The Star Tribune reports that even after teacher Timothy Olmsted was placed on paid leave and later resigned as a result of an investigation of racial incidents in his classroom, the parents of African-American students at Heights Community School (HCS) have filed suit against St. Paul Public School District (SPPSD). The suit alleges that Olmsted verbally and physically discriminated against the students, and that the school district failed to protect them.
The suit states Olmsted made derogatory statements, calling students “fat, black and stupid,” and saying, “You will never amount to anything.” Some of the students sat in the back of the room, others had their desks facing the wall. “They’re [the district] not doing their jobs,” said Meg Kane, the attorney representing the parents, commenting on the amount of time it took school officials to investigate. “I don’t know about you, but that would be the end of the line for anyone else.”
Parents and students also assert that they complained to HCS Principal Jayne Ropella on a number of occasions about Olmsted. According to one parent, she made 98 calls and spent nearly eight hours on the phone with Ropella and other school officials from September to December discussing Olmsted’s classroom.
SPPSD officials have responded denying the allegations and insisting that the parents’ complaints were considered. “The evidence will show that the district promptly investigated and addressed any complaints made regarding Mr. Olmsted,” said Jeanette Bazis, SPPSD’s attorney. Olmsted’s lawyer, David Hashmall, released a statement saying, “Mr. Olmsted denies any improper conduct and believes that the claims against him are baseless.”
This year, parents presented a petition with 420 signatures to the St. Paul school board calling for Ropella to be transferred from HCS because of her handling of the allegations against Olmsted, Kane said. The district said that Ropella will remain as the principal at HCS for the 2012-13 school year.
Source: Star Tribune, 8/5/12, By Asha Anchan
[Editor's Note: In September 2011, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise , which reported that Amy and Hiram Oliveras, the parents of a female student identified as A.O., had filed suit in federal court against Saranac Lake Central School District, alleging that the school district violated her civil rights and New York's Human Rights Law by failing to protect her from bullying, racial discrimination, and harassment. The suit charged that A.O., whose father is of Caribbean descent, was “subjected to a learning environment hostile toward her on account of her race.”]