that he was seeking legal advice.  Ms. Goldson became angry and stated “you can try that if you want”.

On March 8, 2013, EEOC sent Mr. Howerton a Right to Sue letter.  However, he decided at that time not to file a lawsuit.

In March 2013, Mr. Howerton complained to Elizabeth Davis, PGCPS’s Compliance Officer.  He complained to her about Mr. Belcher’s harassment.  Mr. Howerton told Ms. Davis that Mr. Belcher was “papering” his personnel file with derogatory documents.

Ms. Davis explained to Mr. Howerton how to file a written discrimination complaint; however, Ms. Davis encouraged him to speak directly with Mr. Belcher instead of filing a written discrimination complaint.

Following Ms. Davis’ advice, Mr. Howerton spoke to Mr. Belcher about his meeting with Ms. Davis.  Mr. Belcher became visibly agitated and asked why he had gone to Ms. Davis.  Mr. Belcher warned Mr. Howerton that by complaining, he was digging a “deeper hole” for himself.

On May 2, 2013, Mr. Belcher wrote a letter of reprimand that was placed in Mr. Howerton’s personnel file.  Mr. Belcher never notified Mr. Howerton of the letter or its contents.  Mr. Howerton became aware of the letter and its content merely by accident.  The letter of reprimand falsely accused Mr. Howerton of not meeting deadlines.

On June 20, 2013, Mr. Howerton filed a race discrimination complaint with the Prince George’s County Human Relations Commission (PGCHRC)/Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

On June 27, 2013, Mr. Belcher presented Mr. Howerton with his first evaluation in three years.  Mr. Belcher rated Mr. Howerton “Unsatisfactory” in several categories.

In August 2013, Ms. Davis, PGCPS’s Compliance Officer, advised Mr. Howerton to withdraw his PGCHRC/EEOC discrimination complaint.  Ms. Davis convinced Mr. Howerton that his effort was futile.  On August 14, 2013, Mr. Howerton followed Ms. Davis’ advice and formally withdrew his discrimination complaint.  Ms. Davis never initiated an investigation of Mr. Howerton complaint and the Board took no corrective action against Mr. Belcher.

In November 2013, Mr. Howerton requested a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC.  On March 19, 2014, EEOC sent him a Notice of Right to Sue.  Mr. Howerton filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Board of Education of Prince George’s County in federal court.

Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire

Gazette: Largo High School principal replaced

Lynn McCawley, Prince George’s County Public Schools spokeswoman, said that Angelique Simpson-Marcus, former principal at Largo, is no longer employed with the school system.

McCawley declined to discuss the circumstances of Simpson-Marcus’ departure, citing personnel concerns.

McCawley said Assistant Principal Mark Bickerstaff has been named acting principal of Largo.

“He assumed duties as acting principal on Jan. 15,” McCawley said.

Departing Largo High on Friday afternoon, senior Marcus Battle, 18, of Largo, said Bickerstaff wished the students a good weekend over the announcements before dismissal.

“He’s just a real nice guy,” Battle said of Bickerstaff. “He looks out for the students.”

In July, a U.S. District Court jury awarded $350,000 to former Largo teacher Jon Everhart, 66, in compensatory damages in a suit against the PGCPS school board. Another trial, to determine what back pay, retirement and health benefits Everhart is owed is scheduled to be held in March, according to court documents.

Everhart, who is white, alleged in his suit that Simpson-Marcus, who is black, used racial profanity and created a hostile work environment for Everhart.

When Everhart filed a complaint, the suit alleges that Simpson-Marcus began giving Everhart unsatisfactory performance reviews, and other retaliatory measures, leading to Everhart being fired in 2010.

Everhart’s attorney, Bryan Chapman, said he feels Simpson-Marcus was not provided the appropriate level of guidance by the school system when she took over as principal of Largo in 2007.

“I look at it as something that could have been avoidable,” Chapman said. “I don’t blame Ms. Simpson-Marcus. I hold the school system and the school board accountable.”

Other cases against Simpson-Marcus and the school system are pending, Chapman said.

Largo High sophomore Abdul Kaba, 15, of Largo said he was surprised Simpson-Marcus was still at the school after the lawsuits.

“As an adult you shouldn’t even bully kids. You shouldn’t abuse your people or treat your people wrong,” Kaba said. “I felt she should go.”

In September, the president of the Prince George’s County chapter of the NAACP, Robert “Bob” Ross, called for Simpson-Marcus’ departure.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a white person or a black person, if someone is engaging in that type of racial harassment, and costing the school system that much money, they need to go,” Ross said. “I think [the school system] finally took the right action and relieved her of her duties.”

No number was publicly listed for Simpson-Marcus and attempts to reach her via email were unsuccessful.

NBC Local News: Dr. Angelique Simpson-Marcus, Principal Accused of Bullying, Out at Largo High

Dr. Angelique Simpson-Marcus, Principal Accused of Bullying, Out at Largo High
Dr. Angelique Simpson-Marcus

Dr. Angelique Simpson-Marcus has left as principal of Largo High School, the school district confirms.

School officials would not comment on the terms of her departure.

In the past, News4 has reported Simpson-Marcus has had a history of bullying and heavy-handedness toward her co-workers.

Prince George’s County Board of Education settled two lawsuits against Simpson-Marcus in the past year. One white male teacher filed a case alleging reverse discrimination and won more than $500,000 in August, while a school secretary reached an undisclosed settlement with the school system the following month.

In October, Simpson-Marcus also threatened to forfeit the school varsity football team’s season if it didn’t start winning, according to one school parent.

Prince George’s County Council Member Mary Lehman had called for Simpson-Marcus’ removal in a letter to Schools Chief Kevin Maxwell sent in September.

The local NAACP said they received several complaints about Simpson-Marcus.

“A counselor at Largo High School came to our office complaining about harassment, hostile work environment,” said Bob Ross of the Prince George’s County NAACP.

Simpson-Marcus had been principal of Largo High School since 2007.

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:


The purpose of this Act includes the following:

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

Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire

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

Posted at  04:55 PM ET, 04/24/2012


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


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

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


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


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