Easton Area School District has agreed settle a race discrimination suit brought by Paxinosa Elementary School Principal David Hightower, says the Morning Call. EASD will pay Hightower $60,000 plus attorney fees, according to an agreement released by the school district’s lawyer. His suit claimed EASD officials created a hostile work environment for him and other African-American employees by subjecting them to racial epithets and discriminatory treatment.
The suit alleged administrators maintained a list of African-American job candidates who were given “courtesy interviews” but were never seriously considered for employment. Hightower also charged the district pursued a plan to reverse racial integration by moving his school from the suburbs to a dilapidated inner city building. He claimed that he was passed over for a number of promotions because he is black. A federal judge in September threw out all but one of his claims.
According to the settlement agreement, which was provided by EASD’s solicitor John E. Freund, the district is released from any claims by Hightower and does not admit liability on the district’s part. Under the agreement, the district will pay Hightower $25,000 for loss of benefits and $35,000 for past and future pay. The district also will pay $30,000 in attorney fees to the Bethlehem law firm Broughal & DiVito.
Most of Hightower’s claims were denied in September 2011 by U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell, who granted EASD’s request for summary judgment on all but one count of Hightower’s lawsuit The judge found that many of Hightower’s allegations could not serve as the basis for claims of discrimination and some of the claims were too old to pursue. Regarding Hightower’s claims that he was the victim of racial discrimination when district officials denied him two promotions in 2007, however, the judge concluded that alleged racist comments by then acting Superintendent Joe Kish could have been a factor in one of the district’s decisions.
Source: The Morning Call, 1/20/12, By Peter Hall
[Editor's Note: Mr. John Freund is a member of NSBA's Council of School Attorneys.
In May 2011, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Herald Bulletin reporting on claims of race-based discrimination against an Indiana school district. Two former Anderson Community School Corporation (ACSC) employees filed separate suits in November 2010, both claiming that similarly situated white staff members were given preferential treatment.
One suit was brought by basketball coach Jeffrey Howard in federal district court alleging that he was fired as head basketball coach due to his race. In his complaint to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which preceded the suit, Howard stated: “I am the only African-American varsity basketball coach in Madison County. Other teacher/coaches who are similarly situated to me in all respects except race have been treated more favorably than I was treated.”
The other suit was brought by former ACSC school nurse Hannah Brownell in the same district court alleging that she, too, had been discriminated against based upon her race or origin. Brownell, born in Liberia, claims she was hired in October 2005 as a licensed practical nurse and was assigned to Erskine Elementary School in 2006. In the suit, Brownell alleges that “Principal Kara Miller and her supervisor, Nancy Catto, began a three-year campaign to end Brownell’s employment.”
Im most circumstances, an employee who believes that his employer has discriminated against him in violation of a law enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission must file a charge with that agency before heading to federal court. EEOC provides an overview of the charge-handling process on its web page.]