Lawsuit claims bias in Monroe County school hirings

Staff reportOctober 24, 2013 

A former employee of the Monroe County school system has filed suit in federal court, contending that he was passed over for a principal’s job because he is black.

In his complaint, Fletcher Johnson Jr. also maintains he was discriminated against over the years because of his sex and age.

Johnson, a former assistant principal in the school system, said he applied to become principal of Sutton Elementary School in 2008 and 2011 but did not get the job.

In one instance, he said he was subjected to “degrading and abusive” questioning during his interview, a tone that was not used with white candidates for the job. The other applicants, he contended, were equally or less qualified than he was.

In both instances, white candidates got the job, the lawsuit states. The district has denied principalships to black men in its elementary schools, and it has a practice of permitting only black women, white men and white women to hold that position, according to the complaint.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the Monroe County school board, Superintendent Anthony Pack and Richard Bazemore, principal of Scott Elementary School.

Reached by phone, Pack said the Monroe County school system is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate against its employees. He said he had not seen the lawsuit but would not be able to comment on it anyway because it’s a pending legal issue involving personnel.

Johnson, 49, said he was the target of “systematic discrimination” from 2008 through October 2012.

The discrimination against him was “so unbearable,” he alleged, that in October 2012 and April 2013, he went back to the board to report more instances. His contract was not renewed this past spring.

Among the acts of discrimination cited were sexually explicit, racial emails sent to him, monkey sounds, monkey jokes, unaddressed student assaults against him, verbal abuse, name calling, racial slurs and “unrealistic assignment of duties and responsibilities.”

In his lawsuit, Johnson said that after years of satisfactory evaluations from 2005-12, he received an unsatisfactory evaluation in March 2013. In April, Johnson was notified his contract with the school system would not be renewed, and he was relieved of his duties on April 18, 2013. He had worked for the system for 17 years.

Johnson said because of the “unwarranted non-renewal” of his contract, his personal and professional reputations have been damaged, making it difficult for him to find employment in his profession.

He seeks compensation for back pay, lost wages and benefits, attorney fees and promotion to a principal of a Monroe County elementary school.

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