Wednesday, May 18, 2011

White Teachers Sue Philadelphia School, Charge Race Bias agaisnt Charles Ray III, Black Principal

Four white Philadelphia teachers filed federal race-bias lawsuits that accuse a black principal of creating a hostile work environment and suggesting they were unfit to teach black children.

The teachers work at a predominantly black elementary school that has a recent history of racial tension. Their lawsuits say that a former principal had them read an article that said “white teachers do not have the ability to teach African-American students.”

The teachers also allege that the principal, Charles Ray III, and others undermined their work by reprimanding them, randomly changing their room assignments and letting black teachers ignore rules that their white counterparts had to follow. Ray also retaliated when they filed union grievances, they said.

“Charles Ray III consistently stated that he had a relationship with top school officials indicating that his conduct was part of an approved policy or was part of a pattern of practices sanctioned and supported by ‘higher authority,”’ the suits allege.

The teachers—Nicole Boyd, Debra McKibben Marenbach, Colleen Yarnell and Marta Ciccimaro—filed the lawsuits last week, demanding more than $150,000 each. Courthouse News Service first reported on the complaints Tuesday.

The school district had no immediate comment, spokeswoman Shana Kemp told The Associated Press.

Kemp said she was not immediately authorized to say if Ray still works for the district. A message left at a possible home number for him was not immediately returned.

Racial tensions among staff at Thomas Mifflin Elementary School have simmered before.

A white principal left about four years ago amid a chorus of complaints from black parents. One mother testified at a City Council meeting in December 2007 that she had heard the administrator say Muslim students looked like “flying nuns,” according to news reports. (read more)