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Teacher sues school board on claims of racial discrimination

Racial discrimination in employment is prohibited by federal and state laws. Primarily, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. In a neighbor-state to Florida, a black school teacher has sued the county school board on a claim of racial discrimination that led to her demotion and lack of advancement. It's not specifically reported but presumably the case was filed in a federal district court.

She was a science teacher at the high school from 1999 up until recently when the school board wrongfully terminated her employment at the school. The suit claims that she was treated unfairly and that despite her credentials as a science teacher she was removed from her position in the advanced placement courses. She also claims that her salary was cut and she was demoted to a lesser role in the department in favor of a less-qualified white teacher.

The complaint alleges that she started at the Smiths Station High School in Lee County, Alabama in October 1999 and gained tenure there three years later. She was selected as Teacher of the Year at Smiths Station during the 2008-09 school year and Secondary Teacher of the Year in the school district. However, she sought the position of department head in the science department for 2010-2011 but was passed over for a less-qualified Caucasian teacher, according to the complaint.

She requests reinstatement as the advanced placement teacher, as well as appointment to department head for the science department with full back pay. She also demands compensatory and punitive damages. Under federal anti-discrimination laws, the racial motivation behind the discrimination does not have to be the sole reason for the decision to hire, fire or demote someone, as long as it is part of the motivation.

The federal civil rights laws prohibiting racial and color discrimination in employment are the same in Florida as the rest of the country. If the case is not settled during the pre-trial phase, then  it will go to a jury trial in federal district court. Due to most states having parallel anti-discrimination laws, these cases can usually also be filed in a state court.

Source: Source: oanow.com, "Smiths Station teacher files lawsuit against Lee County school board," Drew Taylor, Aug. 9. 2013

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