Fired school employee files racial discrimination suit
By Joe Callahan
Published: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 4:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 4:40 p.m.
A former Marion County school teacher fired for what the district called excessive absenteeism has filed a federal racial discrimination lawsuit against the School Board.
The lawsuit was filed Nov. 23, six days after the School Board officially fired Brenda Williams and 19 months after Superintendent of Schools Jim Yancey first recommended her firing.
Williams had been on unpaid leave since Yancey issued her a termination letter on April 23, 2009, according to documents included as part of a School Board meeting agenda.
Williams requested a hearing, and the School Board has since scheduled several hearings, asking for Williams to provide documentation to support her claim that she missed excessive days due to an unspecified medical condition.
On Nov. 17, she did not show up for a hearing and was fired.
“We can not talk about pending lawsuits,” said Philip Leppert, executive director for human resources. In fact, Leppert said he was unaware that a federal discrimination lawsuit had been filed.
School district documents from 2009 indicate Williams was repeatedly warned to start coming to work, unless she had prior approval to be absent. When she failed to follow orders, Yancey decided to fire Williams.
At the time, Williams retained Winter Park attorney Gary Wilson, who wrote Williams requested a hearing, adding “grounds may exist for a potential handicap/disability discrimination claim.”
Since then, Williams' hired another attorney, Jay F. Romano of Romano Law Center in Coral Springs. Romano writes in the lawsuit that Williams, who is black, was the victim of racial discrimination.
Romano did not return calls, and Williams could not be reached for comment.
The lawsuit alleges the school district passed over Williams for promotion in favor of four white employees during her career. The lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida.
Since the beginning of Williams' employment “she has never been offered a supervisory position, even though she has been with the company for 23 years,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also alleges that Williams was treated unfairly due to her race, stating that white supervisors disciplined her more harshly for “mistakes” than they did in regards to white co-workers.
Williams also claims that school district administrators created a hostile work environment during her final days as a Howard Middle School teacher.
Williams alleges in the lawsuit that Kathy Collins, the then-Howard principal who has since retired, was working in the car pickup line on April 16, 2009, when Williams heard her say: “Oh, slavery is not over!”
The lawsuit alleges many other employees and co-workers made harsh remarks about her, or in front of her, including “Whiteboard training sounds better,” during a discussion of blackboard training. Williams' suit also quotes another employee as saying “Brenda runs a slave trade at her house,” with no elaboration.
Romano wrote that Williams is seeking a supervisor position with the district, attorney fees and back pay, including interest and all applicable raises. The lawsuit states compensation should exceed $50,000.
School district documents from 2009 state that Williams' absenteeism began after she was transferred from the staff development office back to the classroom for the 2008-09 school year due to budget cuts.
Williams had been a teacher from 1986 until 2006, when she was moved to staff development.
Yancey's termination letter states Williams was absent often at her new Howard Middle teaching job and eventually used up all of her sick and personal leave days. She then incurred absences of more than 125 hours, the letter added.
On March 3, 2009, Collins issued a written order addressing absenteeism, which Williams refused to sign. Collins wrote that if Williams missed any more days that she should request a medical leave of absence, the letter states.
Collins also requested medical documentation to support Williams' claim that she had a medical condition. After that order was issued, Williams missed eight consecutive days of work, according to the letter.
After being suspended for one week without pay, Williams informed Collins on April 16, 2009, that she would not be at work the following day, thus would not help with an assigned presentation to the Kiwanis Club.
Collins told Williams to meet in her office after school. Instead, school officials say, Williams left campus. Collins immediately contacted human resources and Yancey, who wrote that Williams' actions were “willful insubordination.”
Contact Joe Callahan at email@example.com or 867-4113. Follow him on Twitter at JoeOcalaNews.
"Teachers of color understands clearly." Yes, they surely does ... :)
Beginning to see why we have tons of problems with education in America? Until we admit we have serious problems, we cannot begin any equally serious effort at solution.
Consistent Institutionalized Racism is well and a live!!
Educator Brenda Williams, "I have walked in your shoes and you are not alone!!"
Ocala is a very interesting place! The largest employer is Marion County Public Schools in Ocala Florida and it has been cited by Dr. Beverly Robinson/Educator research Marion County as suffering from institutionalized racism.
Mrs. Williams and many other African Americans is and have suffered the same terrorist attacks, some have died from the extreme racism in the workplace. Existing elements of overt and covert events continue to occur. Wesley Snipes, The Southern Poverty Law Center, The Federal Department of Education, and myself are quite aware the acts and attacks on African American Teachers in Ocala, Florida.
As a teacher of 27 years, I personally have had a gun put to my head by a Marion County Sheriff in the rural area in Ocala, for not stopping in the dead of the woods going home. This part of Ocala at that time had a group called The Templar of the KKK, 1998.
Working for this school district has been a complete nightmare. My last horrific experience was getting beaten by to two students at a private hospital. The stories could go on and on. However, I now suffer from PST and trust me, working for Marion County Public Schools has been just like if I had been to Iraq. However, I am alive and retired.
As I reflect I remember reading about a women named:
Dorothy Lee Bolden who worked after school as a domestic. She was jailed for talking back to an employer and was an activist who protested Atlanta school conditions. So in 1968, when most Atlanta domestics were receiving $3.50 to $5.00 for a twelve-hour day, she was qualified and motivated to form The Domestic Workers Labor Union. She has since been consulted by three presidents on workers' issues and, in 1975 was appointed to the Georgia Commission on the Status of Women.
Mrs. Brenda Williams and I as well as many African Americans, remember that the most powerful defense is unity. Ms. Dorothy Lee Bolden vision is so relevant today and a women of our time. Educator Brenda Williams and I understands clearly what history has taught us. Our ancestors blood was not in vain and unity is the only path to change.
Keep your eyes on the Prize and Remember to Keep the Faith!
Ms. Paula Fordham-Retired and Delivered from Evil!!
"My last horrific experience was getting beaten by to two students at a private hospital. The stories could go on and on. However, I now suffer from PST and trust me, working for Marion County Public Schools has been just like if I had been to Iraq. However, I am alive and retired. "
- I mean, 1998? Really I have a hard time seeing the KKK still around in '98?! Really? You should write a book or something based on your time there if these people are still doing this crap.1998? The KKK? Really? Wow. You need to write a book. Please explain, how if you are at a hospital do you get involved in a fight with two students? I'm not questioning the reality of did this happen it might sound like I am, I'm not, I'm interested how does this happen? It's still happening? Why has no one stopped this? You really need to write a book? Why havent you written a book?
It really happen!! Keep in mind that Federal Law requires that ESE students with any type of disability be provide instruction, by a public school district. That is a required law my the Federal Government, I was a teacher of 27 years and in this case the public school teacher is required to deliver instruction at the hospital.
The students are housed within the hospital setting. The district did not provide any training, and or support within the context of defense for the teacher in the classroom. The hospital is private, own by a large cooperation, with their own employees, required and trained to diffuse the emotional and behavior outburst and disorder.
Thant did not happen, I was beaten.
Yes, 1998, There is website called the southern poverty law center. Very informative, I also get Hate Crime Alerts from the the center.
I have been a member for years. My dad and mother are also members. There is a map that can inform the reader about the hate groups in your city/town. Now, at that time 1998, splc cited the group KKK , in Fort McCoy Florida. The town I was living in.
I don't know what state you are in, but you may be surprised !! Visit and Google, the website and learn more about splc.org: Southern Poverty Law center, in Montgomery, Alabama. Let me know what you think after you visit the you visit the web site.
Keep the Faith and Thank You for caring,
PS. Yes, I am working on a book now. Hopefully, I will be able to get it published. Hopefully with Simone and Shuster, or Random House. (Wishing thinking-LOL) Happy Holidays
"but you may be surprised !!"...ain't that the truth!!
ain't is not proper, excuse me....but you are sooooo correct. We might all be surprised!
Here is a prospective from a middle-class white man, on how the black child can increase success with their fate in the world...Does he seem to understand???
President Obama gave an excellent speech last week in Kansas about inequality in America.
“This is the defining issue of our time.” He said. “This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. Because what’s at stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, secure their retirement.”
He’s right. The spread between rich and poor has gotten wider over the decades. And the opportunities for the 99% have become harder to realize.
The President's speech got me thinking. My kids are no smarter than similar kids their age from the inner city. My kids have it much easier than their counterparts from WestPhiladelphia. The world is not fair to those kids mainly because they had the misfortune of being born two miles away into a more difficult part of the world and with a skin color that makes realizing the opportunities that the President spoke about that much harder. This is a fact. In 2011.
I am not a poor black kid. I am a middle aged white guy who comes from a middle class white background. So life was easier for me. But that doesn’t mean that the prospects are impossible for those kids from the inner city. It doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities for them. Or that the 1% control the world and the rest of us have to fight over the scraps left behind. I don’t believe that. I believe that everyone in this country has a chance to succeed. Still. In 2011. Even a poor black kid in West Philadelphia.
It takes brains. It takes hard work. It takes a little luck. And a little help from others. It takes the ability and the know-how to use the resources that are available. Like technology. As a person who sells and has worked with technology all my life I also know this.
If I was a poor black kid I would first and most importantly work to make sure I got the best grades possible. I would make it my #1 priority to be able to read sufficiently. I wouldn’t care if I was a student at the worst public middle school in the worst inner city. Even the worst have their best. And the very best students, even at the worst schools, have more opportunities. Getting good grades is the key to having more options. With good grades you can choose different, better paths. If you do poorly in school, particularly in a lousy school, you’re severely limiting the limited opportunities you have.
And I would use the technology available to me as a student. I know a few school teachers and they tell me that many inner city parents usually have or can afford cheap computers and internet service nowadays. That because (and sadly) it’s oftentimes a necessary thing to keep their kids safe at home then on the streets. And libraries and schools have computers available too. Computers can be purchased cheaply at outlets like TigerDirectand Dell’s Outlet. Professional organizations like accountants and architects often offer used computers from their members, sometimes at no cost at all.
If I was a poor black kid I’d use the free technology available to help me study. I’d become expert at Google Scholar. I’d visit study sites like SparkNotes and CliffsNotes to help me understand books. I’d watch relevant teachings on Academic Earth, TED and the Khan Academy. (I say relevant because some of these lectures may not be related to my work or too advanced for my age. But there are plenty of videos on these sites that are suitable to my studies and would help me stand out.) I would also, when possible, get my books for free at Project Gutenberg and learn how to do research at the CIA World Factbook andWikipedia to help me with my studies.
I would use homework tools like Backpack, and Diigo to help me store and share my work with other classmates. I would use Skype to study with other students who also want to do well in my school. I would take advantage of study websites like Evernote, Study Rails,Flashcard Machine, Quizlet, and free online calculators. Is this easy? No it’s not. It’s hard. It takes a special kind of kid to succeed. And to succeed even with these tools is much harder for a black kid from West Philadelphia than a white kid from the suburbs. But it’s not impossible. The tools are there. The technology is there. And the opportunities there.
In Philadelphia, there are nationally recognized magnet schools like Central, Girls High and Masterman. These schools are free. But they are hard to get in to. You need good grades and good test scores. And there are also other good magnet and charter schools in the city. You also need good grades to get into those. In a school system that is so broken these are bright spots. Getting into one of these schools opens up a world of opportunities. More than 90% of the kids that go to Central go on to college. I would use the internet to research each one of these schools so I could find out how I could be admitted. I would find out the names of the admissions people and go to meet with them. If I was a poor black kid I would make it my goal to get into one of these schools.
Or even a private school. Most private schools I know are filled to the brim with the 1%. That’s because these schools are exclusive and expensive, costing anywhere between $20 and $50k per year. But there’s a secret about them. Most have scholarship programs. Most have boards of trustees that want to give opportunities to kids that can’t afford the tuition. Many would provide funding for not only tuition but also for transportation or even boarding. Trust me, they want to show diversity. They want to show smiling, smart kids of many different colors and races on their fundraising brochures. If I was a poor black kid I’d be using technology to research these schools on the internet too and making them know that I exist and that I get good grades want to go to their school.
And once admitted to one of these schools the first person I’d introduce myself to would be the school’s guidance counselor. This is the person who will one day help me go to a college. This is the person who knows everything there is to know about financial aid, grants, minority programs and the like. This is the person who may also know of job programs and co-op learning opportunities that I could participate in. This is the person who could help me get summer employment at a law firm or a business owned by the 1% where I could meet people and show off my stuff.
If I was a poor black kid I would get technical. I would learn software. I would learn how to write code. I would seek out courses in my high school that teaches these skills or figure out where to learn more online. I would study on my own. I would make sure my writing and communication skills stay polished.
Because a poor black kid who gets good grades, has a part time job and becomes proficient with a technical skill will go to college. There is financial aid available. There are programs available. And no matter what he or she majors in that person will have opportunities. They will find jobs in a country of business owners like me who are starved for smart, skilled people. They will succeed.
President Obama was right in his speech last week. The division between rich and poor is a national problem. But the biggest challenge we face isn’t inequality. It’s ignorance. So many kids from West Philadelphia don’t even know these opportunities exist for them. Many come from single-parent families whose mom or dad (or in many cases their grand mom) is working two jobs to survive and are just (understandably) too plain tired to do anything else in the few short hours they’re home. Many have teachers who are overburdened and too stressed to find the time to help every kid that needs it. Many of these kids don’t have the brains to figure this out themselves – like my kids. Except that my kids are just lucky enough to have parents and a well-funded school system around to push them in the right direction.
Technology can help these kids. But only if the kids want to be helped. Yes, there is much inequality. But the opportunity is still there in this country for those that are smart enough to go for it.
You are dead right Brion citing Forbes: Gene Marks, I also come from a middle class African American family. My only daughter understood that education is some people salvation. She maintained a high aptitude in Mathematics and now she has a MBA in Finance and makes 6 figures, at the age of 28, now 34. My father is 84 PH.D level, served in the Korean War and my mom is 80. Both were educators, now retired.
They are highly educated and yet they were born in America into apartheid, as well as myself. Planting the seed of understanding that knowledge is powerful and no one can take it away is a known fact. It is what you do with this knowledge is important and believing that you are not inferior to no one.
However, children must be taught their history in this country, about this country, and why this system try to keep us from learning, and we are brilliant people. Yes, I was a single parent and that had nothing to do with a child succeeding, for example Ben Carnson, M.D. his mom couldn't read and I recommend you google this African American Doctor at John Hopkins and you will see that it is the parent responsibility to plant the seed before a child can began walking. Just for the record google the CEO of Xerox, CEO Darden Foods, Mae Jamison, M.D., PH.D, and other great inventors such as the African Americans who invented the ironing board, the lawn mower, blood transfusion process, the frig, open heart surgery, and of course the list goes on and on.
There is a great deal of history from the beginning of colonialism to present day of African Americans you will never hear, see, and or read about who have made and now making monumental achievements everyday. Knowing where to look and knowing the real history of America, and the truth will reveal that it is not where you come from, but where you are going.
Remember, We are not the exception but we are expected to excel. 10,000 years of ago, Africans built pyramids, develop medicines, they were astronomers, built cities in the desert. Oh, let us not forget what Mesopotamia gave to this world, a great civilization from the east. By the way Mesopotamia is today-Iraq. Yes, you are right and mostly definitely, President Barack Hussein Obama is on point about education.
can someone explain to me why she missed all those hours? was it in protest?
safirah chinwe said:
can someone explain to me why she missed all those hours? was it in protest?