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School Board officials in Ft. Myers, Florida face a federal lawsuit filed by four African-American educators on Friday, accusing the board of employment discrimination, The News-Press reports.

The lawsuit claims that the school board engages in a “pattern and practice” of not hiring Blacks for administrative jobs, often alleging that they’re less qualified than White candidates or manufacturing criticism against Black candidates to disqualify them.

District officials declined to answer questions about the lawsuit because its policy is not to comment on pending lawsuits, said the News-Press.

All the plaintiffs said they were “eminently qualified” for administrative positions:

Gwynetta Gittens is a former finalist for the Golden Apple, a national award program that recognizes teacher excellence. The newspaper said she completed the Florida Education Leadership Program in 2011. Gittens also volunteered for three summer internship programs and school committees.

Plaintiff Jerald Thompson is a teacher in the district who earned his doctorate degree in 2007, and began applying for assistant principal positions since 2012.

Stephanie Lawrence’s futile attempts to get an administrative position began in 2013. She holds an undergraduate degree in management and a master’s degree in human resources. Lawrence continued her education to earn a specialist degree in education leadership.

The fourth plaintiff, Preston Towns, held an assistant principal position but was demoted to teacher after getting a poor performance review. Towns said the demotion was retaliation for his racial discrimination complaints, according to the News-Press.

Those cases add up to a clear pattern of systemic discrimination against African-American applicants for administrative positions, says Benjamin Yormak, the attorney representing the plaintiffs.

Yormak issued this statement, via the News-Press:

“We believe the evidence will show that the discrimination starts at the very top and trickles its way down, preventing African-American upward mobility and depriving our children of the best educators and administrators. When Golden Apple nominees and people with Ph.Ds are not getting hired because of the color of their skin, there is a problem.”

News-Press said the plaintiffs seek several remedies, including compensatory damages and an injunction to stop the school board from further discrimination.

SOURCE: The News-Press | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty 


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